I thought I would introduce you to a side of living in France that some of you may not know about. Unfortunately, I don’t have many photos that relate to this subject so I’ll drop some others taken on a recent trip to Paris, just to break up the post!!I want to introduce you to Red Tape!. The French seem to be obsessed with paperwork, they were when I lived here over thirty years ago and they still are! I can hardly believe it.
I will give you a run down of my day, just three days ago. I had three things on my to do list.
Go to the bank to transfer our account.
Go to the prefecture to drop off my application for a resident’s card.
Go to the local retail chain of FNAC. (electronics, photography etc).
We’ve had a bank account based in Paris for a while and now that we’re settled we decided to move our account down here. We went to the bank the last week and were told which papers we would need, “Great” I said, “I have them here in my bag”. “Oh no, Madame, we must make an appointment in order to do that.” Once the appointment was made for yesterday (a good week after our visit) we mentioned that the Hubster wouldn’t be able to attend. Would it be ok for me to go on my own? The answer was a resounding yes, no problem at all. I checked, was she sure? After all it is joint account, didn’t we both need to be present? No, was the answer, as long as I brought all the papers and passports for both of us, it wouldn’t make a difference.So, yesterday, I toddled off on my bike to the local branch, I entered and announced my arrival. I was asked to take a seat. A young man came out of his office to greet me with a big smile and a firm hand shake. I was shown into the office and offered a chair. I explained I was there to transfer our joint account “Ah non, non, non, Madame, your husband must be here also!” Was he having a laugh?
I explained that the receptionist had said it would be fine, but no, this obviously wasn’t the case. Ah well, we decided that I would do my part of the transaction and the Hubster would have to come down later and fill in his side of the gubbins.
OK, passport? The young man photocopied it and handed it back to me. Proof of bank account? I passed over a statement, details were checked, photocopied and handed back. All going rather well, I thought. Proof of address? I handed over the proof of purchase, signed by the notary, no this wasn’t good enough, when asked what he needed, the answer? An electricity bill! Yep, an electricity bill holds more power than an official bill of sale. Not wanting to hold up the transaction, I assured him I would email it to him as soon as I returned home.
He then turned to his computer, and entered the usual, name, date of birth, address, account number, sort code etc etc. As I watched him working, I realised he looked very uneasy, he was very slow and in fact I do believe he was talking to himself, maybe he was newly qualified? He then explained that this was a new system, normally this is done by hand!!! I exclaimed that surely it was better on the PC – he looked up at me, horrified, “Better? Oh no Madame, I much preferred writing all of this out by hand, that way I was sure I didn’t make any mistakes” Oh blimey, that didn’t really fill me with that much confidence, surely copying details from one form to another either by tapping numbers on a keyboard or writing by hand ,made no difference whatsoever, if mistakes were made – they were made! Eek, so glad I wasn’t transferring a couple of million, I would’ve wanted to check how many zeros he’d entered! However, he did admit that when the document was printed, it was much easier to read! I left the bank feeling somewhat bemused, and made a note to email the said electricity bill as soon as I could, I wondered if he knew how to use email! Half the job was done!Next stop, The Prefecture, this is where all identity cards, driving licenses, passports, residence and work permits for foreigners and vehicle registration are handed out, along with the management of the police and fire brigades and a myriad of all things official!! This is paperwork heaven! I was dropping off a large, brown, manila envelope which was full to bursting with every imaginable piece of paper you could possibly put your hands on.
The contents were something like this; Completed Form (with more personal details than you could shake a stick at) – check, Copy of Passport – check, Copy of Birth Certificate – check, (I had to order a new one from the UK), Proof of address – check, Proof of earnings (or not as is the case at the mo!) – check, a letter written explaining how and why I am now here in Montpellier – check and finally some form number S658933326890000000 something or other, downloaded from the internet and duly filled in and signed – check. All present and correct.I entered the Prefecture, there were, what appeared to be, 4 queues. The two to the left were leading to a desk above which was a sign, “Cars, registration”, the two on the right wound their way to a sign marked “immigrants”, I wondered, am I an immigrant? I’m from Europe, does that count as an immigrant? As there were no other queues I guessed I must be! I joined the back of the very long, zig-zagging queue, I stood behind two rotund, African ladies with brightly coloured head-wraps who both had the most raucous laughs, a couple of chaps wearing woolly Pakol hats, a bunch of Japanese students, two girls, who (or is it whom?) I can only describe as, Swedish backpackers, a couple with a baby in a backpack, another in a pushchair and a toddler who’d quite obviously had enough, and some North Africans chatting away, we created quite a melting pot.
Slowly but surely I shuffled forward and approached the desk, I was loathed to hand over my envelope, (it’s been a long time in the making), what if it gets lost? My biggest fear, however, is that I will find it in my letter box in a couple of weeks time, returned with a note saying, the form wasn’t correctly filled in, the proof of address wasn’t the right one, (well it wouldn’t be the first time!) that the form I downloaded was the wrong one or knowing my luck, I’d spelled my name wrong! Who knows/ It could be one of a gazillion things that are incorrect and it’ll all have to be done again from scratch! Please cross your fingers for me that it’s all going to be plain sailing, although I somehow doubt it!OK two down, one to go, I’m feeling a little ragged by now but decide there is no point in getting uppity, I live in France now, this is what it’s like and I have to go with the flow. I jump back on my trusty steed and cycle through the city to my next stop, the shopping centre.
I am here for a very sad event indeed. My mini iPad has collapsed and died and it isn’t even a year old! Luckily enough, it’s the same store (different branch) as I had purchased it. Even more lucky, I still have the receipt (can you believe it? not only did I keep it but I managed to find it!) and even luckier still, it has 12 months warranty and there’s 11 days left till it runs out!!!
I made my way to the After Service desk, now what you must understand is that in France, things cannot be exchanged, refunded etc. There is no Marks and Spencer policy here, you try, you buy, you damn well keep! (You do not change your mind!) My french friend bought a TV which was delivered, he signed for it, unpacked it, threw all the packaging away, and after a couple of days, it stopped working! Did he get his money back? Did he get an exchange? Did he heck, he’d thrown the box out!!! I swear it’s true, he did manage to wangle it by buying another identical TV and using the new box to return the first TV!!!
So I approached the desk with caution, I did have the receipt but no packaging! I took a number from the machine, a bit like at the butcher’s counter only here you have to choose the reason for your visit!
The young guy behind the desk was a delight, he was so sympathetic, helpful and went above and beyond my expectations. He said he would return my poorly iPad to Apple and informed me it would most likely be replaced rather than repaired and that I would receive an email telling me when I could go and collect my replacement, right that’ll take some time then! I wonder if I’ll get another 12 months warranty?I returned home well over two hours later! Exhausted and not sure whether any of the tasks I’d set in motion would come to fruition anytime soon. I decided not to dwell on it, what will be, will be! I’ll deal with each matter as they arise. I can also say that even though everything was long-winded, complicated and what appears to me, work for work’s sake, the people who dealt with me were lovely. They were polite, professional, kind and understanding. Looking back on my day, I can say hand on heart, I actually enjoyed all the kerfuffle, it was nice to actually sit and chat with the advisor at the bank, rather than just carry out the transaction with a nameless person on the other side of a sheet of glass, it was good to stand in a queue and observe my neighbours as opposed to just dropping an envelope in a box and I had a real exchange and received great service from the chap in the store. I love it when I manage to see the positive in what is perceived to be negative.
And to top it off, can you imagine my surprise, when this afternoon I received an email telling me my replacement iPad was ready for collection? Guess where I’ll be going first thing tomorrow morning?