Sunday, 28 February 2016

8 habits I picked up since I moved to Ireland

I am still French in many ways. I love my wine, my cheese (lots of it) and my Desperados beer (yes, it is French in spite of the name). I have no problem sitting for five hours at a table, enjoying good food and drink with my friends. However, thirteen years in Ireland have definitely changed me and I've realised I picked up "Irish" habits I didn't think I would.

Cutting sandwiches in a triangle shape

I would never do that in France, for the simple reason that French people mostly eat baguette sandwiches. Here, it's all about sliced bread, cut in triangle, preferably toasted (but that's just personal taste!). Which brings me to point 2.

Eating sliced bread

13 years ago, there wasn't much variety in shops when it came to bread so I had to adapt and started to eat sliced bread. Now, you can find baguettes and all sorts of bread everywhere, but I usually stick to the sliced pan. I just got used to it.

Drinking tea/coffee with my lunch

That is really one of the most bizarre habits I picked up and I don't why I do it. I used to drink water, which makes a lot more sense.

Cheering for Ireland in sporting competitions

Except when France is playing against Ireland, obviously. But other than that, I always want Ireland to win. And if I hear about an Irish sportsman in the Olympics for example I will always try to watch the performance (unless it's the 50K walk). And I have to say, I think Irish people are very fair-play (but I never get too cocky when France wins because of the amount of slagging I would get).

Using Irish expressions

It's grand, Sure look it, come here, yer man, thanks a million, what's the craic, what's the story, deadly, feckin eejit, Ah here!, coolaboola (not sure how it's spelled...) and I'm probably forgetting a lot..!


Oh, my English teachers would probably kill me if they heard the amount of bad words I learnt over the years. But cursing in Ireland is just part of the culture I guess. It took me a while to lose my formal English though, and it all went downhill when I started to work with Irish people.

Shopping on Sunday

French people are still very attached to their weekly day off. There were big protest a few years ago between workers and big stores who wanted to open on Sundays. I'm not saying I go shopping every Sunday, but at least I have the option if I really need something and I don't think that's a crime.

Take my kids to the pub

I would NEVER dare doing this in France. People would just look at me and think I'm the worst mother in the world. Let's be clear though, we are taking them during the day, for lunch or an ice-cream. We are not getting drunk while they run around. Our local pub is very family friendly and it's not rare to see kids there on Sunday afternoon.

What habits have you picked up since you moved abroad?

Friday, 19 February 2016

Food...Glorious food

It's no secret that we, French, love our food. After all, France is the epitome of gastronomy and I won't lie when I say that one of the downside of Ireland is the fact that it doesn't always live up to our expectations in terms of food. Having said that, every time my friend or family come over, I make them discover traditional Irish dishes.

It's the paradox of being French in Ireland. I don't really miss French food to the point of not being able to survive without it but simple things can put a big smile on my face...

French week in LIDL

I often end up buying stuff I wouldn't even buy in France, like frozen ratatouille... But last time there was salted butter, like proper one, with salt crystals. It was just yummy! The weird thing is I bought Breton biscuits, yet, they are still in the press waiting to be eaten. It's been a couple of months at least...

But do I learn my lesson? No, I'm still like an excited kid when it's French week in LIDL.

My mum sends me a care package

Now here's proper French food! Pate, rillettes, syrup, compotes, biscuits... All the things you can't find in Ireland.

When friends invite us for the "apero" with some Pate Henaff (Famous Breton brand) as a bonus 

When I dream about my holidays in France and all the seafood I'm going to eat

And when my friends or family come to visit, all I want to do is make them eat Irish stuff... Because they're here and it would be a crime not to try!

The chipper

The perfect choice after a night out, with salt and vinegar on the chips of course!

Fish and chips

And a fancy one with that!!

Irish breakfast, home made of course!

And then there's the Irish stew, Guinness beef, seafood chowder, soda bread... My friends and family love eating Irish food because it's different. I personally don't go to great lengths to find French food here. If it comes my way, I'm happy about it, if it doesn't, I  just wait to be in France to enjoy it. And I often find I prefer French food in France and Irish food in Ireland (if that makes sense!).

What about you? Do you go to great lengths to eat food from your home country or do you just enjoy local food?

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Expat friendship

I think this quote reflects perfectly the kind of friendship expats experience through their journey abroad. The hard part is that sometimes, you don't anticipate who, from your new friends, will be part of your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime...

As an expat you're going to meet a lot of people. They'll come and go and that's life. Maybe you'll be the one to go first. Or like me, you'll be the one who stays and sees everybody go. I don't know which is the hardest to be honest, but I've had the feeling many times that it was hard to see someone go because the one who stays has to live with the memories of the other person in his everyday life.

You pass by a pub and you remember that crazy night out. You see something online about the Giant's causeway and it reminds you of that road trip you took together. You pass by the house he or she used to live in and you can't help but think about the many house parties you went to...

On the other hand, the person who leaves goes back to his home town, catches up with family, friends, goes back to study or work, but you're not part of it. You never were so it might be easier for them to move on. I have fantastic memories of my internships in Scotland and England as a student, but I know for a fact that when I came home, although I was nostalgic the first few weeks, I moved on pretty quickly.

