Monday, 29 September 2014

Early birthday present

 
And my first purchase :-)
My Birthday present


















On Saturday afternoon I sent my husband out to get me my birthday present, and I'm not ashamed of saying it. During the past 12 years, I've had my fair share of bizarre presents and sometimes, even after telling him exactly what I wanted, I still ended up with the wrong thing. When I let him choose, I always got something completely unexpected (and not in a good way). That's how I got a plastic shoe rack from LIDL for Christmas many years ago. Except I only have about four pair of shoes. On another occasion, I told him exactly the name of the fragrance I wanted. What did I get? Not one, but two bottles of a completely different perfume. Seriously, how can someone be confused between Image by Cerruti and Allure by Chanel? Well, my man can...

This time, after getting very clear instructions, he came back home with my new toy: an Amazon Kindle. I wanted to get an e-book reader for a long time, especially because I don't have much space to store books in the apartment. That lack of space led to less and less reading over the years unfortunately, and one of my new year (well, September) resolutions was to read more books. 

I'm also in need of inspiration. I've been trying to write my own expat memoir about my experience as a French girl living in Ireland, but I'm just struggling to be honest. I can't seem to find the right structure, I've written about fifty pages and I'm stuck. I thought that starting a blog would give me that discipline I need to write a book , but it doesn't really... Why are the words flowing (more or less) when I write a post, but seem so bland and uninteresting when I try to tell the story of that shy young girl who left everything in France to start a new life in Dublin?

For some reason, I've always been drawn to reading memoirs, from quite a young age. Not the celebrity biographies, but extraordinary stories written by ordinary people. I think I have the ability to put myself in somebody else's shoes. I always manage to identify or empathise with the authors of the memoirs I read, even if I never experienced the situations they described. I even shocked my French teacher in Seconde (5th year equivalent), when I told her my favourite book was "Christiane F.", the story of a 13 years old German drug-addict and prostitute.

Surprisingly, I haven't read many expat memoirs. And that's how this birthday present will come useful. I need ideas, I need inspiration from people like me, who left their home country to start a new adventure abroad. 

So of course,the first book I bought on my new kindle was Liz Ryan's memoir, "French Leave". I wanted to read it for a while, and sadly my local bookshop didn't have it in stock. 
Liz is an Irish writer who left her job and sold her house in Dublin to move to Normandy. I'm laughing out loud at her misadventures with the Gendarmes, surveyor, or even neighbours. So far in the book (I'm only on chapter 5), her representation of the French population is quite accurate. I can't wait to see how everything unfolds. She seems to be a really grounded person, who took a chance and had the courage to start a new life in a foreign land. She learned French, mixed with the locals and tried to integrate as much as she could in her new surroundings.

So yeah, I'm pretty happy with my Birthday present. I can't wait to finish that book and read many more. And maybe, just maybe, it will give me the kick I need to finish writing my own story...

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The impossible quest for a B&B

Sometimes I feel like I'm married to the Wolf of Wall Street (OK, maybe minus the drug and sex addict part of his personality). I'm talking about his sales skills of course. Fabrice could sell ice to an Eskimo for all I know. I don't know how he does it, but he *almost* always end up getting what he wants from people and he's a really good negotiator. In short, he's my complete opposite. 

As you might be aware, I've made it to the final of the Blog Awards Ireland and when I got the news, I decided it would be a good idea to attend. However, I learned that the hotel was fully booked and it seemed like all the B&Bs around where unavailable either. Fabrice decided to use his sales skills, and basically sell our desperation in finding a place to sleep.

I made a list of pretty much all the B&B in Co.Kildare, from Straffan to Kill, Naas, Celbridge and even Maynooth. The first one I rang was probably the most unhelpful B&B owner in the world. I politely asked if there was a room available for the 4th of October and the answer I received was: "I don't know, just go check booking.com"!  Of course I didn't check and even if they had rooms, I wouldn't have stayed there after that kind of rudeness. The second one I rang was fully booked, unfortunately.

Do you think that would have stopped my husband? 
"I'm taking over", he said to me. 
"Give me that list". 
He rang another place and for some unknown reason, pulled off a fantastically fake English accent. After introducing himself for a good 5 minutes, he eventually asked if there was a room available, but sadly there wasn't. 
"Why did you take so long to ask for a room? "
"You see", he said, "you have to build a "relationship", and get the person to trust you so that she can be confident in renting  you a room..."
"Yeah, right, sounds like a lot of bullshit to me..."

