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Posts Tagged ‘foreign in France’

In my last post I mentioned I was worrying about school and that I was learning that a parent never stops worrying.

Now I am worrying what English I am teaching Little Piglet. For the moment she only says the odd word in English and French and thankfully she hasn’t said any swear words yet.

But today I realised my English is so rusty that I say some pretty weird stuff and I really need to work on my vocabulary.

Since my husband launched his estate agency last, I have been helping out where I can and quite enjoying myself especially as I used to work in property.

Today I was showing some English speaking clients around and was keen to point out a properties features. Arriving in a room, I pointed to the corner and stated “that’s the nooky cupboard”. My clients burst in to laughter and I was the none the wiser, I thought they weren’t keen on the decoration but couldn’t see anything wrong with it myself other than maybe the colour which honestly wasn’t that bad.

Outside the room, the lady pulled me to a side and quietly told me what “nooky” meant and that maybe I meant “nook and cranny”? She was still in stitches and I was too as soon as I realised the error I had made!

Thankfully these people told me what I had said wrong, but what about all the people in French and in English who have a laugh at my expense and I’m none the wiser?

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Have I become old? It’s been suggested that I’ve become old and less ranty but I think I’ve been keeping a lid on my rants lately, partly due to not have enough time to write but also due to the “go back home” brigade.

 

Yes, that’s right, the GO BACK HOME brigade.

 

Do you know who I’m talking about? Some of you will, some of you won’t. The GO BACK HOME brigade are a certain breed of expats that I have come across this year that tell you to go back home whenever you say anything negative about France or about missing anything from Britain.

 

But they have failed to understand one thing.FRANCEIS MY HOME.

 

This breed of expat is one of the reasons why I have not been so keen on blogging recently and certainly one of the reasons why I have tamed my rants, but pants to them! If they have such a problem and cannot recognize thatFranceis my home then tough luck!

 

I got a lot of stick, nasty comments and horrible emails when I dared to say anything negative about the French medical system and how I was treated after the birth of Baby Piglet earlier this year. I was verbally attacked by people who knew little of my life and who assumed that I was non-French speaking and profiting from the system here.

 

I was called a liar and told to go back to theUKif I was so unhappy with what had happened. This left an extremely bitter taste in my mouth and I found myself censoring my posts and my will to write disappeared.

 

On another blog I was told that I showed no respect for the French culture because I missed certain British foodstuffs and that I should sod off back to theUKif I wanted to eat Branston pickle. I mean how daft is that? Should French people be told to go and live elsewhere when we see them eating in McDonalds?

 

I have never had much to do with expats in the past as my friends tend to be French. I arrived here when I was 16 so grew up here. Since I’ve started blogging I’ve loved feeling part of an expat community and exchanging experiences and I’ve missed it recently.

 

Franceis my home, it has been for the last 15 years and will remain so in the future.

 

There. I’ve said it. Rant over.

 

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The Piglet family should (dramatic pause), normally have a home to call their own again from 15th March. We’re due to complete on the city pad sale on February 15th, meaning that we need to move out really by February 11th, meaning “OH MY GOD, I’M GOING TO BE HOMELESS IN 16 DAYS!!!”

It seemed to be the perfect time to have a baby, aged 28 + 31 we were settled in life, had stable businesses, a nice home and now we are going to be homeless! What went wrong?! First of all it took much longer than we thought to actually make a baby and then the world’s economy decided to continue to being bad. So here we are at ages 30 + 33 with a bun in the oven and homeless in a matter of weeks!

Fear not for the safety of Little Miss Piglet however, as we have found a house to buy! In fact, it was the house I first presented here back in November – ironically one of the first ones we saw after accepting an offer on the city pad.

Needs some softening, nothing some plants and pots can't sort!

You may remember our original wish list?

