They say time heals everything. That time is of the essence. We kill time, we save time, we lose time and we have all time in the world…..except that we don’t. But I think, to the French bureaucracy, that time is just, well, time. And several times they have used up a lot of mine.
I was well warned. Moving to France requires research and tenacity. You must ask questions. You will benefit from many people’s input. It needs those two warriors: patience and alas, time. But it is time well spent to learn that France will waste a load of your personal time with exhaustive inquiries, all the time.
Are you sick of hearing the word ‘time’ yet? I am. You should buckle your seatbelt.
Let’s start with the opening of a French bank account. You need to make an appointment with a bank officer, and you don’t choose the time, they do. We got 2PM, with the very lovely Madame Herrman, at Credit Agricole. I think she sized us up pretty quickly and knew she would need fortification, so she set the meeting after the 120 minute lunch break that all of France takes, from 12 – 2, so that they have plenty of time to eat, I am guessing….
I can’t help but think of my job at Gateway Surgery Center. My entire goal, when working at a job that I really did appreciate, with a company that I felt was exceptionally great to me, was that I wanted to start early and end early, so that I had more time to play. A 2 hour lunch would have blown that goal to Paris and back.
Since it was joint, to open our account took 3 hours, easy. What I could have done with 180 minutes. Walk the stunning countryside, eat a croissant, nap, visit the sheep who live all around me. I wish I could say that we were finished at that point, but we had yet to receive our new debit cards, that would arrive independent of their pin numbers. Digits chosen by the powers that be, and unchangeable.
The French banking system takes security seriously. My debit card arrived within the proposed time of 10 days. My pin number at least 4 days later. This was hand delivered by the post Madame who requested my signature. I suppose she knew that this was sensitive information – I find the attention and time taken for my privacy and protection against identity theft rather amazing.
For reasons unclear, as Madame Herrman is not fluent in English, but definitely gets an A+ for effort, Howard’s debit card was delivered to the bank, itself. I think it was a second security measure. And this took even more time. But, unfortunately, and for a long time still, his pin number hasn’t arrived. As of this post, Howard can’t get cash, and I guess his pin number just needs a little more time….
You know the expression: 15 minutes could save you 15 percent. There is no Geico in France. And no insurance policy over the phone would be generated, ever. Two and a half hours later, for one tiny car, we were offered a very expensive policy. Compared to US prices we thought it was cheap. But word travels fast and our friends said non, non, you must go to Monpazier, 25 KM away, and see Sophia. So we did. 3 days later, as she did not have time for us, until then.
Now this young beauty worked very efficiently. 1.5 hours for BOTH car and renters insurance. She was a wizard. And Howard was smitten. And we saved more than 50%. So time IS money. Well spent AND saved. Should any of you ever need insurance, while you are in Lot-et-Garonne, we can hook you up. We have fully comprehensive coverage, including roadside assistance. Merci beaucoup.
Next up: The vet. You can’t get a dog into the country without the United States Department of Agriculture going over all vaccine records, proof of microchip, and breed/sex checks. This takes both money and dare I say it again, time. Exact timing, to be specific. Because in 10 days your dog may change breeds, sex, and vaccine records. Or get very ill and transport foreign bacteria to the country. I can respect that. At the point of landing at Charles de Gaulle (Charl, say it with me) a dog is as legitimate as caninely possible. Our agreements with France allowed for Sable to be cut free from the zip ties, and she galloped out of the airport, passing lines of the Agents d’immigration and Police, and their German Shepherds, without more than a glance. French Bulldogs do not work.
But, despite all of the legwork on the US side of the pond, there is a window of time to legitimize a dog, in the french system. 45 days from landing. This is to register the microchip, assess vaccinations that have already been combed over by the USDA, and make sure the dog is THE dog in the paperwork. At our appointment for both Sable and Dana’s dog, we spent 1.5 hours, and Sable was never even seen.
I feel that it is all a mystery, this validation process, for les chiennes de Americain, and that the Vet is learning as she goes. That’s okay, there is a first time for everything. Pim disappeared to the back and apparently his paperwork is underway. Pages and pages, the Vet explained, looking troubled, that she needed more time to complete. However, in all that time, he was not even given an exam, and he must return. This vet requested we contact our State side animal hospital to retrieve hard copies of Sable’s vaccines. As this would save her time, she said…when she finally meets Sable.
I sent an email that I timed to arrive at North Mecklenberg Animal Hospital on Saturday morning, just after opening hours. We sit at 6 hours ahead of America. In a lovely PDF all of her records arrived at 2:20 pm, French time. They fulfilled my request in 20 minutes. Record time!!
We have to return to the Vet this Tuesday, as time marches on, and Sable must be registered. All I have to say is, it is a good thing that I am retired, and have the time for all of this.