Friday, June 16, 2006

Les Fonctionnaires

On their recent trip home from Europe, my brother and sister-in-law encountered numerous mess-ups and hassles with Air France. EVERY French person employed in the private sector can say the same of at least one agency of the French government. Air France is no longer owned by the government but some things die slowly, particularly amongst former civil servants.

Both hated and envied, government employees are a strange lot in France. Hated because they have more job security and benefits and vacation days and God-only-know-what-else than any other group of people here. Envied for the same reasons. Hated also because they typcially have little notion of customer service or sense of urgency or general I-care-ness. Hated even more because they are generally the first to strike to have more of the above, despite the fact that they have more of the above than anyone else.

Civil servant horror stories are a dime a dozen amongst foreigners, as I would imagine they are for foreigners living in the US as well. And for some of us, obtaining the correct stamped piece of paper from the right office is nothing short of miraculous. The first academic year I spent here I was teaching at the University of Nantes. I left after 9 months. I was never able to obtain ANY of the necessary documents to obtain a TEMPORARY resident card from any of the agencies I had to deal with . When I returned to stay in 1997, I was a little more persistant. And having a soon-to-be-lawyer as a fiancé helped quite a bit also.

Although I knew I was in for serious trouble before I even left the US. I was required to have a medical exam certifying whatever. Imagine my surprise to discover that there was only ONE doctor in the entire state of Washington who was qualified to conduct said examination. SuperDoctor came in, listened to my heart, checked my eyes, and examined me for goiter. And surprisingly found me fit to go to France. Anyway, the French Consulate in San Francisco was 'handling' my visa and told me to send them the bill for the medical visit. Two years later (I'm not kidding) I got a collection notice on the bill from the hosptial. Never paid. I called the consulate. That conversation was too surreal to even discuss.

One year after my wedding, I obtained my 10-year renewable-if-I'm-a-good-girl resident card. Although I am required to inform the foreigners' service (not so much) office at the Préfecture within ten days if I move. Don't ask me what they do if it's more than 10 days. I don't even want to know.


Bad Alice said...

Hmmm, this doesn't sound all that different from dealing with a government agency in the US. Any friendliness is a front for passive agression. But I have heard that bureaucracies in other nations are even worse, some requiring quite a bit of bribery to get the wheels turning.

beth said...

Good to know that all governments are filled with miles of red tape. Do your boys have duel citizenship? Do you want and can you obtain duel citizenship?

Nicole said...

Bad Alice - the worst thing is that if bribery were de rigeur here I wouldn't even have anything to bribe with. Thankfully, it's just hassles.

Beth - They do. I cannot. The US Gov does not allow dual citizenship for people in my situation. Only for kids born in another country to an American citizen can have both.

Lorraine said...

Lucky kids.

Grish said...

Lucky, Indeed.

charlie said...

nicole - is there still a requirement for the authorities to be notified if a woman is 'living in sin' with a man in France (foreign nationals, that is)? Concubinage or somesuch? Or has that gone the way of the carte de sejour?

Oh, don't the French have a wicked sense of humour!

charlie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.