– spacious, ideally 200m2
– outbuildings
– rural but not isolated
– character building if possible (shouldn’t be hard in France)
– ADSL required!
– Not on a busy road
– No structural renovation required in the main property

Well this property ticks all the boxes except the busy road one. There is a busy road at the end of the garden, but the gardens 1.5 hectares big, so that’s quite a way away and with some hedge growing and clever gardening we should be able to block out a fair bit of noise.

Need some hedges here

Why we didn’t buy it back in November I do not know, it just seemed to early in the search and then we went on to the other property with dreams of running gites and the like so I guess we (more like I) got sidetracked in a dream world for a while. I’m still keen on the gites idea and we will have a barn which we will be able to convert eventually if I still want to do it.

Somewhere to make our wishes


Small but pratical, I will miss my current cupboard space


Dining room


A country feel...

We made our first offer on the property last week and by Monday we had agreed a sales price and completion date with the agent and vendor. Spookily though, ever since things have gone quiet and we are waiting for them to formally countersign the offer letter we sent them to send on to the mortgage bank (the mortgage bank have agreed to speed up the process of issuing our mortgage offer if we give them a copy of the countersigned offer letter).

We didn’t have any news from the agent yesterday and no news as yet so far today. Maybe this is just normal for France, I really don’t know but judging by our experiences so far it seems as if it might be, so I am trying not to panic just yet. Afterall, the vendors agreed to everything on Monday so why would they change their mind just yet?

I have to say though, everything is slow in the property process, here are a few more examples:

1. Removal company: we’re using a removal company to remove, store and then install our belongings. We contacted them on Monday morning first thing to confirm a removal date and we’re yet to hear back. We have chased.

2. Notary: we contacted our notary ref the property we’re selling on Monday to confirm a completion date for the signature of the Acte Authentique as we’d agreed with the purchasers that we’d complete on 15th February. So far, no confirmation from notary.

3. SAFER: The SAFER is an organization who have first refusal on all agricultural and rural land over a certain size, a bit like how the townhall has first right to buy a property when a sale agrees. The vendor has to contact the SAFER and inform them that the property and land is being sold and then it can take up to two months (!) for them to come back and contest the sale. Because of our desired completion date we had to request that the fast track service was used as opposed to the normal bog standard service. Nobody in the sales chain (notary or agent) mentioned this was possible, it is only our knowledge of this that enabled us to request that it was used.

4. Our bank (three letter word with lots of L’s): refused our initial mortgage application because they were still taking into consideration our existing mortgage when deciding whether or not to lend. They wouldn’t reconsider until we could provide proof that our city pad was definitely sold (ie our buyers had got mortgage finance). This was sent to them on Monday morning. Today, I left my 6th message and finally got a call back confirming receipt but still no news on the mortgage – thank goodness we have another source to go to but I do prefer the rates our bank offer!

I’m sure there will be plenty more examples of how buying property in France is stressful over the coming weeks but let’s be positive, everything can be dealt with! So far, I’ve decided the best way to ensure that things keep moving (thanks to my business experience) is not to let up on anything! Each morning I make a list of all the people that are important to my project and I call them to touch base or to remind them I’m waiting for an update. This would annoy me so much but in France I’ve decided it’s essential.

You just cannot rely on people to get back to you, you have to remind them constantly. Proof of this is the number of people who are able to give you an update there and then and yet they hadn’t contacted you. Maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot and by calling everyday they won’t bother to update, they’ll just wait for our call, but at the end of the day it’s me that wants to move in as quickly as possible so I may as well make the effort!

Finally I can start dreaming up colour schemes and decoration for the nursery!

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All house hunting has been pretty much on standby this week as Lyon and most of Europe got a major dumping of snow and roads and motorways became best avoided if possible.

So I’ve been able to enjoy a nice relaxing week of home and work and what better way to start the month of December than with a blanket of snow? Even my blog has snow on it although I’m not quite sure how that happened but I’m not complaining!

