Friday, 28 February 2014

RIP Laser card

At midnight tonight, the Laser card payment system will be shut down, after 18 years in service. I have to say it seemed like Ireland took forever to introduce the Visa or Mastercard debit card. 

But what was this card all about?

The laser card, a pure Irish invention was created in 1996. It was basically working like a Visa or Mastercard debit, but you couldn't pay online or even take money out in other countries (at least for the first 10 years...) The only great thing about it was cashback. No ATM around ? Just buy something in the shop and ask for cash back. Whoever had that idea was a genius.
I still have a bank account in France and I was given a Mastercard when I was 18. No questions asked. Before that, I had an ATM card since I was 12. Yes, I know it wasn't a great move from the bank and I'm surprised my parents never confiscated my card, but apparently the bank rolled that scheme out to teach young people how to manage their money. It didn't really work for me and my birthday/communion/Christmas money was gone within a few months, buying sweets and girly magazines.

When I came to Ireland, the first I did was open a bank account. Innocently, I asked for a credit card, and the lady at the counter looked at me like if I had two heads. The customer next to me, who looked shocked as well, told me I shouldn't ask for that and that I could get one eventually, but only if I was a " good customer". You see, the only word I knew was "credit card", but really, I was thinking of a debit card... I just didn't know that a Mastercard here was a real "credit card" that you had to pay back every month with interests. The lady started to talk in a very patronising way:

" Oh No, I can't give you a credit card. We'll have to start with an ATM card"
" OK, what's that exactly ? Can I pay with it?"
" No, but you can take money from the ATM"
" So are you telling me I can only pay cash???"
" Yes, for the moment, but if your accounts are fine, you'll be able to get a Laser card within 6 months"
" A Laser card ?"

I felt like I was back in the stone age. I'm glad I kept my French account and Mastercard debit. It proved very useful over the years...

In France we also use cheques A LOT. You can pay virtually anything by cheque: your shopping, petrol, rent, bills etc.  After my misadventure with the "credit/debit card", I didn't dare asking for a cheque book, but one of my French friend did. And it didn't really work as expected.

As soon as she received her cheque book, we went shopping to Penneys.  She took it out and before she even started to write anything, she was told she needed the "guarantee card" for the cheque, and that the bank had to provide it. She went back to the bank and they basically refused to give her the card (I still don't know why). 

" So I have a cheque book, but I can't pay anything by cheque? "
"  No, but you can write cheques to people"
 "Yeah, right... Because you think I go around writing cheques to people..."

Needless to say the chequebook was handed back to the bank straight away.

I always took for granted a mean of payment, would it be card or cheque, because that's what I was brought up with. I didn't think it would be different in Ireland. But like everything else, I had to adapt, and now, when I go to France , I  nearly want to ask for cashback!

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Little Museum of Dublin

Last week, I was invited to a special French guided tour of the "Little Museum of Dublin", which is located in St Stephens Green, Dublin 2.

I've always loved museums and Irish history, so I was glad to be able to discover this place. 

The Little Museum of Dublin tells the story of Dublin in the 20th century. 

In the space of two rooms you can navigate your way from the early 1900's to the 1990's and see the evolution of the society, from a political, social and cultural point of view.

There are more than 5000 artefacts on display, from newspaper articles to photographs and rare objects like the stand used by John Fitzgerald Kennedy when he visited Ireland.

Stand used by JFK on his visit to Ireland
It seemed quite complicated to ring a friend back in the day...

On the second floor, there is a permanent exhibition about U2.  I really couldn't miss that, being a huge fan of the band. There are a lot of photograph, signed albums, concert tickets and other memorabilia on display. There's even a Trabant car in the middle of the room!

Overall, I really appreciated the visit and our guide, who was a French student doing a work experience at the museum, really did a fantastic job organising that evening (and I haven't been paid to say that!).

I really recommend this visit to anybody who is either from Dublin, and expat or just a tourist. I believe it is important to keep trace of the past to understand where we are now and how Dublin has evolved in the last hundred years.

