Saturday, 19 November 2016

Reasons why I'll only ever be "nearly" Irish

Last week I wrote a post explaining the different reasons why my kids are more Irish than I'll ever be. I replied to a few comments on Facebook and wrote that, contrary to my children, I would never be completely Irish. Someone then asked me why, so here's my complex answer to a complex question!

I have lived in Ireland for 14 years. I speak English, have Irish friends, and work with Irish people. I'm interested in Irish culture, history and  traditions and I even get the Irish humour (most of the time!). In order to understand the Irish "mentality" and way of life, I had to be aware of the country's past. I sometimes don't agree with certain attitudes, views or laws, but I understand where they come from. In short, I have adapted to my surroundings, and I feel completely integrated. The only thing I cannot do is vote, but I would have to apply for the Irish citizenship, and to be honest, I am not ready for that (also, it costs a thousand Euros).

Why would I not apply for Irish citizenship?

This is going to sound a bit stupid, but it would feel a bit like cheating. I'm not born here and personally I don't consider myself entirely Irish, so I don't really see the point of acquiring citizenship if I'm not 100% in it. Having said that, the fact that I am French, and therefore European, makes the decision easier in a way. When you're from outside Europe and lived in Ireland for many years, applying for visas, work permits, going through the hoops of Irish administration to legally stay in the country, the logical decision, regardless of how you "feel" about your identity, is to apply for Irish citizenship. That's what my husband did, which means now I don't have to queue for 8 hours at the garda station, and show my face, just to prove we're still married. It just makes our lives easier. Let me just point out that he feels a lot more Irish than I do, maybe because he only goes home every 3 or 4 years and doesn't know anyone from his country here in Ireland.

Why don't I consider myself completely Irish?

I was born and raised in France and came to Ireland when I was 22. Both my parents are French and all my education was done in French. All my childhood memories, and therefore my "formative" years, are about France: Books I read, movies I watched, games I played... I remember how France was in the 80's and 90's, how we lived, who was in power, major events that happened and how it affected me. Even if I know Irish culture and history through places I have visited, accounts from friends, and even my kids' homework, I have not lived it. And I think this is what separates me from my Irish friends.

But then again, I don't think I'm still entirely French either...

In a way, it's only when I go home I realise I have become more Irish than I think. I don't think I would be able to re-adapt to a French workplace for example, to re-learn the formal aspect of things, the hierarchy, the "vous" instead of "tu"... I've become so laid-back and relax in my attitude that I find some French people bitter and unhappy. But maybe this is just how I was before?

A case of double-identity?

To the question "where are you from?", I always joke and say I'm from Bettystown. Of course, the real question "where are you from, originally?" always comes next (my accent gives it away!). Well, I'm French, and proud of it. But I'm also proud to belong and contribute to Irish society. I will never be completely Irish, but I don't want to either. I don't want to forget where I come from and renounce my past. And why should I?

But what do my Irish friends think of that?

Let's be clear, if I don't feel Irish, it's not because this is the way I'm perceived by the natives. In fact, a lot of Irish people I know consider me one of them. I think it's because I've always tried to empathise and understand where they were coming from. I've always asked questions about traditions, history and so on. In short, I've always been curious, interested, and  I've never tried to hide my origins (I usually joke about them). In return, I told them about French culture, and I'm sure they were appreciative.

Assimilation vs. Integration

I will never be 100% Irish, and I'm fine with it. There is no way someone who goes to a different country as an adult completely assimilates to another culture. It's just impossible. How can a person completely forget and deny their origins, upbringing, culture, education? There is no doubt one can feel disconnected from their birth country because of the distance, the wide cultural differences or because they don't have family there anymore.
But I don't think we can ask foreigners to forget a part of themselves. Integration is key, learning about the host country customs, traditions, history, mentality is crucial to have that sense of "belonging". But to  ask someone to deny their own origins is just not right.
This reminds me of my cousin, who married a Chinese girl. They've lived in France for more than 20 years, and she took on French citizenship. But in order to do that, she had to give up her Chinese passport (China doesn't accept dual citizenship). I remember my family comforting her at the time, saying "Don't worry, you will always be Chinese!" This woman is completely integrated. She learned French, had a business in France, and she even changed her first name for a more French sounding one. But she is still Chinese at heart.

So what's next?