Major snow dump in my back garden

I’d been feeling pretty down in the dumps because we’ve decided to have a stay at home for Christmas this year and I hadn’t been feeling at all Christmassy. But snow in December is not something I can remember ever having seen before and it has really got me in the mood for Christmas. Poor Mr Piglet however is getting rather fed up of me constantly singing out of tune Christmas tunes and I’m sure he’ll soon be ready to pay me to stop.

Prize from Littlewoods Europe

We’re off to get our Christmas tree today, but in the meantime I’ve been enjoying setting up an advent calendar. I was lucky enough to win this hand crafted, wooden advent calendar on the Littlewoods Europe Wordless Wednesday competition. I’m really glad I did, so a big THANK YOU the LW team! There’s nothing more magical for me than the opening of an advent calendar each day and I’m sure little Piglet will enjoy it for years to come also when she arrives!

Better not eat too many of these... Delish!

I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t been having a moan about something though. This time it was the lack of British Christmas products in France that set me off as I had yet another craving for a Mince Pie. In the good old days when M&S were still here, I needn’t go without anything, however, not many expats live around here and there aren’t any Brit food stores (the closest one I know of is Jim’s near Geneva). So imagine my surprise when I was in Monoprix yesterday and came across Mince Pies?! I yelped with excitement causing a stir amongst fellow shoppers who all turned round to investigate what was causing my excitement. I stuffed four boxes of them into my trolley, vowing to go back and get more if they were nice. At 3.50 Euros for 4 they weren’t cheap but they made my day and sometimes happiness doesn’t have a price.

Whilst I was out and about in the city, I was full of admiration for how beautiful Lyon looked under the snow and managed to brave the ice like temperatures outside of my car to take some pictures:

Have you had snow this week and has it made you feel festive?

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So, back to school, back to work, back to getting on with your life now that the relaxed, do nothing, don’t bother months of July and August are rapidly becoming nothing more than faint memory – it’s “La Rentrée”.

La Rentrée is like a second start to the year in France. It not only marks the start of a new school term but more like a start of a new year for all. A new year that runs between September and December of course.

La Rentrée was a non event for me because I was in Lyon all throughout August and spent most of my time moaning how my local butcher, hairdresser, tabac, boulangerie, traiteur, market and you name it were all closed. Oh, how I now wish I had cherished those moments of peace and quiet and free car parking now that the craziness of city life has taken over again.

Never was there such a reminder as to what hell living in a city can be as this Monday. A simple trip to the garage and back to pick up my car. When we dropped it off before La Rentrée, a round trip took a maximum of 40 minutes. This was to reach the other side of Lyon, driving through the city centre and back.

Not to be this Monday. No, it took no less than 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete the drive there and back. This was certainly not helped by the fact that the education workers were striking and had decided to march right through the centre of Lyon, exactly the same route that we were trying to take!

Each time we turned into a street we were greeted by the barricade of police blocking the street so that those who were on strike could march their way through. As we weaved our way desperately around the city, swinging a left turn here and a right turn there we gained speed on the procession but lost lots of time on the clock. It was rather like starring in our very own PacMan arcade game; desperately trying to escape the demonstrations and reach our destination before they did.

When we did finally reach the garage I was dumbfolded to see that the protestors had arrived before us. Upon closer inspection it didn’t look like they were protesting at all, they had a marching band, a singer and seemed in very good spirit, not upset about anything at all! Maybe they were extra pleased as they’d beaten us there?

On a side note, I didn’t realize that this was not the main strike and that there was a national strike on Tuesday. I doubt those that protested on Tuesday were in such high spirits mind, it absolutely peed down with rain all day long…

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For a blog about a foreigner living in France there’s not that much stuff on here about the horrors of French bureaucracy and you could be lulled into a false sense of security that everything was hunky dory and not that hard in France – just as I was.

