Thursday, November 10, 2005

French "efficiency"

Today's adventures were a pretty good example of French vs. American

Below is an excerpt from an email to my Dad, thanking him for being
my "go to guy" when it comes to Converse All Stars from
(I got some sweet chocolate oxfords headed my way, and some charcoal/
kelly green high tops for Dr. B!)

Hi Dad,

Today we went to Égide (the place that 'handles' Dr. B's fellowship)
to work on our carte de séjour (this is the thing we need to stay in
france--official government stuff). The Préfecture (place that
handles all this official stuff for the government of France) had
given us 2 forms with lists of all the papers we needed.

So we had all of them (passports, copies of passports, 3 extra
photos, original gas/electric bill, copy gas/electric bill, original
lease, copy lease, copy ID card of lady who rents us the apartment,
copy Dr. B's pay stuff from CNRS, visas, original forms inviting him
to come, original forms saying he can come, original birth
certificates, original marriage license, proof of doctor check ups),
plus a few extras we tucked in, just in case. Got up (Dr. B missing
work, though he can't work tomorrow because it is a state holiday, so
will be at home frustrated because he can't do any experiments
because he has to celebrate "Armistice Day"), got ready, took two
trains to be there on time when the place opened at 9:30. The guy we
needed to see rolled in about 10 minutes later, as we sat in a line.

But did we have all the papers we needed?

Of course we didn't!

"Do you have your Égide numbers?"
"No. No one told us to have those. Isn't this Égide?"
"Yes, but don't you have them?"
"They are at home."
(wondering if the computer on his desk WORKS or not.)
"Grumble grumble grumble."
(He types Dr. B's name into the computer and pulls up the forms he
needs in about 23 seconds. Hits print. Meanwhile giving us lots of
dirty looks for making him go to ALL THIS WORK.)

(He flirts for 2 minutes with lady who also "works" there, who just
came in. She is at least 15 years older than him.)

"Don't you have your PhD diploma?"
"No, it's at home." (Note: thank you UW-Madison for mailing it to
us last week!)
"Oh, well, we can't do anything without that."
"But they saw it to invite him here, had copies to make his visa
application, had proof to hire him. Why do you need it?"

(more flirting as she walks by again)

"Oh, well, it's not enough unless I see it."
"(multiple swear words)".
"Welcome to France." (he really said this)

So we went all the way back to our apartment (about 40 minutes on 2
trains) and back again (40 minutes again.)

For one stupid piece of paper that he didn't have because the other
people already saw it and no one told us this guy would need it.


We (luckily) got back before lunch and he didn't have a line so we
didn't have to wait this time, thank heavens (once we had to wait 6
and a half hours--so we expect the worst). He sorted through our
stuff, between more flirts with the lady of the day.

Now we have a piece of paper (with 2 stamps and signatures) that says
we have applied for our cartes de séjour. We don't have them yet.

Of course not.

But in 3 weeks they will send us a form that will allow us to go to
their special doctor for another medical check up to prove we are
healthy enough to live here. Because, though the doctor we saw was
trained in France, and got his medical degree in France, and is
covered by french social security, that doesn't matter. Because we
have to see the specific doctor THEY want. Though no one at the
Préfecture told us that, when she told us we would need medical check
ups to stay here.

So we will have to go to another doctor, who will pronounce us as
healthy as the last one, so we can again apply for the right piece of
paper with the right stamp seen by the right person during the right
phase of the moon.

Of course, by this time, we will have lived here for 4 months anyway
and could have spread horrible diseases amongst the population if we
had any, because you know that the US is the world leader in horrible
diseases that are not covered by the zillions of vaccinations we have
undergone since we were old enough to breathe. (By the time we get
this stupid thing it will be time to go home.)

We went home. And then decided we were too frustrated and tired to
heat up soup.

So after a lovely lunch at Urfa Kebab, I walked Lucy over to the copy
place (multitasking in France--a new concept!) to fax the order for
our new shoes from (they won't accept int'l credit cards
online, even though mine is a Visa).

After, went to the grocery store to get bread, ham and eggs for
breakfast tomorrow, and a few odds and ends. Gone maybe 20, 25 minutes.

Got home and already had an email from Zappos saying they had
received my fax and the order would be sent. And it was 2:38 PM,
which means it was 5:38 in the morning in the San Francisco (where I
think Zappo's is)*.

And France wonders why they are not the world leaders anymore????

EFFICIENCY, man! Wake up and smell the 21st century.


So thanks for handling this--I know with you in charge I'll get my
shoes before I'm 80 years old. And you probably won't even forget
the chapstick.

Love you,
Have a good night.

* if I did my time conversion right. (Please don't comment on it if
I'm wrong. That's not the point.)



At 7:49 AM, November 11, 2005, Anonymous JM said...

Hello Mrs. B

I understand your frustration with the French administration. Unfortunately this administrative inefficiency you describe is universal when it is about immigration. I live in the US for 10 years now, and we experienced the same with the US immigration officers. I was very frustrating, and even sometimes humiliating. I believe the immigration officers are trained to make the process difficult. You have to be very motivated and grow a think skin to get your paperwork done.

Good luck in Paris! Not everyone is like the immigration officers! (as you can see in my friend Eric's blog.. :~)

Happy Veterans Day!


At 10:20 AM, November 11, 2005, Anonymous Roxanne said...

I'm glad you got your papers! Yes, not very efficient!
I just hope you guys do stay healthy too and do not have to visit the doctors often.


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