Category Archives: French Culture

Do As the French Do (but without the mistakes)

By   April 29, 2009

Which city was the capital of Roman and Christian Gaul?

a. Nice   b. Arles   c. Marseille

The correct answer is, of course, LYON. But Ross Steele’s When in France, Do as the French Do claims the answer is c. Marseille, even though page 92 clearly states “Lyon, where the Rhône and Saône rivers meet, was the capital of Roman and Christian Gaul.”

Another gem is the quote “More recently, in 1996, Mario Botta, an Italian, designed the only new cathedral built in Europe during the 20th century, at Evry, north of Paris.”  If by north, he means south, then there’s nothing wrong with this sentence. Evry is located in Essonne, which lies directly south of Paris, unless you’re holding the map upside-down and disregarding cardinal directions.

I may not be a “renowned expert on French culture” but I sure know somebody who needs a proofreader…

Convenience comes to France in the form of Auchan Drive

By   April 26, 2009

I often complain about the lack of convenience in France because I really miss services designed to make your life easier, which seem to be available everywhere in the US (except public transportation…)  We have drive-thru windows not only at fast food places, but also at banks and pharmacies. Some stores stay open 24 hours a day so you can do your grocery shopping whenever you want. Customer service actually exists and is usually superior to what I find here.

A lot of services in France are quite ridiculous with the amount of time it takes and the amount of work the consumer has to do. Just trying to get internet connected and it takes weeks and weeks and numerous phone calls to get it done.  Don’t bother trying to call on weekends, or during lunch, or in the evenings, or during vacations when you are not working because no one else is either. And be prepared to pay something like 30 cents a minute to call someone to help you.

But recently I discovered Auchan Drive. Auchan is one of those huge we-sell-everything stores like Carrefour or Walmart. They’ve introduced a new service where you order your groceries online through and then you can go pick them up whenever you want (at least 2 hours later).  You simply type in your customer number and someone brings your groceries out to the car for you. No more crowded aisles or waiting in line or bagging groceries yourself!

The best part is, it does not cost extra. It is completely free to use Auchan Drive. But of course, now that we are moving to Chambery, I discover that there is no Auchan in Savoie. Anyone know if Carrefour has something similar? I quite like the idea of never having to set foot in a French grocery store ever again.

Finally! We’re moving to: CHAMBERY!!!

By   April 24, 2009

After months of waiting and worrying, we finally know where we will be for the next 3 years. David found out today that he got placed in Chambéry!

I am very excited as of course this means we don’t have to live apart next year. Now we can finally start looking for an apartment and planning the move. No more driving 40 minutes to work and wasting 250 € a month on gas and tolls! And even more good news, Carole is going to take this apartment back when we move out, so we don’t have to worry about wasting money on rent for June.

Everything just worked itself out perfectly. The government took their sweet time figuring it all out though. We were supposed to know on the 21st, so I’ve been nervous all week waiting for the answer. Apparently a lot of people chose Chambéry because it was one of the least expensive, yet not too small, cities on the list. And even though David was number 10 on the list, it was given to him because of his situation familiale (having a conjointe who already works there.)

And just like I predicted, someone else chose La Réunion so that the woman who lives there would have to come to France. But they decided to let her stay there with her husband and kids because that would have been awful to make her move alone. So in the end, not many people got their first or second choices so I really don’t know why they just didn’t assign candidates to the city closest to where they live, since that’s basically where everyone ended up anyway! Ah France. Your logic is so illogical.

Now on to the apartment hunt!

How do we feel about Vincennes?

By   April 10, 2009

David received the paperwork so that he could put the cities in order of preference, and for the Paris position, it is actually listed as “Vincennes – Institut de la gestion publique et du développement économique.”  I know Vincennes is right outside of Paris and very densely populated, but do you think it’s a place I would like? The château and the bois de Vincennes look nice at least.