As I’ve been living here for quite a while now, a lot of my French paperwork has already been taken care of – a kind of “been there, done that” thing. Furthermore, there is no longer any requirement for Europeans to have a Carte de Sejour (a type of residency permit) in order to live in France so I do not have to worry about this either. I do have plenty of horror stories from my days of having to apply though; student residency, short term residency and then the final 10 year residency permit which I now keep in my bed side table as a special souvenir of how I overcame the French system.

These days my experiences are much less frequent and since starting this blog things have been relatively calm on the paperwork front… That was until last month. Since then, paperwork problems have become a common occurrence: Our Avis d’Imposition (tax document showing how much tax you have to pay) arrived accompanied with a cheque for a couple of hundred Euros 🙂 Kerching!

If you’re a regular reader you may remember reading my sarcastic comments back in April when I received the tax declaration form to complete. Well thanks to Sarah at St Bloggie de Riviere, Hubby and I decided to have a go at completing the forms online and since I was cutting it fine on the date (I had missed the limit date for sending your application by post) internet seemed to be the way to go.

After hours of battling with the forms (yes, hours!) and constant verification of last years declaration to ensure that we put the right figures in the right place on the right form, we were finally finished. Success! We were so pleased to have completed this highly ennuyeux tast that we celebrated with Cremant. Thankfully the celebrations only took place after having printed out the confirmation page and after having carefully filed this away.

So back to our Avis d’Imposition and the cheque. A closer inspection of the document revealed that they had not taken any of our income into consideration, just a meager portion hence why they were sending us a cheque.

“Great” I thought, “an easy way out of paying tax this year, we had submitted the correct information but they had chosen not to use it and to send me a cheque instead – what could be better?”. I started to day dream about what I would spend the money on? A new bag from Lancel that I had seen in their preview collection? A romantic weekend in Paris or maybe put it towards our plane tickets to Nairobi?

Moral quibbling got the better of me though as a nagging part of my brain kept telling me that it was our responsibility to inform Les Impots of their mistake and to rectify it. Years of hearing horror stories of people being investigated by Les Impots had got the better of me and had turned me into a quivering being in the face of their presence.

So I picked up the phone to them, ensuring that I was not calling just after they started in the morning, therefore giving them plenty of time to relax into their days work. I did not afterall want to risk speaking to an employee who had not yet had their dose of coffee that morning.

I explained the problem to the employee who told me it was not possible that they made a mistake and that I had not submitted the correct information. “non, non” I insisted “I have the proof that the information I submitted contained my full income and not the figures that you have here”. So the employee checked the system and was still indignant that I had not submitted the correct information and started speaking of penalties and false declarations. Desperate I asked him what I could do and was told I had to go and see them with the proof of what I had submitted.

So now today, I have to take my sorry self down to the tax office (mine happens to be the other side of the damn city) and sort their mess out. This is what I love about France – I have done everything correctly on my side, they make a mistake and the onus is on MOI to sort out their problem.

Fingers crossed it all goes well otherwise you may just see a story about a deranged English women assaulting a tax office employee on the TF1 news this evening!

UPDATE: So after plucking up the courage necessary to take myself down to the tax office this morning, I got a ticket and waited for an hour with what seemed like the rest of Lyon (seriously, that place is huge and there were loads of people there). Eventually my number came up just as I was about to fall asleep, so I woke myself up and set off to meet the Taxman! Quickly I explained my problem, showed him the forms, the copy of what I had submitted and the cheque that they had sent me. Just as quickly he explained that I would have to come back as their computer system was down and that he couldn’t do anything today. NIGHTMARE! Seeing that I was furious and obviously a reader of this blog (he must have seen Fly’s comment about the Guillotine) , he was quick to want to give me more money, telling me I can cash the cheque (handbag!) and that furthermore I was entitled to a Prime pour l’Emploi and that I can get this rectified too when I come back. So they want to give me more money??? Something’s not right here so I was careful to take his name and am now back to square 1 regarding this whole matter…

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