Category Archives: Driving in France

How French bureaucracy will drive you insane

By   June 25, 2009

My préfecture allows applying for a new carte grise by mail, so I thought, Great! No waiting in line! I can just send everything by mail and be done with it.

Oh, but I was wrong.

I mailed my old carte grise, a copy of my CDS, a copy of the June quittance de loyer, and a stupid expensive return envelope with accusé de réception to the préfecture one week ago. Today I received all of that stuff back because the idiot working on my dossier would not accept the quittance de loyer as a justificatif de domicile and for some reason thinks I am a personne hébergée, even though MY NAME IS ON THE QUITTANCE DE LOYER WHICH IS ON THEIR STUPID LIST FOR UN JUSTIFICATIF DE DOMICILE.

I just don’t get it. Even when you follow their rules to the letter, you are still wrong. This is why living in France drives me crazy. And of course, I don’t yet have another justificatif because the agency is taking forever giving us a copy of the lease, and EDF screwed up and only put David’s name on the new contract for this apartment. The quittance de loyer from the agency is the only thing I have for the moment. So maybe I will have to be considered a personne hébergée after all.

Normally I wouldn’t worry too much about this type of thing but changing the address on your carte grise is the only thing that’s required by law and I don’t want to get a fine because it took me more than a month to do it after moving. And I don’t even know what date is considered our official moving date!  The lease is probably dated May 19 even though I didn’t really stay here until June, and our very first quittance de loyer is dated May 25. So if they are really picky about the dates, I am already screwed. Not that any French cop has ever stopped me and asked to see my carte grise (since that’s totally legal here), but there’s a first time for everything.

Changement de Domicile

By   June 17, 2009

I’ve spent the past 5 days trying to figure out how/when/where to change my address for all the official things. I’m still not finished.

There is a free site that allows you to change your address for a lot of organizations, such as CAF, Pôle emploi, CPAM, EDF, Centre des Impôts, etc.  You can also do réexpédition du courrier through La Poste at the same time (starts at 23 € for 6 months.)

However, you still need to change your address on your carte de séjour within 8 days of moving and on your carte grise within one month of moving. I know you can be fined if you don’t change the carte grise, but I’m not sure what happens with regards to the CDS. And like I said in my previous post, if you move within the same département, they simply put a sticker on your current CDS; but if you change départements, you have to re-apply for a whole new CDS. Luckily, changing your address on your driver’s license, national ID or passport (if you’re French for the last two) are not actually required by law.

I’ve also got to change my address with my mutuelle and MGEN since I’m not affiliated with CPAM, which fortunately I can do through e-mail. But for my bank it’s a little more complicated. I actually have to go to my agence in Annecy with a justificatif de domicile – can’t do it online, of course. I could just change my agence to one here in Chambéry, but then that would require sending out new RIBs to all the places that do automatic prélèvements and that seems like too much of a hassle.

Then once I get my new carte grise with a new license plate number, I can update my car insurance info with the new address too. For anyone else moving to a new département or buying a used car in 2009, do it after October 15 or you’ll still be stuck with the old license plate.  Only new cars get the new license plate so far. It was originally supposed to take effect on June 15, which would have been perfect timing for me, but then they decided to push the date back. Oh well, it’s possible we’ll be moving again in summer 2010 anyway…

Moving was the easy part.

By   June 14, 2009

Settling in is the hard part. I am very anxious to just feel at home in the new place, but it’s difficult without furniture in certain rooms. But because it’s Sunday, almost all stores are closed and I can’t accomplish much.

I’m going crazy with the lack of, well, everything in the kitchen because it was basically a sink in the corner with a closet that’s already half full from the water heater. And one electrical outlet. ONE! The weird thing is, we are not allowed to drill or nail holes in any walls, so that means no pictures or shelves anywhere in the entire apartment. At least the living room and bedroom have a little color on the walls, but the kitchen is just plain white. So I’ve also been going crazy buying adhesive and suction-cup hooks to hang things up and add a little color. Thank goodness Gifi is open on Sundays.

