Look, I know the French have a bit of a reputation for lots of red tape and striking, but this is ridiculous. Three attempts at progress yesterday failed at every mark.
Attempt 1: Carte Vitale
I applied for my French healthcare card back in March 2009 (and wrote about the nightmare here). I’ve paid €3,500 for the card’s benefits in 2009, but have yet to receive the card. Calls in July to three separate places (diverted to a new place each time) led to someone saying I should have received a temporary paper card, and a week later, it did show up. It isn’t all that useful and I still have to pay full price for most things. So, another call yesterday — and a referral first to a number for a whole separate area of France, then a referral back to the original number, which the guy actually got wrong anyway —finally led to a woman saying that yes, sometimes it takes years and she really had no way of telling when it will arrive. Meanwhile, I’ve received a 2010 payment request of €4,650! So I’m paying for something I don’t even have, and I’m paying way more than I would claim back in a year anyway. Great. Thank you so much, healthcare people in France. I wonder how much extra stress your ‘healthcare’ causes.
Attempt 2: fuel for heating
At the start of December, a man delivered heating fuel. I have a 600 litre tank, plus two 200 litre barrel reserves. He couldn’t get his fuel filler hose into the 600 litre tank, so he filled the two smaller reserves, said the whole setup was dangerous and refused to come back to fill up again. He said he’d get someone from the company to come and have a look at it. At the start of January, with the fuel line going down quickly, a call to the company was short and sweet with the woman saying that no worries, someone would be having a look very soon. Amazingly, I received a call from them yesterday! They called me. They called me. I explained nobody had been to check out the danger and then she asked me to explain the whole thing. I did so, then she said thanks and goodbye. Before she could hang up, I asked her if that meant somebody would be visiting and she said no, it wasn’t up to their company: they just deliver the fuel. I explained that in January, the person on the other end of the phone said someone from the same company would come to check and she agreed that someone would come. I don’t know if I was more confused with her inability to stick to one story or if she just didn’t have a clue what I was saying in French. She’s going to speak to the fuel filler guy and call back today, she said…
Attempt 3: car registration change of address
Now, you might think that this would be easy, but it is not. Rewind: when I finally sent the letter from my old landlord (which he gave me two months later) to say I had left his place, my home/car insurance company asked for proof that I had also changed my address on my car registration (carte grise in French). I hadn’t even thought of that, so I went down yesterday afternoon, prepared after reading what I needed to take with me, to visit the prefecture in Annecy. I had ID, a bill in my name, my old car registration, and the long change of address form that I had to fill out. I’d noticed on their website that they were closed the day before yesterday for some ‘exceptional’ reason, but the web site said nothing about yesterday or any other day in the future. I drove in the snow to Annecy, parked the car and walked in a near blizzard to get to the prefecture. When I got there, it was closed. There was a notice on the door saying that from September 2009, the office would only be open in the mornings. Their website did not mention this. How can their website not mention this? In addition, when I do get around to changing my address, I will have to pay for the privilege and attach new number plates to my car. I moved five minutes down the road from my old house. Is this not overkill?
What really bothers me is that the French tax office sent me a form ten days before Christmas demanding tax information before the end of the year. They expect such a quick response from me, yet here I am still waiting for any and every administrative function to actually function in my favour. I don’t even know if they received anything from my accountant: I couldn’t get hold of him on the phone, so I e-mailed him an explanation and sent the forms to him, hoping he’d do something. He’s on holiday until next week, but that’s okay: the tax office haven’t sent anything else, so I’m wondering if perhaps it’s just a standard of communication in France, and in actual fact, they mean they want my tax details before the end of 2010. I’ll keep you posted.