That's when it all started to go pear-shaped. During the next call, he tried to fabricate an entire fake story about the reason why he was looking for a room. The B&B was "Failte Ireland" approved, and for some bizarre reason, said we were going to one of their conference in the hotel. Why, Fabrice, why??? The lady seemed all excited about that:
"A tourism conference? I might close the B&B then, because I want to go to!
After 10 minutes of vague explanation of what the event was about, he managed to get himself out of that awkward situation and hung up the phone.
"She didn't even tell me if she had rooms! All she wanted to know was about the event itself!" Well done honey, well done.
"I'll ring back. And I'll take my French accent." 
Some people never give up, don't they? The B&B was fully booked. But you know what, I'm not sure I would have dared staying there, and he would have had to keep his French accent. Too complicated for just one night.

He also tried all the hotels around, the ones within our budget obviously (although I would have loved to stay in the K club!), but sadly his "sales skills" didn't get us anywhere. In the mean time, I sent at least 5 messages on AirBnB and finally, after 2 hours of research, our last phone call had a happy ending. Well, sort of. There was a room alright, but only with 3 singles beds. Ah sure, we're only there to sleep anyway. So we booked it.

Of course, since that happened, I had 3 messages back from AirBnB, all positive! If you're still looking, go that website, you might be in luck! 

As for us, well, everything is sorted now, I just have to find an outfit, and trust me, this  will take more than 2 hours...

 


 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

My interview on InterNations




I was recently asked by the website InterNations to feature in their "Recommended Expat blogs"  section and answer a few questions.

It was the first time I was interviewed, except for a job of course, but trust me, this one was a lot more fun.

InterNations is a global online community  for expats. You can get in touch with other members by using the forums or go the one of the many social events organised by the expat community. And if you just arrived or are looking for more information about your new country, there are a lot of guides and articles available on the website.

Being a long term expat and well integrated in Ireland, I don't really need these kind of services any more. Having said that, I can totally understand how daunting it can be to land in a country where you don't know anybody. If this website existed when I came, I would probably have used it to network (especially when I left my job after a week in the country!) and meet new people. I think it's always reassuring at the beginning to meet fellow expats who can help you navigate in your new surroundings.

What I want to say to newcomers in Ireland though, is not to solely rely on the "expat" network, but use it as a stepping-stone to get to know the locals. Surely there will be members who can introduce you to Irish people via nights out or activities.

The most interesting part of living abroad is to get to know the culture and the people living there. What's the point of going to another country and stay with your own kind? Go out there, be open-minded and as the Irish say, you'll be grand!

You can check out my interview right here!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

12 years!

Tomorrow, it will be twelve years since I landed in Dublin airport and started my Irish journey. I still have a vivid memory of my first day in the country and the events that led up to it.

After staying 3 months in Cornwall during my last year at university, I spent the summer home, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I took a part-time job in order to have a bit of savings in case I wouldn't find full-time employment straight away and as I had planned to go back to Cornwall with a friend the first two-weeks of September, I needed some pocket money.

The summer went by and all I was getting were rejection letters. About a week before my holidays, I spotted a job offer on the internet. It was an "Export assistant" position for a food company in Ireland. I took a chance and applied for it. The thing is, I knew I wanted to live abroad for a while. I loved speaking English and I wanted to discover other places, people and cultures. The plan was to stay 2 or 3 years, get experience, become bilingual and come back to France to get a good job.

A couple of days later, I got a phone interview. Believe it or not, the company owner was French, and from Brittany as well (talk about small world!). At the end of the call, he said he would come back to me within a week or two. And of course, I received the answer right in the middle of my holidays in Cornwall. I was coming back home on the 15th of September and he asked me to be in Ireland for the 27th at the latest. Basically, I had about 10 days to get everything ready and start a new life in Ireland. No pressure at all...

I came home, sorted all the administrative stuff and bought a one-way ticket (that I managed to lose in the process but that's another story...). Thankfully, my new boss knew an Irish family in the village, who was lodging young professionals. I rang them and they had a free room. So, with a job and an accommodation lined-up, I only had to say goodbye to my friends and family. It was very emotional but I will always be grateful for their support.

On an early Wednesday morning, I flew over and arrived in Dublin airport with two big suitcases. I was scared and excited at the same time, I didn't know what to expect but all I can say is that I really received an Irish welcome in that family. I couldn't have landed in a better place. They became my second family and looked after me like one of their own.

