A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about living abroad

Photoblog: Hilltop Prague - Vyšehrad Castle

10 °C

So myself and Megan took a quick trip to Vyšehrad Castle last weekend. Relatively crowded already on what was the first sunny weekend of 2011, it promises to be jam packed for the whole summer with its expansive views of the city and Prague Castle. My main impression of the place, apart from enjoying the woodland and park areas, was to decide that it would be a good place for beers in the sun come summer (there is a beer garden selling fresh Pilsner and sausages). Until next time, dear readers, enjoy the pictures and remember that even the long Prague winter has its sunny side up.

Posted by BillLehane 01:42 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged landscapes churches prague castle weekend czech photography republic tourist_sites living_abroad Comments (2)

Prague Dreaming

From New Mexico to Metro Medieval

sunny 23 °C

Evidently myself and my wife Megan are insane. At least that's what I expected people to think after our third international relocation in less than 18 months. As it turned out, our friends and family were as excited and unfazed by the whole thing as we were - I suppose they are used to us by now!

Prague is amazing for many different reasons. Firstly, it's got the charming, unspoilt historic architecture at every turn that I much appreciated during my five days here in 2001 at the end of an Inter-railing trip around Europe. But if you take a closer look around, there’s much more to be found.

The first thing that comes to mind is books and beer! I never saw a pub with more than a small stack of books in a corner until I came to Prague, and found an entire bar filled with books from floor to ceiling. Located just at the turn of a cobblestoned street, you see patrons relaxing over pints and prints out of the corner of your eye – it’s quite an irresistible sight!

It’s not just about beer of course. Riding the metro to work every morning is damn cool as well. Of course I’ve been on metros on three continents before, but there’s something extra special about being a regular, paid-up user of them – in fact, I’d say it was probably a feat I wanted to achieve before I turned 30, so just in time too!

A surprising aspect of living in the Czech Republic is how familiar it all feels. People ask how I’m finding the place, and I struggle to explain the pleasantly exotic/un-exotic feel I get from being back in a different part of Europe. Aspects remind me both of Ireland and of living in Toulouse, where I studied abroad for six months. The former comes from a mirthfully amusing mix of blundering politicians, leafy suburbs and abundant Tescos, while the latter just goes to show that continental Europe does have a common character despite its many languages and cultures – think paninis, small strong coffees and street trams.

My favorite part of Prague is its intelligence and artistry. When darkness falls on the city, a certain enchanting melancholy hangs in the air. Untouched graffiti is left to line the walls of New Town like a legitimate art form, while tram shelter posters advertise classical concerts instead of ringtones and McDs. As my wife said recently, Prague feels like Radiohead.

If you don’t see all that as a great reason to put the clocks forward seven hours on your life, I think you’ve stumbled into the wrong blog! Until next time, dear readers, consider that moving country is getting easier and easier in this mad, ever-globalizing world – you could be the next to pack up everything and just go!

Posted by BillLehane 02:21 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

How Is Your Name Pronounced Abroad?

The many ways to say Lehane

sunny 35 °C

As everyone quickly discovers when they go abroad for the first time, the pronunciation of names is a minefield completely separate from language skills. Even if your hotel receptionist speaks perfect English, chances are he or she will get your name completely wrong. Depending on how many times this has happened to you before, the usual reactions include smiling, grimacing or groaning.

What's interesting about this phenomenon is that it varies depending on the culture that you find yourself in. This quick rundown shows the different ways people have said my name, at least in places I've been around in long enough to commit the pronunciations to memory.

1. USA
Pronunciation: Le-hane, as in window pane.

Embracing this very literal interpretation of the spelling of my last name has made things much quicker when interfacing with strangers, especially over the phone. Although I have had much more trouble with my bilingual birth certificate than with my name: a clerk at the motor vehicle division asked more than once if it was translated - the English letters are twice as large as the Irish ones, incidentally. People that know me well do know the right pronunciation!

2. France
Pronunciation: Luh-Ann, with my first name as 'Beel' for good measure.

Probably the only nation in the world that insists on mispronouncing my first name as well, the French do things their own way in all ways at all times, both good and bad! The 'le' opening (the masculine form of 'the' in French) definitely doesn't help in this regard. As an aside, my Dad once signed a whole series of salary checks in Belgium made out to a 'Brian Le Hane'. Better than not getting paid!

3. Cork, Ireland
Pronunciation: Lee-Hann, with lots of emphasis on the 'e's and 'n's

The spiritual home of all Lehanes, Cork has more of this clan in its phone book than any other place in the world. I suppose this pronunciation is the most official one, but that doesn't mean you'll ever catch me using it! Incidentally, the anglicized name Lehane derives from the Irish Gaelic surname Ó Liatháin, pronounced somewhat differently as oh-lee-aah-hawn.

4. China
Pronunciation: No data

In the course of six full months in China, no Chinese person ever even attempted to say my last name, not once. I unsuccessfully experimented with the Chinese equivalent of my first name, pronounced 'bee-arr'. There was no need for this though because they seemed to have Bill more or less down, except they said it twice as slowly as normal, and with added intensity!

4. Dublin, Ireland
Pronunciation: Le-hann, a bit like the French one but more 'le' than 'luh'

Evidently, this is what I consider to be the actual pronunciation of my name. Where the disparity between it and its southern Irish counterpart came from I have no idea, but it's too late to change now haha! The few non-related Lehanes I have come across in Dublin also use the above pronunciation, so it does have some legitimacy to it.

Ultimately, dear readers, I suppose you could say that an unusual last name can cause as many problems in your home country as it does abroad, where at least the locals sometimes have a language barrier as an excuse. Feel free to add your own comments or funny experiences with your last name below.

Until next time, consider that the worst ever pronunciation of my name was right in Dublin. A local security company employee was perhaps the victim of a very bad telephone line when he repeated my name back to me as 'Phil Mahon' :-)

Posted by BillLehane 09:05 Archived in USA Tagged living_abroad Comments (10)

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