Maybe one day, if I really want to vote and I have savings, I will apply for the Irish citzenship, but I know I will only ever be "Nearly" Irish. The beauty of multiple backgrounds is that it allows us to be more open-minded, tolerant and adaptable. And in the world we live in, it's a lesson I really want to teach my Irish kids.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

6 reasons why my kids are more Irish than I'll ever be

My kids are finally starting to understand the concept of multiple nationalities. They know they are Irish, French and Mauritian, but because we live in Ireland, it is clear that they feel Irish first. And there are a few things that made me realise they are more Irish than I'll ever be.

They speak Hiberno-English  

I took me a few years to use typical Irish expressions because I had to get used to the way Irish people talked, but for my kids, it's natural. A few months ago, my 5-year old insisted on buying Actimel in Tesco, something I never bought before but that he had tried at the childminder. And when I asked him why, he just said " 'cos it's nice, like!". And when he was in his "I love to clean everything" phase, he told me "Look, I'm after cleaning the bathroom!"(which, if you don't know, is a typical irishism). Soon, he will be saying "grand", "Thanks a million" and "yer man". And that will be the end of it!!

And also Irish

Trying to to get them to speak French is an everyday battle. But surprisingly, they love learning Irish! My 8 years old is reading a book at the moment, and of course I don't understand anything, but he is able to translate for me! My youngest comes home and starts speaking to me in Irish. It's only a few words and expressions as he's only in Junior Infants, but he seems very interested. I wish they would put more effort into speaking French, but at least I know they enjoy learning a different language, which can only be positive.

They have the accent

My youngest speaks like a Dub, even though we live in Meath. I suspect it's because a lot of young kids have parents who are from Dublin but moved to the area a few years ago. He pronounces the "th" like the Irish, and when he said "like" (the Actimel story), it sounded a lot more like "loike"... When I heard that, my first reaction was "Where does that accent come from?!", because it's certainly not from me!!

They love salt & vinegar crisps

There are so many different crisps flavours I wonder how the salt & vinegar became the winner. My husband and I were never brought up with that kind of choice when it came to crisps. I am more of a cheese and onion flavour myself, but my kids, in their true irishness love to snack on salt & vinegar...

They know more about Irish traditions than I do (or at least they will soon)

This one is kind of a given because they learn about them at school: Halloween, St Patrick, St Brigid, Christmas...They sing songs I've never heard of and tell me stories I've never read as a child. Soon they'll be talking about the Late Late toy show and I'm so not prepared for that!!!

They consider themselves Irish

If I ask the question "Where are you from?", their answer is "Ireland". And that says it all really. That's fine because how else could it be? They're born here, they have an Irish passport, they go to the local school, they speak English...I would actually be concerned if they didn't feel Irish!

The good thing is, they tell me they're also French. The Mauritian part hasn't really kicked in, but I suppose it's because we go there so rarely  they can't relate yet. One thing for sure, they are Irish but they are well aware it's only one part of their cultural heritage, and that means we have done a good job so far!

Monday, 7 November 2016

Weird stuff we discovered when buying our apartment

Maybe one day I'll have a house...

This week marks the 10th anniversary of our property purchase: a cosy 2 bedrooms apartment in a seaside village, 45 minutes from Dublin. I can't believe it's been 10 years already, especially when I see the outstanding amount on our mortgage. Anyway, buying an apartment wasn't always the plan, but unfortunately, it was the only thing we could afford at the time. Initially, I wanted a house, a garden, an attic, and 3 bedrooms. But in 2006, it was almost impossible to buy a house unless you were prepared to queue for hours and buy off the plans (I tried, it didn't work), try to bargain the price of a second-hand house (we also tried, didn't work either) or buy in a dodgy area (we almost did and looking back, I'm glad the sale fell through). We didn't have enough money to buy in our area of choice (Swords and Malahide), so we went further afield and lowered our expectations. We eventually found an affordable apartment in a brand new complex so we didn't think twice and signed straight away. I loved the fact that it was minutes from the sea and on top of that, it was a good size (80 square metres) so we knew we would have enough space when the time would come to extend the family...

But when we moved in, we discovered a few interesting oddities!

The apartment was sold half-furnished

Yes, you're reading that well. The kitchen came with all the appliances: hob, oven,fridge, washing-machine, dryer and dishwasher. But there was no flooring across the whole apartment. We had to buy tiles and wooden floors, and do all the work ourselves. Well, my husband did it, but I was there for moral support.