Practical information:
The museum is open from 9:30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday ( until 8pm on Thursdays)
General admission is 7 euros ( Discounts for over 65's and Students and free for under 3's and jobseekers)

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Catching up

I have a lot of catching up to do with my blog! My mum stayed here for a week and I didn't write a bit. Mind you, I didn't really want to hide behind a computer while she was here. We didn't do anything special as I was working everyday, but just seeing her in the evening and gossiping about what's happening in my little village was priceless.

I always say I'm from the " Kerry" of France. A remote area, literally situated at the end of the world. Everybody knows everybody and there's always a story to tell about the neighbours, the aunties or the cousins. Who is dead, who has gone to the hospital, who is  back from the hospital, what are her friends' children up to etc. I like it, even if sometimes I don't even know who she's talking about. It makes me feel connected to the place I used to live in.

She had a great time minding the kids, even she didn't understand what they were saying in English. She still believe she doesn't speak English though, but that's not true. She was starting all her sentences by : "I'm sorry, I don't speak English..." (But I will explain to you exactly what I want and make myself understood...)  It must be just a confidence issue...

She got us a new filter coffee machine (no more instant coffee for me, yeah!) and plenty of croissants. Of course she wrecked my head a bit with the cleaning, but I'm glad she didn't opened the drawers or the cupboards, or she would have had a heart attack (although she said it would be on top of her list when she comes back!).

But in the end, we both agreed one week was enough. Not too short so we had time to catch up en enjoy each other company, and not too long that we would have started to fight!

I love my mum, I'm so glad she came, but I'm glad she's gone and I'm back to normal... Until next time!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Things Irish people say but don't mean

When I came to Ireland I had to get used to the way Irish people talked. It wasn't so much what they said, but more what they meant that I didn't always understand.

If you take their words literally, you can feel confused or even upset sometimes. Irish people seem to have the ability to say things but don't really mean them. And don't even get me started on saying the complete opposite of what they think (that could be a whole new post!)

Here a few examples:

"How are you?" / "How's things?" / "What's the Story ?"

The truth is, Irish people don't really want to know how you are doing. It's just politeness.They don't wait for an answer. Sometimes they ask "How are you?" while passing you by and just keep on walking without waiting for any acknowledgement on your part. Now, If you REALLY want to answer, the main thing to remember is to stay vague. So the best answers in that case are:

- How are you ? Not too bad / Grand / Not a bother
- What's the story ? Not much

See you later / See you after

In fact, there's little chance you'll see them later. Most of the time it would be the following day or week, or never, who knows... I'm definitely guilty of this one. I think I said it to customers I had never seen before (and obviously never saw later or after...). 

Come here to me!

Let's get this straight: DON'T GO THERE. Whoever is saying that don't want you to physically go up to him/her. It's just a way of saying " I need to tell you something". Very strange isn't it ? I really don't know where this expression is coming from, but I definitely didn't learn that one at school. 

F*ck off!

Everyone knows what it means of course, but sometimes it's the way it's said and it also depends of the context. Let's take a simple example:

- Have you heard Paddy just won the lotto ?
- F*uck off!

Translation:  Really ? Are you serious ? 

To go " for one"

Yeah, nobody will be fooled by that one. Except me, when I still  believe the husband wants to go to the pub " for one" , and we end up leaving when it closes... Irish people always say they go " for one", but they never drink just "one". It wouldn't be very Irish after all...

It's down the road / up the road / around the corner

Yes... It could be 10 miles away it would still be down the road. I live up the road from the sea, but what I need to say is : "The sea is *literally* down the road from my house." Just so they know the beach is not that far away...

I wasn't taught those things at school but I guess this is all part of the joys of discovering a whole new culture. And after so many years, I use most of them myself !

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Are my kids more Irish than I'll ever be ?