As for the job, well, this one didn't work out at all and I quit after a week. So at that time I was far from thinking I would still be in Ireland  after 12 years!


Monday, 22 September 2014

Awkward situation

Here's the deal: A new employee started in my company a few weeks ago and he happens to be French. You probably wonder what is awkward about this because I'm French myself. I should feel at ease, considering we speak the same language, right?

Well, it's actually the most awkward situation I've been in for a long time. I'm the only French person in the company, so I'm not used to speak French at work (except when I curse, but in that case I'm usually talking to myself). My colleagues try to speak French too sometimes: "Sacrebleu, Kermit, ouh la la, Petit filou"... So that's pretty much it. I would never have a full conversation in French with anybody. 

The thing is, English is the spoken language in the company, so I would never dare talking my native language with a colleague in front of other employees because that's just plain rude. 

Back to our guy. We were introduced in between two doors, nothing really official. We shook hands, he said "Bonjour", I replied "Hello". And after that, we never really spoke to each other. Here's my problem (and you're going to think I'm nuts, which I probably am anyway): I'm intimidated by him. He's at least 15 years older than me and I didn't mention it before but he's a manager, so am I suppose to say "vous" or "tu"? This is is a big thing in French culture, and as you can see below, there are A LOT of rules. 
 
Source: LA Times

I don't work at "Le Google" (although that would be cool), he is probably half a generation older, and I wasn't even born in May 68 so I definitely have to say "Vous" to him. On the other hand, he's probably in Ireland for a long time so it might not make any difference to him. Or maybe he's one of these arrogant French expat who never mixes with locals and are even more "French" when they're abroad (it does exist, trust me).

I guess I will never find out if I don't talk to him. I just don't know what to say or how to start the conversation. He hasn't made any efforts either, so why should I? Someone suggested I talked about the weather! Now that's really Irish isn't it? 

So here's where I am at the moment. I don't want to speak French, but he keeps saying "Bonjour" which in my opinion means if we ever have a conversation, it will be in French. 

But you know what, maybe he's thinking exactly the same as me and it means we will never ever talk to each other.

Awkward is an understatement.

Friday, 19 September 2014

I'm in the final!


blog awards ireland


I'm absolutely thrilled to be in the Final of the Blog Awards Ireland in the "Best Personal blog" category. I think this really is an achievement, considering I have been blogging for less than a year and I was up against so many other great blogs.

I'm actually amazed to have made the final. It took me years to take the leap of faith and start writing about my expat journey, and I still can't believe people are interested in reading my stories...

Of course, when I told Fabrice the good news, the first thing he asked was : " So, what do you win?". I never thought of that to be honest. For me, the whole point of the competition was to get noticed, build a readership and discover other blogs in the process. All I expect to win (if I actually do!) is recognition from the Irish blogging community. And trust me it's far more important than a trophy!


So that's it, I've booked my tickets to go to the ceremony. It will be an occasion to meet my fellow bloggers, spend a good night away and enjoy myself. Obviously, I'm bringing the hubby along, and I already know he will know more people than me by the end of the night. If things get a bit out of control he could end up doing the "Billie Jean" choreography in the middle of the dance floor... So be prepared :-)

Oooohhhh I'm all excited now!! Roll on the 4th of October (The next two weeks are going to be endless)!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Roots

We inherit from our ancestors gifts so often taken for granted. Each of us contains within this inheritance of soul. We are links between the ages, containing past and present expectations, sacred memories and future promise. – Edward Sellner - See more at: http://familyhistorydaily.com/family-history/15-genealogy-quotes-love/#sthash.ESEjGSz8.dpuf
We inherit from our ancestors gifts so often taken for granted. Each of us contains within this inheritance of soul. We are links between the ages, containing past and present expectations, sacred memories and future promise. – Edward Sellner - See more at: http://familyhistorydaily.com/family-history/15-genealogy-quotes-love/#sthash.ESEjGSz8.dpuf
We inherit from our ancestors gifts so often taken for granted. Each of us contains within this inheritance of soul. We are links between the ages, containing past and present expectations, sacred memories and future promise. – Edward Sellner - See more at: http://familyhistorydaily.com/family-history/15-genealogy-quotes-love/#sthash.ESEjGSz8.dpuf
My grand-parents wedding