The walls are not straight

Every time my DIY husband tried to install something on the wall, I was giving out because it didn't look straight. I blamed his poor vision for that, but after closer inspection, we realised that in fact, the problem was the wall, not the shelf or the cabinet he was trying to install. So yes, if you come to our place, don't be surprised if you notice that the towel hanger is not straight. It's not us. It's the builders.

There is a radiator in a cupboard

That was a bit of a shock. What is the use of having a radiator in the cupboard? Well, don't forget we're in Ireland. Usually, there is a hot press in the bathroom. You know, that's where the hot water balloon is, and in general there are a few shelves where you can dry  your towels. In our apartment, there is no hot water balloon in the bathroom because we have a boiler in the living room (another strange thing). So the clever builders/designers/architects thought it would be a great idea to have the "hot press" in the hall. And how do you dry towels? With the radiator of course! Needless to say we never turned it on.

Sockets and switches in weird places

In the bedroom, there are two sockets high on the wall, and I had to think hard for a while about their use. Then I realised it was to plug a TV, in case we wanted one on the bedroom wall.
Then we discovered a lone switch on the living room wall. It didn't switch anything on, and it only took us 6 years to find out it was there in case we wanted to install a gas fireplace.
And last but not least, the only phone socket in the whole apartment was placed on the kitchen wall, near the hob and the oven. I still don't get it.

Apart from all these odd Irish building ideas, we love our apartment. Sure we've been living in an unfinished complex for almost 10 years (Thank you recession and the property developer who went bust), but it has been sold recently so hopefully the block across ours will be finished soon. We are near the sea and just passing by on my way to work makes me happier. We have great neighbours and the area is very quiet. I still want a house though, and I hope some day we'll be able to sell and have a garden. When that happen, I'll make sure to check all the walls first!!

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

How I actually enjoyed Halloween this year!

I hope you all had a great Halloween celebration! As for me, I actually enjoyed most of it this year. You see, Halloween only appeared about 20 years ago in France so I never dressed up or went trick or treating as a child because it just didn't exist. But for the past 2 years, I had no choice but celebrate, and it's all because of the children!

They were allowed to dress up last Friday and they even had a Halloween disco party at school. On Saturday, we went to Causey Farm "Hooka Spooka" Halloween event. I have to say, the kids had a blast and so did I. Even though I don't really like dressing up or doing "trick or treat", I enjoy being frightened from time to time. I'm not a big fan of horror movies but I do enjoy vampires and zombies stories (Buffy is my favourite TV show of all time!). We had great fun being chased by a vampire in the corn maze, finding our way through the "Dead and Breakfast" and I even enjoyed the magic show. The decorations were absolutely fantastic and you could see how much time and effort the organisers had put into it. For the adults, they also have the "Farmophobia" event at night, which I'm sure is a lot scarier.

And last night, we went out for trick or treat. We were invited at one of Ciaran's friend from school and as expected, the kids were in complete sugar overload by 8pm. I have to say, I couldn't believe how much sweets they received from the houses we visited. It wasn't just a lollipop or a chocolate bar, they were getting big goody bags of sweets & crisps! Good thing I carried an extra bag! The most sensible neighbours also gave fruit and peanuts, but we know those ones will be the last to be eaten...In the end, the sweet box at home was filled right up to the top with the kids' candies (and it's a big box...).

We also had the opportunity to taste the traditional Halloween "Barmbrack" cake. The concept is a bit like our own Epiphany cake where you hide a little figurine. In the irish version, a ring is hidden and whoever finds it is supposed to get married during the year. The kids tried some of the traditional games like apple bobbing (you have to grab an apple with your mouth in a basin filled with water), snap apple ( they are tied, suspended to the ceiling and you have to attempt eating them without using your hands) and the flour game, which is a bit like Jenga, except with flour (don't ask!). There were firecrackers involved as well and we even saw some fireworks.

My little Spiderman trying the apple bobbing

For the first time since I'm here, I feel like I've experienced a true, traditional Irish Halloween celebration. Of course it was all about the sweets for the kids, but we were in an Irish house, we did it their way and it just made it a bit more special.

Maybe next year I'll have the courage to dress up!!

What about you, do you celebrate Halloween?