I'm going to break it to you. The majority of friends you make while abroad are temporary. You might get along very well and swear you'll be friends for life, but the truth is, you might only be friends because you're sharing the same experience. In reality, when one of you goes back home, you realise you have less in common than you thought. You message each other once in a while, "like" each other's stuff on Facebook but that's as far as it goes and before you know it, there's not much to say anymore. I might be a bit cynical but I really doubt you can have a long term friendship with someone you've spend time with for only a few months, unless you regularly meet back home or if they come to visit.

Having said that, I'm still good friends with some people I met in Ireland and who have gone home. But not many, maybe 4 or 5. And the weird thing is, it wasn't always the person I thought I would keep in touch with.

Friendship works in a strange way. Sometimes people you almost forgot come crawling back into your life. People you weren't as close while abroad become closer once they're gone. Friends you wanted to keep so much become almost strangers.

All I'll say is keeping friends as an expat is hard. So hard that at some point, I didn't want expat friends anymore. Too much to deal with. But at the same time, I've learned so much from every person I've met that it would have been a waste not to invest in the relationship.

What about you? Do you think maintaining a friendship as an expat is hard?

Thursday, 11 February 2016

When your parents get old and you're not around...

I am experiencing a severe case of guilt at the moment, and even if I know it's a bit unfounded, I can't help it.

I won't go into too much details because it's quite personal, but both my parents have just undergone major surgeries in the past few weeks. Everything went well, they are back home recovering, but it will take some time until they are fully "functional". Thankfully, my sister and my brother are very close by. They visit them almost every day, do the shopping, get prescriptions from the chemist, and just check that they're doing OK.

This is where guilt is kicking in for me. I know I can't be there for my parents and that's fine (well, sort of). What I feel most guilty about is that everything is falling on my siblings. And it's not just now. This is where it's going in the long term. My parents are not getting any younger and there will be one day when they need more care. And I won't be there. I can see my sister and brother having to deal with all the practicalities of organising nurses to come daily, or even looking for a retirement home. They'll have to deal with the paperwork, but not only that, they will be the ones dealing with  our parents' health and well-being first hand.

I can't help but feel guilty about not being around to help them. Of course I know they will consult me for the big decisions, but they won't pick up the phone for every little thing. In a way, it's easier for me. I won't have to deal with the everyday issues, and my parents will be happy to see me when I come for a holiday. On the other hand, I hope my siblings won't resent me for being far away and not being able to help more. We have a great relationship so I doubt there will be conflict, but you never know...

I've just started to realise that my parents are not eternal. They are getting older. I know I can't lead my life according to what might or might not happen to them at some point in the future, but sometimes, I almost feel selfish about being abroad.

Have you experienced the same feeling about not being there for your parents and siblings, or am I just over-reacting?

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The expat dilemma: Staying or going home?

When you're at a crossroads...and don't know where to go

At some point in their experience abroad, every expat will have that thought: "Should I stay or should I go back home?". It happened to me many times, at different moments and for different reasons.

The first time was probably about 2 years into my expatriation. I just got married and felt it was time to go home. I already acquired the experience I needed to find a job in France and I missed my family and friends more than ever. Yet, there was something I couldn't really pinpoint that was confusing. Somehow there was no novelty anymore and the routine was getting the best of me. On top of that, many friends I had from the beginning were also starting to go home. On the other hand, I still liked Ireland, the way of life, my job, my neighbourhood...

So we decided to stay a bit more. I got promoted at work, I met new people, and the blues eventually passed. I think what made us stay over the years was the fact that we always had a short term goal to look for: a holiday abroad, buying a car, a friend's visit... Then the bliss came back, and we were ready to buy a house. Once that was done, I changed job, we spent a year enjoying our new home and then it was time for babies.

Even though we had that life plan, at the back of my mind I always had the idea of going home at some point. This was especially true when recession hit and we were literally trapped in our apartment because of negative equity. At that time (about 7 years in Ireland), I felt I didn't have a choice anymore and that staying in Ireland was something imposed on me.

When we had the kids, I thought we could always go back home before they went to school, but I also wanted them to be bilingual, another dilemma... So we decided to stay, again.

After 13 years we're still here. And I still think about going home regularly. But there's always something that makes our life here worthwhile. At the moment, I can see the benefits of speaking two languages to my kids, the fact that Irish people are less judgemental when it comes to special needs children, the help and support we're getting from the school, the Irish sense of humour that's getting me through most days, my job that I really like...

Life in Ireland is not always easy when you have no family around, when childcare fees are extortionate, when your mortgage is costing you an arm and leg... But come to think of it, if I was in France, would it be that different? I'd probably have to live in a big enough city to land a decent job, and so would my husband. My parents wouldn't be around either to mind the children so I would have to pay for childcare as well. We would have to pay for rent or a mortgage... Of course we would avail of a better social security, but every country has its positives and negatives.

If you're in that state of mind at the moment, take some time to think about your decision, and evaluate your priorities. Trust me, you always have the option to go home because if you really want to, you'll find a way.