We inherit from our ancestors gifts so often taken for granted. Each of us contains within this inheritance of soul. We are links between the ages, containing past and present expectations, sacred memories and future promise. – Edward Sellner - See more at: http://familyhistorydaily.com/family-history/15-genealogy-quotes-love/#sthash.ESEjGSz8.dpuf
We inherit from our ancestors gifts so often taken for granted. Each of us contains within this inheritance of soul. We are links between the ages, containing past and present expectations, sacred memories and future promise. – Edward Sellner - See more at: http://familyhistorydaily.com/family-history/15-genealogy-quotes-love/#sthash.ESEjGSz8.dpuf
I've always been fascinated by genealogy. I love hearing stories about my great-grand parents and their relatives. I can spend hours looking through old photo albums and I always want to know more.  I'm convinced that in order to shape ourselves and our future, we need to know and care about the past.

I am lucky in the sense that I never had to look too far or do any research at all to find my ancestors. All the information was given to me on a silver plate. My uncle used to be an archivist at the Bishop's house in a town nearby my village in Brittany. He was a passionate historian and he spent a good part of his life writing about the area I'm from, and researching his family history. At the end of his life he had information that dated back to the 17th century. When you think that most of the records were destroyed during the French revolution in 1789, it's quite unbelievable that he managed to trace our family so far back.

Look at the date...1677!
A few months before he died, my cousin recorded him on video and with the help of my mum and aunt, he showed him numerous pictures and all the books related to my mother's family tree. He put it on a DVD and every member of the family got a copy. This, in my opinion is invaluable information. My uncle passed away a few years ago, and even my parents are not getting any younger. My mother being the youngest of the family, has a lot less souvenirs than her brothers and sisters. This recording will be the memory of our ancestors when everybody from that generation will be gone. 
 

My Great-Grand parents



On the other hand, Fabrice doesn't know a lot about his own ancestors. He didn't have the same luck as me, and I feel sorry for him because he definitely is missing something. There is this big void that needs to be filled, but to be honest, even the prospect of starting research is daunting.
Basically, apart from his grand parents, he doesn't really know where he comes from. See his name "Canaveera"? It's unique. Nobody else in the worlds wears it, so it doesn't really help. His great-grand parents came from Pondichery and that's pretty much all we know. I would love to be able to take time and start his family tree. 

The same way I will tell my children about their French ancestors, I want Fabrice to be able to tell them about the Mauritian side of their family. They deserve to know both. I know my kids will more than likely feel more Irish than Mauritian or French, but they need to know where they come from and I will make sure they get all the information possible.

If only there was a program like "Who do you think you are?" for regular people, not just celebrities! Because I need all the help I can get in the quest for Fabrice's ancestors.
 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Out of stock...again

Empty bottle :-(
Dear Tesco,

As you can see in the picture above, my bottle of French Rosé wine is empty. And I have a small problem. Almost every time I go to Tesco to buy a bottle, you're out of stock.

There are few possible explanations for this logistical issue:

1) It's so cheap that everyone buys it: 3.99 Euros a bottle, no other shop can do better than that.
2) It's so tasty everyone buys it: The best Rosé wine I've ever drank in Ireland. And I'm French so you can trust me on this one.
3) All the French people in the area think the same but they're faster than me at getting their hands on it.

Why don't I buy 10 bottles at once, you may ask? That way I would always have a few spare at home, ready for guests or for a well deserved glass to finally relax after the kids are in bed...

Well, the fact is, there rarely are 10 bottles on the shelf at once! And sometimes you're out of stock for days. Should I have to check the wine aisle everyday? Your staff would probably start wondering who is that crazy lady wandering around the wine section everyday around 5pm, moaning and cursing in a foreign language about the fact that her much loved drink is unavailable...again.

So, dear Tesco, is there a solution to my problem? Can you not just order more of this delicious wine? Because, on top of buying it for myself, all my friends are now addicted to it, which doesn't make things easier. 

I have friends over for lunch on Saturday, so I'll be heading down to my local Tesco very soon. I really hope there will be some bottles left. 

There's just one last thing. I usually make a little "cocktail" of my own with the wine. I add grapefruit syrup to it. It's very popular in France and adds a little citrus taste to it. I know you don't sell grapefruit syrup but it might just be an idea for your purchasing department. Who knows...

