(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Friday, July 18, 2008

my fellow exiting Americans.

Hi there! some of you come here because you have been following the details of my logistics. Things like dog travel. and visas. and carte de sejours. So I think it only fair I not leave ends loosely hanging simply because I am now here. Oh yeah, that's right. Did I mention I am HERE now. in FRANCE? well, even so it is worth repeating.


And today's goal was to complete the transfer of my new car. So, my rendez-vous with my charming car seller (funny, he didn't seem quite the snake-oil salesman that U.S. car sellers have the infamous distinction for) Monsieur V.B. Our appointment was for 10:00 a.m. which, by the way, seems to be the preferred starting time for appointments. So far, all of my arranged rendez-vous seem to be for 10:00 a.m. Sweet!

Anyway, I had agreed to meet Monsieur V.B. in Perigueux at 10:00 a.m. I also discovered I have been mispronouncing Perigueux as "Perry-goh" instead of "Peh-ree-guh". sigh. but there has been a lot of that going on. the mispronouncing thing. I'm working on it.

So, armed with some French directions (take the road to P. but watch for the sign Les Piles, it is a shortcut, it comes before Sorges (it is a French specialty to watch for something before something else!) and then there will be a long stretch downhill to a cirque and go almost all the way round and voila! you see the prefecture on the left! trés simple?! no street names or nothin'. I'm going on faith, pure unadulterated faith.

Excited, I arise this morning and make a bit fancier toilette ... a skirt, a blouse, a jacket ... a very proper French outfit for a lady going to the county hall. I found it was fun dressing up a bit! I gather my huge portfolio of a variety of paperwork because I had also decided to prevail upon Monsieur V.B. to accompany me to request an appointment for a carte de sejour. I confess I've been nervous about that. As much as I was nervous about the consul appointment for the visa. and the USDA shenanigans for the dogs. We are presented with a lot of scary claptrap on the internets about all of these processes.

So, I gather my stuff and the dogs and depart 15 minutes later than I wanted to. I needed to get gas and so there I was stressing myself out a bit in the car that I would be late for these rendez-vous (I don't know if that is the right way to make rendez-vous plural, drat, LF where are you?!). In other words, reverting to my naughty American habits. Listening to those damned voices in my head.

Psyche! Everything flowed like a dream. The gas was obtained easily and my card worked (another story there with the new Euro only cards). The directions were perfect, screw the need for street names and numbers and stuff. I phoned Monsieur V.B. when I arrived and he was only a few blocks from me. He immediately offered that I should sit tight in my spot and he would come collect me. Which he did. And then escorted me to the prefecture.

Carte de Séjour inquiry?? NO PROBLEM! Monsieur V.B. was happy to do so. The county hall was actually not too busy. Yes, there were a couple of lines (similar to DMV) but the clerks were all so friendly and smiling and greeting some of the visitors and despite my poor French were very gracious along with Monsieur V.B.'s assistance. We were issued 2 tickets for waiting, one for the Carte Gris (vehicle registration) and one for the Carte de Séjour. I paid a $120 euro (ouch) transfer fee because the car was from Departement 87 and I will be living in Departement 24. These fees, I am certain, go to maintaining the vast array of amazingly well cared for streets that wind throughout the land. The car transfer took all of about 20 minutes from start to finish.

We waited another 15 minutes or so to meet with the gentleman for the Carte de Séjour. Despite whatever scary claptrap I have read about how awful this process is (and perhaps it is not claptrap in other towns with more immigrants or other reasons, since we have seen a great deal of variation in the French processes ... even in the U.S. consulates), the process in Perigueux was smooth. The clerk spoke English and was very kind. I was extremely anxious about my passport and visa. After checking-in to the hotel, I had read more closely the slip of paper stapled in my Passport by the consulate. It indicates that one must have the police stamp your visa at the airport IMMEDIATELY upon arrival. My visa, although handed over in the airport, did not have any stamp. I had brought my ticket to prove when I entered.

Mr. Clerk was not at all surprised. "They don't seem to stamp Americans anymore." "Do I need a police stamp from somewhere else?" "No problem, just bring your ticket."

He was just a very easygoing person. They already have a sheet outlining all the items one needs for the CDS. Most of it I already had gathered and presented for the visa. One needs proof of resources/income, a doctor's visit (in France), Passport, Birth Certificate, Proof of residency, 3 Passport photos. I can return next week during regular hours and be helped.

As far as the car goes, in addition to what I mentioned above, I had to get insurance ... which you can get at your French bank or from an insurance agency. And I had to get new license plates. Which any mechanic can do, they take your Carte Gris and issue them right then and there, even installing them ... all for $25 euros. trés simple!

Both of these items were handled with the help of my new friends and without a hiccup.