Hopefully we’ll get all the furniture within the next 2 days before David starts work, but we have a ton of things to do. I forgot how much of a pain it is changing your address in France. I need to go to my bank first to see if I need to change my agency too, and then the prefecture to get a new registration and license plate number (since I changed départements) and to change the address on my carte de séjour which I’m sure will be a super official handwritten label like last time. We’re also in the middle of changing our mutuelle to a much better and cheaper one (fonctionnaires are so spoiled, I tell ya).

And then we have to go back to the rental agency and figure out why we still do not have the keys to the garage we supposedly rented for my car. Luckily we haven’t paid for it yet since the agency couldn’t find the right keys (I’m not even kidding), but it’s just another stupid thing we have to deal with. And we’re thinking about getting Canaille de-clawed so that he can’t mess up the wallpaper here. He’s getting more and more comfortable here, and even though he hasn’t scratched anything yet, we’d like to keep it that way. We certainly won’t be able to fix this wallpaper like at the old place because it’s ALL covered in paint for some strange reason (and there’s painted wallpaper on the ceilings in some rooms too!)

But I’ve got to say, having balconies is a must and I will never live in an apartment again without one. My clothes dry so quickly because I can put the drying rack in the sun, I constantly smell the flowers from the neighbors’ balconies, and the breeze is so nice at night that we don’t need a fan. And there’s even a little canal that runs along the main road so I can hear the water trickling by all the time. Someone else really likes the balconies already too. Now if only that bird’s nest were more than 5 feet away so he doesn’t get too courageous and jump…

Adventures in Driving in France

By   April 8, 2009

Luckily I don’t have to drive as much as other people do in France. I only work 3 days a week, 24 weeks a year. I’ve only got three more round-trips to Chambéry before we move and I couldn’t be happier. I will be so relieved to no longer have to shell out 250 € a month on gas and tolls. I wish France could be like Germany and have free highways, or even like Switzerland where you just pay 30 € for the entire year. (Though I hear there are no toll roads in Bretagne – is that true, you lucky jerks people?)

I tend to take the back roads – the route nationale – when I have extra time and know there won’t be much traffic. But today I was almost late because of all the craziness on the road. Even getting out of Annecy took a bit longer because of the construction. Well, lack of construction really. You see, a roundabout in Seynod has been under construction for months now and was supposed to be finished in January 2009. It is still not finished and every time I drive through there, absolutely no one is working, regardless of the time of day. Maybe the road sign clearly stating the dates is just a random estimation?

But even before I got to that roundabout, I had to wait in a long line of cars because of a temporary light. The two-lane road had one lane blocked by a pile of dirt and an empty tractor. This was noon, of course, so no one was actually working then. I waited my turn through 4 red lights before I got out of there, and then had to go excessively slow through the roundabout because of the un-level asphalt.

Oh roundabouts, how I detest you. I will admit they are useful when you get lost and need to turn around. But the fact that no one seems to know what the rules are for entering and exiting a roundabout drive me crazy.  The majority require you to yield to cars that are already in the roundabout, but if there is no Vous n’avez pas la priorité or Cédez le passage sign, then it defaults to priorité à droite and you actually get to go first, while the others in the roundabout have to stop for you. But of course, no one pays any attention to this rule because everyone just assumes there is a yield sign or that all roundabouts are the same.

Even if someone yields or doesn’t have to yield, they usually choose the wrong lane to get into (if there’s more than one). Why can’t people remember: right or straight, stay right… left or turn around, stay left. Is it really that hard?? And don’t even get me started on how 98% of people don’t use their blinker to tell others where they are turning. And how scooters just zip in and out of traffic, even though it’s completely illegal. Seriously, does everyone driving a scooter have a death wish? Cars tend to move over and let the scooters by, but I just want to yell, why are you encouraging them? I know the police rarely stop people for speeding (the radars do their job for them), but I wish there were more police on the road to stop people from breaking every single law. Because honestly, for French people, driving laws really are merely suggestions.

