Thursday 23 November 2017

A grá for l'amour: Franco-Irish couples talk about love

It's very easy to see why the likes of Beckett, Wilde and Joyce were drawn to Paris; and for that matter, why they charmed their adopted city right back.

Roy Murray and Delphine Coudray
Roy Murray and Delphine Coudray
Mark Wale and Caroline Moreau
Emma Gray and Giles Gaillot
Geraldine Kenny and Bruno Fueldes
Roy Murray and Delphine Coudray

Tanya Sweeney

The French and Irish have made intriguing bedfellows for years. While the French have long been in pole position in the sexiness stakes, recent international surveys have found the Irish are gaining ground on them. So what's it's like being part of a Franco-Irish couple?

Does the stereotype of the romantic French lover really stack up? Do French women really find Irish men sexy? Here, four couples  reveal whether it's  really a case of vive la difference for them

Artist/director Delphine Coudray met her digital marketing manager  partner Roy Murray 15 years ago, when they both worked in the SFX theatre. They now live in Meath with their two children Luka (14) and Zoe (10)

Delphine:

"Irish men are so great. I think Irish women are so spoiled. I don't understand why they go crazy for French men. They see dark, handsome, mysterious Frenchmen, but I think they're a headache. Irish men are more fun. They're more easygoing and you know where you are with them. If you want someone for years of companionship, Irishmen are great.

I love the Northern Irish and Cork accents. French stereotypes come up every so often in Ireland. People think that we dress nice and have a bit of class; at worst, they think 'you French have dirty minds', but I'm prudish. And I don't have much class these days! Couples of different nationalities have to face small difficulties, like moving countries or accepting another person's

Roy:

"The first time I ever met her I was up a ladder at work and she was looking for directions. She was sexy but totally unaware of it, which was cute and endearing. Her Frenchness was very classy and sophisticated. She had a way of holding herself, even when she was cleaning out the toilets in the theatre.

The big difference between us became apparent at meal times. I was used to having dinner at 5.30pm, but the French eat very late. I ended up losing that fight. The French are big on table manners and presentation and that was completely new to me. Our temperaments matched quite a bit, but I'm not sure that's necessarily a French-Irish thing. She's not a snotty stuck-up French person and I'm not a crazy, wild Irishman. "

Geraldine Kenny, who owns Jerros Boutique in Offaly, met her husband Bruno Fueldes, who works on the Luas network, in Mauritius in 2002. They live in Laois with their children Henry (5) and Estelle (4)

BRUNO:

"When I met Geraldine, I fell in love with her green eyes and her smile. There is a huge difference in the day-to-day life between French and Irish - more than just the food and wine. What really surprises me about Ireland is that everyone seems to know everyone. Talk to someone long enough, and you'll find that you have someone in common. The Irish are the most optimistic people in the world, they go out every day without an umbrella hoping for sun. I still don't understand the concept of the same cheddar cheeses in different colours, but I am happy about the arrival of proper coffee on the island!"

GERALDINE:

"When I met Bruno first, I had great fun slagging off his accent. But we went windsurfing on our first date and that was pretty romantic. We have had lots of life events hit us hard over the last few years, but despite all this, we have become stronger as a couple. Food is definitely more European in our household. Bruno loves to cook up lots of nice French dishes. There are some dishes I hate, like snails and artichokes, but others I have embraced like champagne and foie gras. Bruno doesn't understand bacon and cabbage, but loves our roast dinners. We reckon it's the little things that keeps our relationship strong. When we go places, we will still hold hands after 12 years together, and he still brings flowers and chocolates home to surprise me."

Emma Gray and Gilles Gaillot met through friends and married in 2008. They live in Greystones with their children Eve (5) and Remy (3). Together they run the Gaillot & Gray food truck in Wicklow

EMMA:

"Gilles isn't very romantic at all - he proposed to me when we were stuck in traffic one afternoon - but French people in general are more open about their feelings. Irish men are a bit 'hiya, let's get drunk and sleep together', but Gilles wooed me a bit more. And if I'm sick with dreadful skin, he'll still tell me I look beautiful. When it comes to my French in-laws, the language barrier is still a big thing. I was trying to impress them the first time I went over, and I remember thinking, 'god, they probably think I'm a dope'. Eve and Remy are bilingual as Gilles speaks French with them, which is a big advantage. I think Gilles fares well with the Irish banter, and he's quite 'Irish' when he's out with his mates. But the French sense of humour is pretty different to ours: his family think Mr Bean is hilarious."

GILLES:

"The first time I met Emma, I thought she was beautiful, funny and interesting, but it took me a while to ask her out. The big difference between French and Irish women, when it comes to dating, is that you have much more freedom with Irish women. If I had a girlfriend in France, it would have been harder to see my friends, and everything is more family-oriented. Here, you can see your mates and have a social life, no problem. When I came here first I worked on a building site and everyone was eating breakfast rolls… it was horrible. The food scene here is improving a lot, but it's not there yet. When we cook in my house, we divide the task between the two of us. When it comes to work, Emma is better at the organisational stuff, while I'll get on with the cooking."

Singer Caroline Moreau grew up in the north of France and came to play a show in Dublin almost 20 years ago. She met her husband, the writer Mark Wale, on the week-long trip. They live in Dublin and now have two children Calypso (8) and Salomé (5)

CAROLINE:

"Ours was supposed to be a short, wonderful love story, but he wrote such beautiful love letters that I thought, 'OK, life is short'. When I moved over, I spent two weeks crying in his bedroom because my English was really crap. Fortunately, he has great French and as a couple, we still speak French. Sometimes though, things get lost in translation. The other day, friends were talking about Joe Dolan. I didn't know if he was a politician, or the next-door neighbour, or what. Sometimes I had to ask Mark if he felt like he was living with this dumb lady. But even though it was hard, it's wonderful as well. There's something very exotic about the 'other'. I think (Irish and French people) work in a nice relationship combination. Often I miss France; I miss the heat and the glass of wine outside at 7pm, but raising children here is more child-friendly."

MARK:

"As soon as I saw Caroline step on stage that night, I thought, 'I have to get to know her'. I pulled out all my French on her. Certainly, even for a Frenchwoman she is unique. She has this amazing imagination. Anyone would have been inspired by her. At the time, we decided to live in Ireland because I was writing for Fair City, and for Caroline, it was a big adventure. But we go to France every summer and it feels as much like home. We've certainly tried to eat as well as they do in France, but two little girls have thrown a spanner in the works on that front. Much as we'd like beef bourguignon, there's been a lot of sausages and beans of late. We know a lot of French-Irish couples in our immediate social circle, and I think there's long been an understanding between the Irish and French… in spite of our many differences."

Irish Independent

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