I also have to take some time to extol the virtues of my estate agents, Marjo and Rodolphe Sausse of ARÈMÈ Conseils. They have been SO MUCH MORE than the regular agents. They have kindly assisted with sharing everything they can think of (or answers to everything I can think to ask!)

Yesterday I met an English couple who had bought a property and arrived, with some furniture in tow, only to discover all of the utilities had been disconnected because the bills were sent to the unoccupied property. So they were forced to take a hotel while they sort it all out. In contrast, MY agents proactively offered to assist me with this from abroad, overseeing the transfer of utilities to my name ... ensuring the correct address in the U.S. was utilized. They assisted with banking set-up, with insurance, with vendors for a car, home repairs, where to buy wood, how to get a gardener, how to find the dump, which is the best DIY store ... well the list is endless.

I have mentioned before that they, unlike many agents, have led the way in establishing partnerships with other agencies so clients have the best opportunity of seeing the right properties and having agents that work together as opposed to make it more difficult.

This entire process would have been SO MUCH MORE DIFFICULT ... if it were not for Marjo and Rodolphe. If you are even only slightly thinking of looking at property or buying a property, no matter what region of France ... I cannot urge you strongly enough to consult with them. A link to their agency is in my sidebar.

So then, on Friday, another rendez-vous with Jean-Yves to prioritize work and agree upon a starting time next week. I'm off to the races!

(image credit: geocities.com/torchhousedesign) 


Nunhead Mum of One said...

Oh my, it's a whole other world!!! You're excited though? David suggests we go to France for a week this summer but even that terrifies me (the only French I know would make me very popular with the men) and I wouldn't be able to leave the dogs......sometimes I feel very small and insignificant so am enjoying living vicariously with you!

Randal Graves said...


Yeah, thanks for that. ;-)

After hearing horror stories, it's nice to read one that isn't! If I ever win the lottery so I can move there, I'll definitely call these guys. Almost went too smoothly. I'm sure there will be some 1000 Euro bill appearing in your mailbox in the near future.
La facture d'être américaine !

Diane said...

My mind boggles at your organizational skills!

Je ne regrette rien said...

Nun, dear-France is lovely, you should try it. And they adore dogs in France, you can take them nearly everywhere and be welcomed (if they are well behaved). One small step at a time!

RG-batard! I am told that in the smaller villages in the countryside there is a much different experience than larger cities. All I know is the Dordogne is fantastic. Now of course, if someone wants to SEND me $1000 euro bills, I'll gladly accept!

diane-awwww! thanks.

La Framéricaine said...

You can't imagine how pleased I was to read your post of today!

With the exception of certain individuals looking at me as if I have just spoken to them in Chinese, when I know quite well that I have spoken perfectly serviceable French (usually my SIL), I have always found the French to be helpful, intelligent, capable, resourceful, funny, and kind. I find them quite refreshing as individuals and as a group.

I never wanted to say too much about it because others have their own experience and biases, but I am delighted to hear that you are having experiences similar to my own.

In Le Blanc, everyone--the mayor, the tax ladies, the post office workers, the banker, the general practitioner, the urologist, the pathologist, the EDF tech, the plumber/electrician, the café/bar proprietor, the merchants, the pharmacists, le notaire--everyone, has been nothing but kind and helpful to Le Framéricain and me over the years.

Congratulations on all of your wonderful accomplishments in such a short period of time. There is absolutely no reason to think that your positive experiences will not continue. By the way, your realtors sound like very compassionate and hard-working people.

*Un rendez-vous OR des rendez-vous, rendez-vous is invariable.

I'm sure that you already have a big old notebook where you are logging in your new, real life context vocabulary. I actually remember the context of where I learned certain words and because of that they seem to stick really well.



Randal Graves said...

1000 Euros? That's, what, 17 million American dollars?

Je ne regrette rien said...

LF-I know, right? I remember first reading some of the frenchy-related blogs and having people say "I promise not to be one of those irritating everything is wonderful in france writers" ... but hey, what am I supposed to do, make up the uglies? I mean, trust me, if something goes wrong or is not perfection...I will report it honestly. But if it is good or I like it better ... I'm not going to play it down. Some of the idiosyncracies of the French that others find irritating, I find endearing. so shoot me!

RG-that's what it feels like when one is calculating the cost of renovations, trust me! sigh.

francetales.com said...

Glad to see everything is going smoothly. I'm thinking of gathering stories of expats in France by theme like getting your VISA, moving your pets, buying a car and registering it, etc and writing a sort bit about it myself and then link to others who have written about the same kinds of things. Care to be a part of it?

Anyone else?

I was thinking of getting your VISA and then carte de sejour. Send me yoru best links to your best stories.