I take the highway more often to avoid (for my sanity’s sake) heavy traffic and roundabouts. But the highway is expensive. I now pay 4.30 € each way, thanks to an increase in price on April 1st. Highways in this part of France are just two lanes though, and trucks have to (well, are supposed to) go much slower than other traffic. And even though it’s often forbidden for trucks to pass each other, they still do, which slows down everyone behind them in both lanes to about 80 kph. The speed limit is normally 130 kph.

A part of the A41 is under construction right now, and all traffic going north is simply diverted to the other side of the guardrail. Which means that north and south traffic are on the same side, only separated by orange cones. Sure, the speed limit is lowered to 90 kph, but with the mixture of French drivers on the highway and piddly traffic cones to protect us from running into each other, I don’t feel very safe!

Anyway, one of these trucks was another reason I was running late today. After exiting a roundabout in Aix-les-Bains (by turning right from the right lane, thank you very much), I had to stop abruptly because the truck in front of me realized at the last second that he was much too tall to fit underneath the 4m tall bridge. So he had to slowly back up, waiting for the cars behind him to back up as well, or just drive over the sidewalk (with pedestrians walking on it!!!) like some of the impatient idiots did.

Thankfully my car is tiny, and he was able to back up next to me while I patiently waited for him because I would rather be a few minutes late than crushed in a car or crushed under a bridge. Of course, the people behind me did not appreciate that and thought that I should just drive on the sidewalk too, and they started honking at me because I was wasting their precious 5 seconds.

But I did make it to work on time, only to discover the network was down and none of us could access the lessons, much less even sign on the computers, for the two audio-intensive and exercise-heavy vocabulary classes. So I had to improvise for 3 hours. But that’s another story for another time.

Reminder for all drivers in France

By   June 30, 2008

As of tomorrow, July 1, it will be law to have a bright yellow vest and red triangle in your car at all times to use in case of emergencies. And remember to NOT keep the yellow vest in your trunk because you need to put it on before getting out of the car. The police are going to be doing random checks, and you will have to pay a 135 € fine (though this will not take effect until October 1) if you don’t have both the vest and triangle!

Canaille wanted to be in the picture with the vest… This is “one size fits all – XL” which doesn’t make much sense to me.

This little plastic triangle will magically stop other cars from running into yours on the side of the highway.

Edit: Updated info about fines on July 1, according to this article.

Almost April

By   March 29, 2008

Our internet was fixed Thursday night. I’m not sure how I managed to live without internet for 12 days, but I did get a lot of work done on my Lesson Plans page and French & German Comparative Tutorial.

Some of my classes were cancelled yesterday because parents “sequestered” the teachers in the building as a protest against… something important? I only have 8 more actual days of work left thanks to the two week vacation in April.

My car can be fixed, but it will cost 800-1,000 €. We’re going to do it though because buying another automatic car would take months and cost a lot more than that. Plus I miss my little Renault. I want her back. She’s in nearly perfect condition except for the motor that will be replaced.

I’m feeling better now that March is almost over. Now if only I could find a job that pays well… or win the lottery…

And it keeps getting better and better…

By   March 26, 2008

RIP Renault Super 5.

The garagiste said the entire motor needs to be replaced. That would cost more than the 1200 I paid for it. So now I’m out all those euros and an automatic car. I’m so frustrated and angry and just sad. I could barely afford that car, which took four months to find. I have no idea what to do now.

I’m still trying to learn how to drive a manual, but driving in France was stressful enough with an automatic. I have absolutely no confidence that I can do it.

I still have 10 more days of work. Twenty more hour-long train rides.

Back to depending on others to take me to baby-sitting and private lessons. Back to being 12 years old and having no independence once again.