So far he’s put down: 1. Chambéry, 2. Lyon, 3. Strasbourg, 4. Dijon, 5. Nantes, and 6. Caen. Besides all of the Ile-de-France cities, he still needs to decide where to put Digne, Nevers, Châteauroux, and Saint-Denis.  And apparently he has heard so many bad things about Châteauroux that he wants to put it at number 17, after Saint-Denis in La Réunion!  I don’t know anyone who lives there, but David seems to think it’s the most awful place in France. Please someone tell me he is wrong because I would rather be there than Paris…

Thank you for all your input on this! I appreciate it!

Which will I hate the least? Bobigny, Cergy, Evry, Versailles or Paris?

By   April 9, 2009

There is very little chance that David will be in Chambéry, or even outside of Paris. We got the list of the 17 people admitted to the DGCCRF (along with what departement they are in), and David is number 10. Number 2 on the list lives in Savoie, so he will most likely take Chambery.

And in fact, since no one ever wants to go to Paris in these concours, the others will put the cities outside of Paris at the top of their lists. And since there are only 9 cities total outside of Paris (excluding Saint-Denis), David will be the first one assigned to Ile-de-France. What great luck we have.

(I do have to say I’m tempted to put Saint-Denis down because the person who lives there is number 12.  I could be an English assistant again and get paid the same amount that I’m making in Chambery. And there’s so much sun there… I’m not serious, but it is a nice thought to get out of mainland France.)

Honestly, I don’t mind not staying in Chambery because I’ve wanted to leave the Rhone-Alpes region for a while. And I am scared about the cost of living in IDF, but I suppose I’m more saddened about the fact that we have to live apart next year.

The thought of both us living in tiny overpriced studios, separated by a 3 hour TGV ride or 5 hour car ride, makes me want to cry. I cannot and will not give up my job because I like it too much, but next year is going to be hard on me. There’s really no point in me living in Chambery until September, especially since that would mean paying three rents for the months of May and June, but it will be harder to find a place to live then. And if David does have a studio, that would be awful to live together with the cat in 20 meters squared.

Luckily I have many lovely blogger friends in IDF that I will be able to see often when I move there in May 2010. But we need some help putting the IDF cities in order of preference. I know nothing about these cities except which departement they are in. I’d like to be near the countryside or some type of espace vert (if that’s possible), but being close to an airport would be nice too, so I can escape more often.

So if you had to choose among Bobigny, Cergy, Evry, Versailles or Paris, which would you choose?

The Second Half of March

By   March 19, 2009

We are more than halfway through March, thank goodness. I’ve always hated this month and can’t wait for it to be over. Last year, my car broke down in March and I had to pay 1200 € to fix it. That was nothing compared to the awful tragedy that happened this March though. I lost a friend on Monday and the anniversary of David’s and my PACS will become the anniversary of his death.

Mid-March also means it’s the end of the trêve hivernale. Now landlords are able to evict tenants if they haven’t paid rent.  With a few exceptions, there are no evictions between November 1st and March 15th, or between 9pm and 6 am, or even on Sundays or federal holidays in France.

Today is, of course, another national strike all over France to complain about Sarko and the government, rising unemployment, the high cost of living, education reforms, etc. etc. etc. Luckily I don’t work on Thursdays anyway, plus I’m staying in bed all day with a cold, so it doesn’t really affect me.

Tomorrow France reactivates its border checks for all land and air crossings because of the NATO summit that will take place the first weekend of April. (France is rejoining NATO as a full member since De Gaulle withdrew membership in 1966.) Between March 20 and April 5, you will have to show your passport and/or carte de séjour to get back into the country. Sarko, Merkel and “Barak Obama” (as the’s website says) will be in Strasbourg for the summit, so security is really tight.

This week is la Semaine de la Langue Française in France. The 10 mots pour demain are: ailleurs, capteur, claire de terre, clic, compatible, désirer, genome, perenne, transformer, and vision. March 20 is the Journée internationale de la Francophonie which is celebrated by French-speakers on 5 continents. Remember in the French-speaking world, there are only 6 continents total as North America and South America are just l’Amérique.

March 29 begins l’heure d’été in most of Europe. I was liking only being a mere 5 hours difference from Michigan, but I guess I’ll have to get used to 6 hours again.

And then it will be April! Sweet, glorious, not March, maybe rainy but hopefully sunny, warmer than now April.

