Thursday, August 2, 2012

FAS - Feck, Arse, Shite?

I know. You're probably wondering how I, normally more articulate than today's heading may suggest, could have regressed to the mental level of Father Jack Hackett!
However, everyone who is struggling to find employment in Ireland will also understand my suspiciousness that comes along with the mention of FAS, the Irish National Training and Employment Authority.

Despite there not being many job openings, FAS and JobBridge seemingly create opportunities for job seekers through so-called placements or internships, which are provided by private or public institutions. Anyone with little or no work experience, as well as people who have been long-term unemployed, are given the chance to contribute to society and get their feet in the so-called door, while working for free and waiting to collect their dole.

Sounds great, doesn't it?

What remains unmentioned, however, is the fact that even bigger opportunities are given to the potential employers, who decide to advertise with FAS or JobBridge.
Positions requiring a low or medium level of qualification, which normally would have been filled in by contractors or advertised as tenders, are now offered to people who may not have any qualification at all, as long as they work for free. That might sound bitter, but I am also talking from my own experiece.

Unlike FAS, the national job bridge scam - ehm, scheme I mean - even lists a number of requirements that a candidate must fulfill to apply for a placement, one of which being the eligibility for social welfare! This way, large numbers of people are ruled out from the very start and job seekers who had hoped for a fresh start are once again left behind demoralized.

But as we all know, there are always two sides to every story and bad experiences with Irelands big employment bureau did not stop me from consulting them at around this time last year.

Beaten down by the sight of rejection letters, which appropriately are often referred to as "fuck off letters" , I walked into our local FAS office to seek advice.

They offered me the chance to take place in a six week course on CV and interview preparation, which I wasn't to keen on at first. The thought of a token course with a bunch of unmotivated people just passing their time and an instructor, who wouldn't tell me anything that I hadn't heard before, did not bare any redeeming features. Except for one: The prospect of an expert to cross-read my CV and tell me what I have been doing wrong all along.
Eventually, I decided to go for it and guess what!

I wasn't disappointed at all!

Our instructor Terry O'Brien turned out to be a very capable man, who had been giving those classes for years and definitely exceeded my (admittedly low) expectations in this course.
Besides cross-reading CVs and rating our appearance at mock interviews, he would analyse our job hunting strategies from all angles and encourage us to find out what we really want from a job, which would sometimes even lead to the conclusion that people had been searching for the wrong position all along.
Another part of the course were group exercises, which I also enjoyed as my fellow participants were people of all ages and professional backgrounds, all of them sharing a serious approach to their respective careers.

So, it seems that after all that moaning and groaning even the national employment authority has positives that should not stay unmentioned. Anything else would be an ecumenical matter (I know, that doesn't make sense. I just wanted to finish this off with another Father Ted catchphrase ;-).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Should I stay or should I go?

It may not come as a surprise, yet today the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has issued its first official figures on something that we have been suspecting for a long time: 4 out of 10 Irish families with children under the age of five are better off on the dole! To blame are expenses for childcare, transport, lunch and clothing.

With Ireland being the country with the highest costs for childcare in the Western World (!) according to an OECD survey, even families with two incomes inevitably find themselves facing the question: "Should one of us stay at home or go to work?"
As a matter of fact, childcare eats up up to one third of a family's monthly income and choosing work over staying at home simply does not pay off financially in many cases.

It is not only women who are affected by "stay at home parent being". Previous Celtic Tiger years have left a bitter aftertaste and many builders who once used to be the family's breadwinners now find themselves in the role of a house husband.

Understandably enough, not everyone is embracing their role, which often goes hand in hand with yet another difficult decision: "Should I stay in Ireland or should I go and support my family from abroad?"
Speaking from my own experience, mixed-race families where one of the parents has not been living in Ireland long enough to build up sufficient tax credits to be eligible for social welfare, are facing these problems on a daily basis.

As for my own situation, I have been commuting jobwise between Germany and Ireland for the past nine months and finally found a place in a German creche for Aviva. Over here, creches are subsidized and both the parents' wages are taken into consideration so you only pay what you can afford to.

It's not like it's all doom and gloom in Ireland though!
According to the ESRI, their paper on the costs of working in Ireland is only a "work in progress" and its "underlying analysis required major revision". Sounds like someone is trying to rub their eyes at a reality who they wish to be a bad dream. No worries, ESRI! You've done your homework. Now it is up to the government to do theirs!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Come on you fans in green!

It's time for the Euro 2012! Now don't get me wrong here. It's not like I have the slightest idea about soccer. The first time I heard of Robbie Keane was through Jedward's charity single "Put the green cape on".
But ever since Germany was host to the World Cup in 2006, I started to understand the fascination behind international football and like to think of it as an ambassador for a peaceful bringing together of the nations.

Paradoxically enough though, it is also one of the rare occasions when you can run around drunk in German public and proudly shout "DEUTSCHLAND" without being arrested, but instead getting hugs off random strangers.

