Still French?

Banal as it may sound, bureaucracy is truly one of the worst parts of living in France. I won’t bore you with my particular travails (plural), but suffice to say that the stereotype of a labyrinthine (and laborious) system is true.

So I couldn’t help but be tickled today when Yahoo France’s main story was titled, “Sarkozy, Still French?” Seems it gets dicey for even the president of the republic to swim in these administrative waters.

The French are all for their polemics (there’s a big one on right now about “national identity”), so part of this is simply political showmanship.

Still, it’s kind of telling how the story came about:

Jean-Luc Melanchon, head of the ‘Left Party’, (and formerly with the Socialists – yes, many more than two parties here!), went to renew his French ID card. Should be easy, right? He already has one. And he’s French. And he’s a freaking government minister.

Oh, chuckle. Tee-hee. Snort.

No, naïve ones. Of course it’s not that easy.

I like Jean-Luc, because he’s in a position of power – someone for whom it’s normally easy – and decided to go public and say, you know, this system is kind of loony. He was asked to “prove things that one cannot prove” he recounts of his ordeal. (One of my stories of proving things you cannot prove was providing a “certificate of celibacy” before my wedding. For real. Promise I’ll tell you about that later).

It got him to wondering, how does Nicolas Sarkozy, born to Hungarian immigrant parents prove this stuff? Sarkozy, with all the anti-immigrant legislation he’d like on the books, Jean-Luc contends, just might not make the cut as French himself.

So still French? Well, we’ve already established that I’m an etrangere, a foreigner, a stranger. So I can never be French (French in the way the French mean it, I guess).

I would like legal French citizenship one day, though – dual nationality is like my wet dream. I’m married to a French man, so it should be possible. Part of the admissions test, however, is proving that I’m assimilated, of “good character” and “loyal to French institutions.”

Ah yes, the vagaries. As good and loyal as I’d like to think of myself, I’d agree with Jean-Luc – sounds like a darn hard thing to prove.

Well, I have a few years to work on that. And I’m getting some pretty good practice in the meantime.

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4 Responses to “Still French?”


  1. 1 Lindsey January 18, 2010 at 8:37 am

    It might actually be harder for powerful politicians than us commonfolk :) I know several Americans that have obtained nationality and while the paperwork is a headache, there didn’t seem to be anything unusually challenging to prove! Let’s cross our fingers!

    • 2 parisimperfect January 18, 2010 at 1:24 pm

      That’s great to hear, Lindsey! Fingers very much crossed. Not to trade war stories, but I know my experience getting married in France was worse than anyone I know. I WAS asked for documents that no one else I knew ever had to provide. Then I had to leave France on a one-way ticket days AFTER my wedding just to get a stamp from the French consulate in New York. So you can see why I’m a bit wary :) After jumping through all those hurdles, though, I’m more resilient and prepared. Things have been a lot simpler since then!

  2. 3 Lydia, Clueless Crafter February 3, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Your travails are the imperfection of a country Americans have deified to be perfect. My sister lives in Besancon and speaks with venom about the bureaucracy. I was shocked to hear that many of her French friends secure a job only to quit and life off excellent benefits. It must suffocated the system to have such policies alive and active.

    I’m meeting you through Lindsey and am quite glad for it! The geeky explanation of your journey in France as akin to a verb tense tickled me. What a unique way to dive into a culture that is not yet your own. Or will ever be?

    • 4 parisimperfect February 3, 2010 at 11:18 pm

      Lydia! I am so glad you wrote. I’ve met you through Lindsey, too, but have never introduced myself. In fact, I so love the way you categorize your entries by mood, I considered “borrowing” the idea when setting up my blog. But then I thought, that would actually be stealing. So yes, I think in verb tenses instead :)

      Part of the reason I named my blog paris (im)perfect – besides the verb tense – is because you’re right: many Americans *do* seem to think Paris is perfect. Of course, nowhere is. But really, don’t get me going on the bureaucracy because I could go on for days!

      By the way, I love the tagline of your blog, confidence in failure. That’s actually a big theme for me these days. I’m very adamant about just trying things. Failure or the fear of it should never stop us from taking action. I ran across a speech by JK Rowling the other day called “the fringe benefits of failure.” It got to me. http://www.ted.com/talks/jk_rowling_the_fringe_benefits_of_failure.html

      Glad we’re in touch! Thanks for reading!


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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