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Posts Tagged ‘living in France’

It’s been a while since I’ve had any run-ins with La Poste, but my latest experience must be a joke, surely? You decide!

What can you read next to the postcode below?

What town can you read here?

NICE right?

At least I’m pretty damn sure that that looks like NICE – 06000 NICE.

Well, guess what? After a few weeks of wondering why my letter hadn’t been delivered, it appeared in my letter box, with NICE circled and a sticker on it saying that La Poste didn’t know what town it was.

Not delivered as they don't know the town

I knew we were rural here, but come on, this is just a joke right? Even if my handwriting is that hard to decipher, I’ve put the post code on there, 06000 which is the postcode for NICE! Gahhhh, I am speechless and might very well take this letter back to La Poste and ask for a refund!

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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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I’ve had many frustrating run-ins with the La Poste (post office) as I am sure most people living in France and many other countries have experienced also, but the lack of consistency in service and unhelpfulness in France is second to none.

Until yesterday.

I had ordered some items online from Amazon and like a fool, I had forgotten to switch my address details in Amazon to my new address so they were sent out to my old address.

The new owner averted us that the postman had left a calling card and that the local post office (remember the incident I had here when I was pregnant?) was holding the items. We were in Lyon yesterday and as we had arrived a bit early for my appointment, Mr Piglet suggested I try and negotiate with La Poste and see if I can get them to give me my parcel.

We had a bit of a domestic in the car as I was absolutely convinced that I was wasting my time but I set off sulkily to the La Poste whilst he waited in the car. I took my ticket and waited my turn, all whilst tutting to myself about what a big fat waste of time this was.

Well, I wouldn’t be writing this post if it turned out to be a waste of time, so I may as well get to the point: THEY GAVE ME THE PARCEL! Yes, I had no calling card, no proof of address – just my passport and the parcel number which Amazon had sent me by email.

I don’t know if it is because it is holiday time and the staff were stand-ins, but the lady on the desk immediately understood my problem as soon as I started explaining and offered a solution stating that she just needed the parcel number.

If only more of my experiences could be like that but it’s great to have something positive to say about them for once even if I did have to listen to Mr Piglet say “I Told You So” when I returned to the car with the parcel!

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Mr Piglet and I wish to thank you all for your kind words and support following my post yesterday. We are overwhelmed by the number of messages of support and advice that we have received here, on twitter and via email. Really, it is wonderful to know that you are all there and that good people exist in this world. Thank you so much everyone, you’ve helped us get through the weekend and find some positive energy.

This morning we started off with much higher spirits, determined to find a rental property quickly so that as soon as we got confirmation from the SAFER later this week that the sale is blocked, we could move in and get on with our lives hopefully before Little Miss Piglet makes her grand appearance.

Alas, as I’m beginning to expect now, things are not so simple.

I wish I could just go back here for the next few weeks whilst everything sorts itself out.

First of all, we still can’t find out when the meeting with the SAFER people is. Our notary does not know and the vendor’s notary is closed today. We tried to call the SAFER directly but no luck either. So no further advanced there.

We then started calling the rental properties I’d found on the internet. There are only a handful available so it didn’t take long. Because the size of house we are looking to rent is large and the area rural, they are few and far between so we only had five on the list. The first two places we called were no longer available and then the third place was still available but the guy was totally booked up for visits today and tomorrow and was expecting it to be let within the next few days. He proposed a slot this pm at 4 and Mr Piglet and I were all set to jump in the car and go up and visit but then we spoke to the notary again.

I wanted to check the financial and legal aspect as to where to stood with regards to the sale now that the SAFER are involved and the notary was calling us back to explain. In our panic on Friday we had overlooked this and didn’t really know exactly what our position was but before committing to a rental property I wanted to be sure as we can ill afford to lose our deposit money or pay for two removals right now.

I should have guessed that it was time for another BOMBSHELL! The SAFER have until May 15th to decide what to do reference the sale, so whatever the outcome of the meeting this week, it could be a month before they make a final decision and we get official confirmation whether or not we can still buy. Until we know that, we’re not really at liberty to commit to a rental place so we’re stuck in limbo.

We have loosely considered getting a gite with internet access this morning which we could move into immediately, but right now I don’t think I could stomach a move to another “temporary” place with furniture that isn’t mine. What’s more, with the Easter school holidays, a two bedroom gite is well over 1500 Euros per month sometimes far more, if we can find something available…

So, for the time being, at least for the next two weeks we’ve decided to stay put, I’m going to concentrate on keeping calm and we’re going to go to a nearby spa for a few days to relax.

Hopefully things will become clearer in before Little Miss Piglet is born, but right now, we’re stuck “living in limbo”.

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Who here pays their electricity and gas bills by automatic direct debit? Did you know that it is likely you are financing the utility companies by doing this?

I’ve always been useless at paying bills, I would open them, put them on my desk, have a couple of really busy days and they’d soon be buried under mountains of paperwork and forgotten about. Fed up with getting reminder letters, I set up direct debits for all of my utilities thinking it was the right thing to do…

Only it wasn’t, I’ve had some astronomical bills come through since and last summer I started paying scrupulous attention to what I was being billed and debited. The thing with direct debit is that because it’s so automatic and doesn’t require much effort we can have a tendency to not pay attention to how much we’re paying.

Since last summer I have been carefully checking our electricity consumption and comparing it to the bill. Each bill I have received since has been erroneous; the first one by about 30 Euros, the second one by 150 Euros and yesterdays bill by 400 Euros! Each time these amounts are debited from my account and I have to call up EDF to get them to correct it! It’s ended up taking me more time to sort out than simply writing a check and it’s always them that owe me money, never the other way round!

Yesterday really took the biscuit though as I was not expecting to be debited more than 700 Euros for my electricity bill as I hadn’t paid attention to the bill when it arrived so was caught rather by surprise.

Thankfully a quick call to EDF resolved the situation without any upset and the lady was really helpful, even suggesting I ask my bank to refuse the direct debit if it had put me in difficulty (not exactly what you want to do when you’re trying to get a French mortgage mind…). I have never come across someone as helpful as she was and I was truly grateful for her for not making things difficult for me. Within 30 minutes I had a corrected bill and credit note (a reimbursement would take 3 weeks and we’ll be moved by then). This is one of my only examples of good customer service in France but it goes to show that it does exist, albeit very rarely.

It appears I’m not the only one to receive high bills from EDF, I read on TF1 about some poor bloke that got stuck with a bill for nearly 60 000 Euros at the beginning of January. The poor guy still hasn’t managed to sort it out with EDF now, so he’s obviously not had quite as much luck as I have.

I can no longer afford to be financing these companies; if I want to invest money in them I’ll buy shares thanks very much! It’s easy for them to get away with debiting and billing what they want and then taking time to rectify, so from now on I’ll be paying all my bills by good old cheque thank you very much!

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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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