French Grapefruit syrup

In the end, I just want to say that since I moved to Ireland, I've always tried to find a good affordable French wine, and it's been a hard task for many years. So I salute you for giving the people of Ireland (and me) the opportunity to taste a good quality wine, at an unbeatable price.

Now, you better sort that stock problem ASAP!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Strange encounters...


 
A well deserved drink

On Saturday night, my husband and I enjoyed a kids-free night out, thanks to wonderful friends who agreed to take both children for a sleepover. We headed down to the local pub for a few drinks, nothing fancy, but it was nice to spend some quality time together.

When I say "together", I mean the two us with occasional weird drunk people interrupting our conversation... I don't know what it is, but every time we go out together, we end up being caught in some strange encounters.

A few weeks ago, we met that guy who kept ranting about the fact that the French student he was lodging for a few weeks hated football and didn't want to participate in any family activities. He probably thought that being French, I would commiserate about the situation. I don't know how this came out, but he even told us he was an ex-convict and spent 10 years in jail in the UK. Now that's something I really really didn't need to know. He eventually left, after forgetting his change on the bar. I should have taken the money, just for the hassle. But I'm honest. 

This time, not one, but two men started to talk to us. One of them was fascinated by my electronic cigarette. The other kept talking about his life in Chicago and how he was coming back to see his dad, who was living in the village. They couldn't get their head around the fact that I was French and Fabrice from Mauritius. They actually thought I was Irish. Well, that I looked Irish to be exact. I don't know if I have to take it as a compliment, but strangely, it's not the first time someone makes that remark. Maybe it's all about the Celtic origins?

They kept going on and on about how "lovely" we were, and how we were a "wonderful couple".  And how great it was to see an Irish girl with a French man (For the last time, I'm French. He's from Mauritius!). I thought they were never going to leave but they eventually did and we managed to finish our evening in some sort of peace.

Having said that, what I like about Irish pubs in general, is that you never know who you might end up talking to. Fair enough there will always be some amount of weirdos and drunk, but sometimes, you meet great people in the pub (that's where I met my husband after all!). That's the place where friendship are formed, love stories begin, life events are celebrated.

As we were leaving, I looked around and saw people of all ages and that's something you wouldn't really see in France. To me, the pub is still important in the Irish society, especially in villages. It's a social link, and our local is a very good example. 

It keeps the community together.




 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

House hunting fever



Today I heard on the radio about that new development in Swords, which is going on sale on Saturday. Apparently there were people already queuing since Tuesday (!) to  be sure they'd secure a house when the sale starts.

Wow!, I thought to myself, are we back in 2006 or what? As it happens, there seems to be less than 10 people on the queue at the moment. But if it keeps on going, I can't imagine the state of the place on Saturday. I can already see fights, screams and anger amongst potential buyers.

All of this brought me back to the time when we were house hunting, and trust me, it wasn't pretty. We bought an apartment in 2006, at the height of the Celtic tiger. But we were looking for a property for at least a year before. It was a stressful time and it seemed we were never going to find something. The demand was huge, the supply sadly wasn't. 

On one occasion, we went to a public viewing of a 2 bedroom house in the Blanchardstown area. The price on offer was 175000 euros. The viewing started at 7pm, but by the time we had stepped in the house at 7.10 pm, we couldn't afford it anymore. The offers had gone up to 290000 euros. IN 10 FECKIN MINUTES !!!
The same happened to house we visited in Stamullen. There was only one property left for sale in the estate. It was small, the garden was facing North, the bedrooms were like shoe boxes, but still, we were amongst 50 potential buyers. And it was a case of who would put the more money on the table. It definitely wasn't us. 

The worst experience we had was trying to buy a house off the plans in Slane. We had seen the ad on the newspaper and rang the Estate agent, who told us to get there the following morning, as the sale was starting at 11am. Now, who in their right mind would want to buy a house, off the plans, for 270 000 euros?  For all we know, it may have never been built!! But I still went.
I arrived around 9:30am, thinking I was early enough. I didn't know it was already too late. There were a good few people already, but the rule was that the Estate agent would start giving tickets at 10:30am. In the mean time, I learned that some houses had been pre-sold. Seriously?? And that some potential buyers had come the night before to get tickets... A bit unfair, don't you think?  Anyway, I waited patiently and when the guy came out of his little portacabin to give out the golden tickets, it was every man (and woman) to himself. There was rushing, running and a lot of pushing. I eventually got my ticket and stood in the queue. Every single person in front of me was buying a house. Not an apartment, not a duplex. They all wanted a house. So of course when my turn came, the last one had just been sold. I gave up and went home in tears. 