P.S. Still no internet/phone at my apartment. France Telecom accidentally cut our DSL line, and who knows when/if it will be fixed. If someone would like to search ebay or priceminister or whatever for an automatic car for me, I would really appreciate it.

Worst Week Ever

By   March 22, 2008
Not a good way to start the weekend.

So in addition to the no internet/TV/phone thing, I now have no car. It decided to overheat and leave me stranded on the highway Friday afternoon after I left work. And the weather gods wanted to make things worse, so they made it snow and rain all day. Luckily it only took David & the tow truck an hour to find me, so I wasn’t completely frozen by the time they arrived. Since it’s Easter weekend, the garagiste won’t even look at my car until Tuesday. So looks like I’ll be taking the train to work next week.

See? Only bad things happen during the month of March.

Waiting and planning and waiting

By   January 24, 2008

We may be staying in Annecy a little while longer than planned. I had my heart set on Lyon if we were to stay in France since finding a job there would be easier, but we don’t really have a choice. I’m a little sad about not being able to move to Quebec sooner, but we need to save money anyway. At least one of us will have a job this summer…

I suppose I should start planning to send out my CV to all the language schools in the area. The end of April will be here fast. I’ll probably try to be a local recruit for the rectorat next year too, though being an assistant isn’t as fun anymore. It could just be the commute, or it could be the immature students, who knows. I don’t really want to work for the rectorat anymore, but I don’t really want to work in the private sector either. But really, what else can I do here?

I’m trying to accept the idea that teaching English may be the only job I can get here. I don’t mind it so much right now, but I don’t know if I want to do it forever. I’ve always wanted to teach French in an Anglophone country, like Canada or Australia. Teaching English doesn’t challenge me. I don’t learn anything new. I know a lot of people need to learn English for their jobs or whatever, but I’d rather help people learn French than English.

Plus working in the private sector would probably mean driving a lot to different companies. I am glad to have a car now, but I’m still stressed about driving here especially since I can’t get my car to start properly. It stalls at least once every day when I’m trying to go to work. Some days it takes 15 minutes to start. I realized the démarreur switch is a manual choke, which I have never seen before and have no idea how to use correctly.

I bought my carte grise this morning, which was only 108 € thanks to the age of my car. I know I shouldn’t complain about the cost of gas or insurance since I knew I would have to pay for those when I bought a car… but still, it annoys me that my French car is as expensive as my American car, and yet everything about my American car is a thousand times better. I’m so tired of having to pay so much for everything here.

I guess I’m just being bitter about being so poor. I went to university for 6 years to earn a Master’s degree, but that means absolutely nothing to the French. I want to work to earn a decent income and pay off my student loans, but I don’t see that happening any time soon in France. I have a feeling we are going to be poor until the day we finally leave this country and the Euro far behind.

Day 3 of driving in France

By   January 19, 2008
I love my little car because it’s so little. I’m going to build up some muscles because there’s no power steering and it’s hard to turn that wheel to get out of a parking space. There’s no radio either, but I honestly don’t mind that. Driving isn’t too stressful since I learned all the road signs, but I do worry sometimes when I slow down that she’s going to stall. (Yes, my car is a she.) She’s hard to start in the morning, and generally stalls at least once when I’m trying to get out of the parking lot. But after that, she’s good for the day.

I managed to get to and from work twice already. The highway is super close to my apartment and my schools, but it costs 5.70 €. I took the country roads home Friday afternoon, which actually saves me on gas, kilometers and tolls, but takes an extra 15 minutes. But after having a mini-heart attack at having to pay 50 € ($73!!!) for a tank of gas, I’m really not going to mind spending an extra 15 minutes on the road. I only have to drive to work twice a week though, so hopefully I’ll only have to refill every 10 days or so.

I drove to baby-sitting this morning and managed to not get lost. It’s amazing that’s I’ve been in this city for 15 months and still don’t know the roads that well. I just never paid attention enough.

Kilometers per hour and gas by the liter is just weird.