Ireland and France were playing in the 6 nations tournament at the week-end. Not against each other thankfully. However I've already been reminded that they will face each other in a few weeks and that, of course, France will loose ( We'll see about that...).

On Saturday, Ireland was playing and we dressed the boys with the Irish jersey, even if we knew they wouldn't really care about the game. I didn't care about it either, I'm not a rugby fan. All of this was really to please the husband...

During the game, we tried to make our 2 and a half years old son say " Come on Ireland!", just for the laugh. He's at the age where he repeats everything we say ( which is NOT a good thing sometimes...), so it was pretty easy to make him say that. He enjoyed it so much he was shouting " Come on Ireland" all over the house.
The following day, France was playing, so of course I tried to make him say " Allez la France" (Come on France!). Would you believe he didn't want to say it !!! There I was, telling him to repeat, and all his answers were " No! Come on Ireland" or " No, no France". I was quite disappointed to say the least.

Then, it sort of hit me. I know he's only young and doesn't grasp the concept of nationality yet, but the way it's going, he will quickly become more Irish than I will ever be. After all, he goes to an Irish childminder, the TV is in English, his dad talks to him in English and I'm the only one speaking French to him. We only go to France once a year and to Mauritius (my husband's native country) every 2 or 3 years. It's not like my two boys know a lot about our home countries...

So, will my kids feel they are more Irish than French or Mauritian ? I think they will, but I also think it's our duty as parents to make them learn about their roots, so that they don't forget where they come from. They may not always be interested to learn, but hopefully, one day they will thank us (Now I sound like my mother, which is pretty weird...)

I will do it, even if it I have to repeat 20 times " Allez la France"!  And I'm happy to say that after two days of trying, my little one has finally said it -well, after giving me a cheeky look and whispering " Come on Ireland" in my ears-

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Vote for me !

I have just found out my blog has been nominated for one of " The Top 100 International Exchange and Experience Blog 2014". To be honest I don't know who nominated me, especially because the deadline was on the 2nd of February and I received an e-mail yesterday to tell me I was nominated... And I didn't even know this competition existed!  So, whoever did it, Thank you !

What is there to win ?

Well, this competition is for a very worthy cause, and this year, Lexiophiles will donate an education package for UNICEF in the name of each blogger.

What do you need to do ?

Just click on the button below and vote for me :-) My blog is the last on the list  so it's very easy to find. 

Vote your favorite IX13 blog  

Thank you !

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

6 typically Irish home items that annoy the hell out me

I always thought that Irish houses were very different than French ones. There are a few things that are just so different I still have a hard time getting used to them,  and then there are the ones I really don't see the point to. But on the whole, those things are just plain annoying...

1. The main switch

How many times did I try to boil water only to realise 10 minutes after I didn't put the main switch on ? Although I kind of understand the security reason behind it, it just irritates me...

2. The plug switch

Same story... I put my phone on charge for the night... Realise in the morning the plug switch was off all along... aaarrrggghhhh !! 

3. The outside light for the bathroom

At this stage, you're probably thinking I have serious issues with switches. And you're right. By the way, I'm sorry, I don't have a picture of that, but in fairness, I don't really want anybody to see my bathroom. 
This is something I really don't get, and don't see the point of. Why is the bathroom light always outside the door?  Seriously, you're there, getting on with your business, the door is locked and bam! somebody (preferably one of the kids) decides to switch the light off. You're screwed.

4. Blinds and curtains

I have to put up with this

When all I really want is this


Why are there no outside shutters on houses in Ireland ? I really really want to know. It blacks out the light so much better and is great for insulation. Maybe I should open a shutter business in Ireland and make a fortune. That's an idea...

5. The water taps

Boiling hot or stone cold, take your pick... If you just want warm water, well, good luck. I have mastered the art of swinging my hands between each tap though...

6. The door lock

The perfect way to get locked outside your own house...I don't get this one either. I'm sure I'm not the only one who forget her keys inside. Unless it's to keep the locksmiths in business...