In the end, we didn't get a house. We bought a 2-bedrooms apartment for 275 000 euros. We're not even in Co.Dublin. But you know what, we were just happy to finally find a place that cost less than 300 000 Euros.

The whole thing was surreal. I'm a rational (most of the time) person and couldn't get my head around how crazy people were. How crazy the banks were as well. But at the same time, we were obviously not thinking straight ourselves. We were caught in the whirlwind of house hunting, mortgage lending, money spending. Get your foot on the ladder! In 2 years time you can sell your house, make a profit and buy bigger. Get your foot on the ladder! That's all you could hear, see, read everywhere. I should have known better. I come from a country which experienced several property bubbles. I knew it was going to happen at some stage. I didn't think it was going to happen so soon.

A couple of years after we bought, recession kicked in. After 8 years, we still live in the same apartment. The view I have from my balcony is that of an unfinished apartment block. There were supposed to be shops all around the complex. There are none. Sorry, I'm mistaken. There is a TESCO, which is probably the reason why no other shop moved in the area. I like where I live, it's by the seaside, the school is great and it's a village, which is perfect as I'm not fond of big crowds. But... All I really want is a house. A garden. A bit of grass. I want my children to be able to play outside without having to supervise closely in case one of them climbs and falls from the balcony...

We're in negative equity like thousand of other people. We can't sell, we can't rent as it wouldn't cover the mortgage. We are stuck. I hope there is not another bubble on the way. It's too soon. Have we not learned anything? 

Another thing crosses my mind. There are so many ghost estates everywhere. And there is apparently a shortage of houses. Really? Can these estates not be finished instead of building new ones? Maybe I'm stupid and don't understand how it works... How about all those NAMA properties. What happened to them?

In France, lands are sometimes bought by the council. Instead of contracting a developer to build 50 exact same houses, they sell plots of land to private individuals. Then, those people contract a company to build their house. There are a few building companies who sell "key-in-hand" properties. You choose a model from their catalogue, you can personalise your style ( the amount of bedrooms, the shape of the kitchen, a garage etc). And it costs less than here. But I guess the developers wouldn't be happy about that...

I'm sorry for the long long rant ( and I haven't even talk about the quality of buildings, it could be another entire post!), but I couldn't resist writing on the subject after what I heard this morning. 

I hope it works out for those people who are queuing at the moment, and hopefully the sale will be well organised and riot-free. Buying a house is a life investment and it's supposed to be a big decision. Yet, it seems a lot of people here (and me included) end up buying a house in a rush. We all need some more rational thinking.

 

 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Kiss on the cheek or awkward hug?

Kiss or Hug?

As I was saying Goodbye to my colleague the other day, I gave him two kisses on the cheeks. All the other people in the office started to stare, laugh and comment on the whole thing, which resulted in a lengthy discussion about kisses, hugs and how it's done differently in France and Ireland. Don't worry, we do work sometimes (in between arguing about cultural differences).

I often hear that giving a kiss is like invading someone's personal space. Really? For me, a hug is even worse and I can't really get my head around it. Surely putting your arms around someone is more invasive than a small kiss on the cheek?

When I explained that in France, we even kiss co-workers in the morning (close ones, obviously not the whole company), all I got was: "That's why the French never get any work done, they spend their entire day kissing each other!"

Then I said I kiss my friends every time I meet them, and I even kiss my parents in the morning, to say Hello. They thought it was very strange. But when I explained even men kiss each other on the cheeks, that was the end of it! 
In my extended family, the men would give each other four kisses on the cheeks. Yes, four! That's done mainly by the older generation, but I know my husband also kisses close male friends. I work in a very masculine environment, so you can imagine the type of jokes and slagging I got over that one.

We managed to convert some of our Irish friends to the art of kissing, with mixed results. You can see they're trying but it usually ends up in an awkward mix of hug and kiss... I'm sure we'll get there, eventually.

Let me reassure you though. We don't kiss everybody. We shake hands when we are introduced to a stranger. And of course, you wouldn't kiss a superior, unless you know him very well.

Here, there seems to be no real rules about hugging. And trust me when I say I felt very uncomfortable being hugged by some managers around Christmas time. This was definitely awkward. 

For me, giving a hug is a lot more personal than a kiss... 

What do you think? Do you hug or kiss more?