Tonight, as part of the Irish Presidency of the EU Cultural Programme, the Ambassador of Ireland has invited me – yes, me – to a concert by the famous Irish pianist, Míċeál O’Rourke. Granted I’ve never heard of him, but that’s not really the point. The point is that, as an expat, I get invited to stuff, not for being charming, successful or important, but simply for being Irish.
Although this sounds like a positive thing, in reality, most of these affairs are spirit-crushingly dull. Various ambassadors, dignitaries and business moguls huddle together and hobnob in muted voices, while their wives compete for the title of ‘most jewellery’, ‘most fur’ or ‘most cosmetic enhancements’ – and I head for the bar.
Despite fitting in about as much as a piece of fat-free meat on a Latvian plate, I try to attend as many of these things as I can. There are a few reasons for this:
- As the only Irish woman here, I feel like I should try to keep the side up.
- I quite enjoy saying “I’ve been invited to the Ambassador’s Fine Reception”. (It makes me feel fancy.)
- Having never been to an Ambassador’s Fine Reception before I got to Riga, I wanted to see if Ferrero Rocher really were considered the height of sophistication at elite European gatherings.
- Sometimes the aforementioned bar is free.
These events also tend to bring the expat men out of their usual hidey-holes – the local Irish bars. In my opinion, the male expats in Riga would make for an fascinating psychological study. They get on a plane in their home country, middle-aged, paunchy, balding and unable to attract a second look (or even a first) from the local middle-aged ladies. They disembark in Riga two or three hours later believing they’re God’s gift to 22-year old supermodels. It’s as if the airlines put some sort of mind-altering substance into the over-priced ham and cheese paninis.
But I see this as a bonus – even if there are no Ferrero Rocher, there are still a few nuts present to provide some entertainment…
Aside from the dodgy chocolates, this is actually pretty true to life.