It’s all so straightforward, everyone assured me. You simply take your old driving license into the Prefecture in Foix before the expiration date and turn it in and they’ll replace it with a French one. Right???
No — not in a million years is it straightforward! Perhaps if you are one of the million-plus Brits living here, but if you are Australian? Then it is not so easy, reliable, and speedy.
We took a day off in November to go to Foix, a lovely day out in a beautiful and historic town with the bonus of a delicious lunch. The man at the driving license desk was charming and he handled all of my paperwork pleasantly and told me that I would be receiving my new French license in the post very shortly. Days went by — then weeks. I was checking our mailbox daily and at this point my Australian license was about to expire.
But today — only today — did some bureaucratic twit woman in Foix write to me AFTER I sent a polite request for information about why the license had not arrived yet. And what she told me simply sent me over the edge into white-hot rage.
Nothing in France is digital — nothing. They are still firmly entrenched in a 19th Century brain-set about how to operate in a 21st Century world, so things never go quite right. Everything is awash in paperwork and every single government office requires photocopy after photocopy of your documents. They must have to build vast warehouses just to store all of the damned paperwork!!!
When you need to renew your license in Australia, it’s a 21st Century DIGITAL world. You walk into the VicRoads office, have them take a new digital photo right there on the spot, (no — they don’t make you bring in a 4 photos the way they do here!) hand over your payment, and out you walk with a new laminated license — period. They DO NOT ISSUE a file full of paperwork each time showing when your original license was and so forth. But apparently they do here in France — and PAPERWORK is what they want before they will issue my new license.
They could have told me that in November and it would have been here by now. Now I have to fill out online forms from VicRoads, have them signed and witnessed, and send them BACK to Australia so they can send the completed dossier BACK to France. Then and only then will the uppity woman in Foix decide that I am ‘worthy’ of a f**king French driving license.
My love affair with France is, quite justifiably, wearing off. The shopkeepers are charming, the French people are invariably polite, the everyday man and woman we deal with are very straightforward. But the nightmarish and antiquated government systems here are doing my head in and I am the one who has to deal with this over and over and over just to be able to live here. Every single month there is some sort of paperwork dragon to fight and I shouldn’t have to be doing this at my age. That’s why after 10 months of fighting with another bureaucratic office and submitting the same paperwork again and again, we still do not have a Carte Vitale for each of us (national health card) because you never talk to the same person twice.
As of now, I am unable to get a French driving license before my old one expires because bureaucrats who are paid to do a very simple job simply occupy a desk, get paid their comfortable little guaranteed government salary, don’t care one bit about the people they are supposed to be helping, don’t tell the poor suckers at the counter any information in a timely manner, and then they collect a comfortable pension at the end of their working life.
Are you thinking of moving to France? A piece of advice — unless you have some personal body slave who can go and run errands for you and do all of your paperwork for you and you never have to buy a car, drive a car, earn a living, or negotiate through the health care system — just DON’T DO IT!
It will save you a lot of gray hair and stomach aches. The way the French bureaucrats treat the foreign residents who pay their taxes and prop up this crumbling country is simply appalling.
©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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12/12/2012 at 5:59 PM Comments (3)