Football both encourages an innocent form of patriotism, as well as it sparks curiosity for other nations' lifestyles. Or an easier way of saying it: "It makes people have the craic!"

Now, none of that would be possible without the support of fans. Being a self-appointed girl in green, I am a huge fan of the Irish crowd and their enthusiasm towards soccer (and sports in general). Despite not being one of the world's leading football nations, the Irish have a very positive attitude towards their boys in green. Unlike Germany, who are spoilt by their success and only appreciate their players after a decent match, Ireland fans even seem to get a great pleasure out of the simple fact  that they are part of the Euro again.
Girl in Green supports Boys in Green (I know. It's a rugby jersey.)

On that note I can't wait to watch tomorrow's match against Croatia, cheer for the boys in green and all their fans with their green capes on. Come on Ireland!

By the way, don't forget to support Germany in this evening's match against Portugal though ;-)!!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Girls in Green talk Feminism

Ever since I had my first contract with the civil services, I became a keen listener of the Irish radio station RTÉ 2fm.
Having quickly adapted to the comfort of a dull office job, I started to get my daily ups out of listening to Tubs and Colm Hayes and sending in the odd e-mail to feed my new addiction. Last year, I even got to talk to Colm about the matter of German Bratwurst, Döner Kebabs and sausages on the go!

Lately, there have a number of feminism-related issues been discussed on the radio, such as the current state of abortion in Ireland, whether women should have armpit hair, if there are any funny females out there, and last but not least Colm was asking on yesterday's show, whether feminism itself is still existent or not.

I have always been a silent yet passionate supporter of feminism, once I wasn't busy cooking, cleaning or changing nappies of course, and felt that I could make a valuable contribution to his show. So, I sent in a mail, which I am proud to say received loads of credit through Colm :-). I was also asked if I'd like to talk about it on air, but as you know I was supposed to be working and am admittedly being too much of a coward to stand up for my believes in public, just like so many other women. On that note it is no surprise that Colm hasn't heard much about feminism for a long time.

A podcast of the show can be found here (keyword "feminism"): 

And if you can't be bothered to listen to it online, this was my mail to Colm: (even though you're going to miss out on some great praise ;)

Hi Colm,
There are so many reasons to be a supporter of feminism that I can't list them in my short mail.
I just want to make you aware of the way women are brought up to be watching their every step to comply with society. Anti-feminism is a deeply social problem that has always been there and because it is going a long way back, we are not even aware of it!
From the moment a baby girl is born, other than a baby boy, she is going to be raised to please the people around her and from the moment she reaches adolescence her every move will be watched and she will always be judged by her looks (Does she shave her armpit hair?) and by her ability to be a good mother(it is unnatural for a mother not to be constantly around her kids) and wife (Is she being faithful?).
To make it more vivid, just think of a hairy lad who loves his family, but doesn't want to be around them the whole time amd instead spend time in a pub to watch matches. He also loves his wife, but after a few years of marriage physical interaction has become rare and he starts an affair with another woman. Sounds normal enough to be socially accepted, doesn't it? For a man that is!
How come the biggest enemies of feminism are found amongst women? Lack of equality perhaps?

If you are interested in feminism, particularly the way womankind is portrayed in the media, I would love to recommend this beautiful and professionally done blog: , which was created by a number of young modern age feminists who don't feed the stereotype of bra-burning, angry lesbians, that many of us have in mind when thinking of (the early and very important days of) feminism. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Here come the Girls!

Due to popular demand (and because I'm writing an awful lot about Irish men), I would like to dedicate today's article to the Irish female. Careful now! The following post contains strong prejudice and therefore isn't for the easily offended ;-).
Brenda Fricker in "The Field" Vs. ...

Having first arrived in Ireland, one of the most peculiar things that struck me was that the expression "girl" virtually applies to every female between the ages of zero and way beyond ninety here.
Some of you might understand my confusion over people talking about so-called "girls", when in fact they've been referring to a group of pensioners that they've just met. I guess it is sweet in a way, but also confusing to someone straight talking like me. Even back home in Germany I always find it strange and slightly patronizing when I see someone adressing an elderly lady as "junge Frau".

Whereas all Irish women may pass as girls regardless their age and looks, the following stereotypes however, portray two completely different breeds of females.

Remember Oscar-winning Brenda Fricker in "My Left Foot" playing Christie Brown's mother and ever since getting typecast as the "proud Irish mother" (despite not having children of her own)? The "proud Irish mother" is typically described as the backbone of a country family, which she usually dedicates and sacrifices her whole life to. The Irish mother is a down to earth woman with seemingly little needs, who is superior to her usually bullish husband in a quiet and knowing way.

