Posts Tagged 'Bureaucracy'

Faux Pas Friday: Banking Bloopers

For the first year I was in France, I kept all my money in a sock.

This was well before the global economic crisis, so it was not a protest against untrustworthy banks.

BFF Socks

No, the clothing/cash method wasn’t my choice. It’s because no bank would let me open an account.

Now y’all must remember, I came to Paris on a bit of a whim with not much of a plan. I moved straight into someone else’s tiny studio so my name wasn’t on any official document that could have helped me at first: the lease or gas/electricity bills (proof of stable address), payslips or work contract (proof of income).

Even after my name was plastered on everything from the phone bill to EDF (electricity bill – the best proof of residence) and I had just gotten married, this still wasn’t enough. We went to J’s bank where he had been a client for 15 years and they refused my request.

This became one of those tricky catch-22’s so infamous in France. To get my first carte de sejour I needed a bank account. To open a bank account, I needed my carte de sejour.

Continue reading ‘Faux Pas Friday: Banking Bloopers’

10-Year Card!

Looks like Paris’ Prefecture de Police is getting a make-over. Not only physically (though, that, too – I love how even construction can be classy in this city. Scaffolding hidden by these large panels made to resemble the building).

No, even their messaging is getting a make-over. “At the public’s service.” Aw. Doesn’t that sound all nice and fuzzy? I am a member of the public! Thank you for being at my service!

Only thing is, I’m terrified of the prefecture. This is where you stand in long lines, wait in windowless rooms, clutch your dossier chock full of every official document known to man, fearing the person behind the desk will say non! c’est pas possible or c’est pas bon, both of which I have heard many times when it comes to bureaucracy.

BUT, for the second year in a row, I just had a great, easy time at the prefecture. The female security guard (never seen a female guard at the entrance before) smiled. The cashier, too (after relieving me of 110 euros). The person who handed me my new card laughed and joked, while going to town with the stamps (multiple stamps – always a good sign).

And, I. Well, I could have cried.

With joy! Friends, I just received my 10-YEAR CARD.

As in, expires 2021.

I stared at the date for a long time. Tears started welling up in my eyes.

I am thrilled the prefecture has become a shinier, happier place….but I can’t say I’ll miss going each year to renew. A full decade of residency is now mine. I am so thankful. So grateful.

Vive la France.

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.


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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