adventures of an american housewife in the south of france

Busy Day, Busy Bed Beard

I should start off this post by telling you all that I woke up at 6am today and immediately spent the next 10 hours enduring some very frustrating French bureaucracy.  So suffice it to say,  I'm pretty tired and cranky right now. Since Michael leaves for another long trip to L.A. again tomorrow (wah!!) we really needed to begin the process of getting our carte de séjour, or French residency card, before our temporary visas expire in July.  We also needed to get the carte de séjour (or at least proof that we are working on it) in order to get cell phones and Internet.  The thing about obtaining the carte de séjour is that it's an enormous pain in the ass.  It is recommended to show up at the Prefecture (an administrative building) around 6am so that you can wait in line to be one of the 50 or so people who will be lucky enough to get a ticket for an appointment when they open at 8:30.  When they open the door and you get your ticket, you sit in a waiting room that is sickeningly similar to the DMV until your number is called.  Why will only 50 people get an appointment per day?  Because they are only open until 12:00, obviously!  It makes perfect sense. So this morning we woke up at the crack of dawn and met up with our friend Simon who also needed to get his carte de séjour.  We arrived around 6:30 and after 3 hours of just waiting for an appointment, we finally got called up to the booth.  Here is the list of things we each had to bring with us to apply for the carte de séjour:
  • Our passports
  • 2 Copies of our passports
  • Our temporary visas
  • 2 Copies of our temporary visas
  • Copies of all the pages on your passport with stamps
  • Copies of our birth certificate
  • A copy of the medical certificate (which we received from the doctor here a few weeks ago)
  • Michael’s original work contract for a transfer to France
  • A copy of the “attestation”, a document from Michael’s company stating that yes, he is contracted to work here
  • Copies of our electric bill, to prove that we have a residency in Montpellier
  • Ridiculous stamps that we had to buy that serve as currency to purchase the carte de séjour (which was 75E for Michael and a whopping 340E for me!!)
  • Disgusting photos for the carte de séjour (pictured below) in which I had to take off all my jewelry, tuck my hair behind my ears, and NOT SMILE AT ALL.
  • 2 Copies of our marriage license
  • 2 self-addressed stamped envelopes

seriously, we look like murderers.

In addition to this list, Michael had to sign a document stating that he would not engage in polygamy (let it be noted that I did not have to sign such a document!) And I had to provide a document, created on the spot, stating that I would not be working during my time here in France.  The items on the list noted in italics are the things that, in true French fashion, no one bothered to tell us we were required.  We were really upset and especially freaked out when the woman told us we'd need to make another appointment to present the missing documents.  She must have seen how panic-stricken we were because she agreed to let Michael run home, get his computer (where we had digital copies of our birth certificates saved), go to his office, print out copies of the certificates, and then bring them back to her.  As long as we arrived before noon when they closed.  And by this time, it was 10:45.  Michael literally ran this errand while I stayed behind to make photocopies of our passport stamps and get some envelopes to address.  Somehow, we managed to get this all done in time.  Then we headed straight for the bar.

nous sommes français!

After a drink, we went back to the dreaded Orange store armed with our temporary carte de séjours to try to get our cell phones, TV, landline and Internet set up.  Since the carte de séjours were the missing documents when we went on Monday, we figured it would be a quick trip.  I'll save you the agony of recounting the story and tell you that, 2 hours later, we walked out with cell phones.  I HAVE A CELL PHONE!!!!!  After 6 full weeks without one, I almost don't know what to do with myself.  Oh, but don't bother trying to call only works for calls from France. Figgy has also been busy this week.  Mostly hanging out with his new wiener friend, Sauce.  Sauce is our new BFFs Simon and Stéphanie's dog and we just love her!

sweet sauce!

Yesterday I  dragged Fig out in the rain to visit Michael's co-worker's house, where Figgy will be staying once I leave for California next weekend.  We had a lovely time with Pierre-Arnaud and his family.  He has two adorable little girls who just loooooved Figaro.  They were running around screaming so excited that le chien had finally arrived!  Fig came home, wet, very tired, and I have to say, a little cranky from walking in the rain.  His formed a pretty epic Bed Beard.  I think his best French Bed Beard yet.

little figgy noodle

I'm planning to spend the rest of the evening on the couch with some beer, leftover beef stew and enjoying my last night with Michael.  I'm bummed to be away from him all week, but this time I'll be in our own apartment and have even more friends to hang out with.  It won't be so bad. Have a great weekend!

13 Responses to “Busy Day, Busy Bed Beard”

  1. wow wow wow. what a royal pain.

    but in regard to your photos at least you’re a pretty murderer.

    • Natalie says:

      you are too kind! i am NOT KIDDING when i tell you that the woman who took the picture insisted on taking it multiple times because they kept turning out “terrible.”

  2. nate says:

    Ah yes, it’s all coming back to me. The maddeningly long waits, the documents they don’t tell you about, the random bureaucratic hoops you jump through (stamps??!?), and the mug shots where you can’t smile. There are SO MANY spots that can trip you up, and you can’t help but conclude that it’s purposely super annoying. In stark contrast to this, when we moved back to the States Jess and I stopped off at the Apple store on the way from the airport to our new home, and picked up two iphones in about ten minutes. I was like, “never in France”.

    But on the flip side, although it’s annoying, you don’t have to deal with those things all too often, so you learn to overlook it. Also, you can adopt the tried and true French tradition of complaining.

    • Natalie says:

      SO TRUE!!! i am doing my best to assimilate ;)

    • jess says:

      yup, nate got it down alright. but he didn’t mention the one prefecture appt for my CDS which was scheduled the day after i had horrible food poisoning. the woman at who handled our case was SO F*&KING MEAN it was comical. she wouldn’t have let us run home to get our laptop. you were lucky!!! the insane bureaucracy was my least favorite part of living in france, but the overhead was worth it. bon courage! xoxo

  3. Susan says:

    Wow, Nat! What a mess! But that you all negotiated it is a testament to crazy and willpower! You are an official Frenchy!! With a phone, no less! Relax a while!

  4. shawn says:

    Fig looks royally pissed about your bureaucratic nightmares.

    See you guys soon for some Kraken and wedding fun.

  5. Lindsay says:

    I just burst out laughing when I saw those pictures. They look like the pictures that always pop up in criminal files in CIA movies. Hope you guys are enjoying France! (other than all the ridiculous paperwork) Not surprised at all that you seem to have made a million friends already=)

  6. Claire says:

    Thanks for this post, it was really good to hear a first hand story of the French bureaucratic experience. My Hub and I are moving to France later this year and this will come very handy!

    • Natalie says:

      How exciting!! Please let me know if there is anything else I can help answer for you – I know how confusing and grueling the process can be :)

  7. […] dossier which I know I will need when I arrive, to get my residency card or Carte de Sejour. The Haute Housewife’s post on this topic is bookmarked at the top of the heap and I reference it constantly. One of my small […]

  8. […] (for tomorrow!) we realized that there was a lot of information missing… I revisited my favorite blog entry from The Haute Housewife and found time to get all of this paperwork together. What’s more, […]

  9. Danielle says:

    I just wanted to thank you a million times over for adequately preparing me for my trip to the prefecture today. I’ve been a fan of your blog since we found out about our move to France a year ago, and it has helped me immensely in getting used to the French life!

    But seriously, the prefecture. #neveragain (until next year!)

    • Natalie says:

      What a great message to wake up to! I’m glad this post is still useful, though I’m sorry you had to deal with the craziness. I still get a nauseous feeling when I think of the Prefecture ;)

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