Adjoint de Contrôle de la DGCCRF

By   March 14, 2009

David received his concours notes and proposition d’affectation today! And he got his first choice, so he’s going to be an adjoint de contrôle de la DGCCRF (La Direction générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes).

He’s already sent back the form saying that he accepts the proposition d’affectation. And now we have to wait more to find out where and when his training is.  The main DGCCRF school is in Montpellier, so he may (hopefully!) end up there, but who knows.  The DGCCRF’s website only mentions the contrôleurs and inspecteurs because a concours for adjoints hasn’t been done in years, so it’s possible the adjoints go to Paris instead (boo!).

I’ve been searching all over the internet trying to find some answers, but nobody has a definitive answer. I should be used to this by now… but I’m so impatient to find out where he’s going!

Please be Montpellier, please be Montpellier, please be Montpellier…

Mon Amour, le Fonctionnaire

By   March 10, 2009

David took a competitive exam (concours) to become a civil servant (fonctionnaire) in France. It began with a multiple choice exam in December, and since he passed that, he was able to go on to the interview in February. We found out on March 9 that he succeeded and that he will become a fonctionnaire!!!  Basically, this means that he will have a job for life as long as we stay in France.

He was #54 out of 291 admitted candidates, and in addition to the extra “points” he receives for being PACSed, this will determine which type of job he gets. The concours was to become an agent de catégorie C des ministères financiers. His choices for job were: agent de la répression des fraudes, agent administratif des impôts, and agent d’administration du Trésor Public.  So either fraud prevention, taxes or the treasury.

He will have to leave for a training period (stage) for a few months this summer, and then he will be assigned to a city somewhere in France (no idea where!) to start his job. This means we will most likely have to live apart during the next school year while I’m finishing my lectrice contract in Chambéry. But since I only work 24 weeks a year, I don’t think it will be too hard. However, this also means no vacation time this summer so he won’t be able to go to my sister’s wedding. (Sorry Jamie!)

We’re impatiently waiting for more information about the stage so we can start planning our move. I am eager to leave this apartment and Annecy so I can live closer to work, but just the thought of moving in a few months makes me tired. This is really good for David though, and I’m so proud of him. This does mean, of course, that he’s no longer attempting the CAFEP to become an English teacher, but I really think he will like this job more anyway. And it is nice to know that one of us will always have a job, especially since one of us (ahem, me) will probably have a hard time finding a new job when my current contract ends.

At least the thought of doing graduate work in France is something that I had thought about before. I am almost certain I will do at least a Master here so that I can be more “appealing” to French employers who look down on my American degrees.  I don’t really want to teach English forever anyway, so perhaps I will finally check out the travel/tourism industry. And even though we have to stay in France for David’s job, that includes the DOM-TOMs, so maybe one day we will be in La Réunion, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana or Mayotte (new département as of April 2009, supposedly). There’s little chance that will happen though.

Félicitations David !

Price of Stamps Increases in France: March 2009

By   February 27, 2009

Starting March 2, 2009, the price to send a Prioritaire letter (up to 20 g) within France & the DOM-TOMs will be 56 centimes, a 1 centime increase from last year. The cheaper Ecopli price will be 51 centimes, also a 1 centime increase.

The price to send a letter within the European Union & Switzerland will be 70 centimes, a 5 centime increase from last year. [Apparently this also includes Liechtenstein, San Marino and the Vatican, which are not in the EU… But definitely not Norway, Iceland, or Andorra, which are also not in the EU.]

For the rest of the world, however, the price remains at 85 centimes.

La Poste’s website has pdf files you can download for all the new prices, for mail originating from France Métropolitaine and the DOM-TOMs.

A dozen would just be too many.

By   February 19, 2009

Who says that French doctors overprescribe medication?

11 boxes is normal, right?

I went to the doctor for help with my winter depression, fatigue and insomnia. That cost me 55 € just to see him, of which I’ll probably be reimbursed about 20 €. Then I went to the pharmacy to get the prescriptions, which totaled 67 €. Only one of those boxes above was reimbursed by la sécu and it cost less than 4 € in the first place.  Health insurance is good in France, but sometimes it sure isn’t cheap.