And now take the likes of Rosanna Davison or Georgia Salpa as the "Glamour Girls" counterpart to our "proud Irish mothers".
You usually meet them at big social gatherings, such as horse races and, well, horse races, and unlike our plain Irish mothers, they are hard to miss in a crowd of people. I will never forget when I first went to the traditional Stephen's Day (Boxing Day in the UK) race at Leopardstown. Despite temperatures barely above freezing point, I have never again seen as many women wearing high heels without tights and dresses so short, they barely covered their vital organs. Not to mention thick layers of make-up and fake tan obviously.
...The "Tallafornia"-Girls

Where do you think does it all start? And are our fame-hungry glamour girls really a different breed to our Irish mothers? Or is it a process of transformation and every glamour girl will eventually turn into a proud Irish mother?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

(You can't fool) The children of globalisation

According to some famous T-Rex lyrics, you can't fool the children of the revolution. If you couldn't do it back in 1972, you certainly can't do it to our furure generation who are growing to be culturally diverse adults - the children of globalisation. Or can you?

I don't know how it only came to my attention recently, but there are a hell of a lot of multi-national children out here in Ireland!
Amongst Aviva's extended family and playground friends are the most interesting co-productions of at least two nationalities you can think of. Due to Celtic Tiger years, the most seen mix of genes would be Irish-Polish. However, thinking of all the parents and children I've met so far, I can list you any combination from Irish-Italian to South-African-Austrian-Irish.

Now, how come there are so many mixed race children in Ireland?
And do you think their future life will be easier, due to superior language skills, or only more complicated, through cultural clashes that their parents may never have experienced when they grew up?

One explanation for multiculural Ireland might just be a general misinterpretation of mine. As you all know it's a very small country with a population of just 4.6 million, most of which live in the general Dublin area (apparently where most of the jobs are...). As we live in this melting pot too, it's hard for me to judge what's going on "down the country" and it may just seem as if there are so many different cultures coming together in Ireland, when in fact there are still many purely Irish families in Offaly with six or more kids.

But isn't it also an accepted truth that since the Great Famine the Irish spread out (their seed) all over the world and continue to do so? Expressions like "Irish Twins" wouldn't have found their way into Idiomatic dictionaries if it wasn't for the US-Americans who mocked Irish-Catholic immigrant families for their fertility in the 1800s. And how come there are Irish pubs in every country of the world? It has also become a tradition amongst young Irish people to go travelling for a year after their Leaving Cert and in many cases to bring back more than only a souvenir from a foreign country (I'm talking about a girl or boyfriend obviously).

So, what will the future bring for our multicultural children? Experts predict that in a few thousand years there won't be such a thing as racial differences anymore, as we are all going to "melt" into one big race so to speak. On the positive side, this would eventually mean an end to racism. On the negative side, due to increasing globalisation there will be a flood of apparent possibilities that even our current generation is struggling to cope with. Being a binational family certainly has many positives, such as bringing up a child bilingually without much of an effort. But what is a young family to do in a recession-ridden country, where only one of them has work here and the other one is offered some somewhere else..?

On a totally unrelated matter I would like to mention here that Robert Sheehan was on the Late Late last Friday. For all the unfortunate ones amongst you who missed it (just like myself), you can watch a repeat on the link provided. Thankfully, he is even the first guest on the show. Just listen carefully to the tune he walks on to and remember my post on sharp dressed Irish men. Do you think we're kindred spirits perhaps ;-)?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sharp Dressed Irish Men - a Celtic Legend?

I am surprised none of the blogs that I'm following at the moment has picked up on this topic yet. So therefore I am more than pleased to write about something that really matters and that I know a lot about: Irish men and their looks!

In the past Ireland has proven me wrong in many respects. Whether it be the amount of annual rainfall or the density of it's ginger-haired population. (It actually doesn't rain as much as a German would think it does and you do not constantly run into redheads.) 

However, what about the Irish male? Why do they all dress so badly and is there such thing as a sharp dressed Irish man?

The stereotypical Irishman has a reputation of being a down to earth bloke, who's mad about sports and loves to slip into something way more casual after a hard day's work at the office than a tie and a shirt - the famous tracksuit bottoms! 
You literally see them everywhere in Ireland and not without reason the Irish are often named alongside the British when it comes to the worst dressed European Nation.
Even my own partner prefers to wear his dad's old tramp jacket accompanied by trackies over a brand new decent looking coat that his Mum got him for Christmas! As you can see, the stubbornness of the Irish doesn't make this search any easier!

And it's not just me who's looking for them - sharp dressed Irish men. In his one part documentary, John McGuire tries to explore "the psychology of Irish men and their attitude to fashion and overall appearance". By the time McGuire appears on screen in his pinstriped suit you start wondering though whether he should have chosen a sharper outfit himself to present the show. However, everyone who saw the program last December will probably agree that it was entertaining to see how he transformed an unemployed man by peeling him out of his tracksuit, flying over to Paris, getting a custom-made suit and shirt and even creating his own fragrance. Well, what do you think? Did that fellow get the job he applied for? Of course he did!

And now on to some other Irish blokes that got a job (probably) due to their good looks. Just below that post I put up a few photos that show four of my favourite Irish male celebs. I would be delighted if you all got involved and take a guess who is who. You can win a FREE subscription to this blog and the chance to become a co-author of Girls in Green ;-).