French paperwork

Today, I headed down to Annecy, motivated to sort out my health care card, called a Carte Vitale, which means I will finally stop paying for all my own medical expenses and let my taxes work for me instead. French paperwork is renowned for being tedious and lengthy: I gave up importing my favourite car (edition not produced in France) from England because the paperwork was so horrendous, and indeed confusing.

So, I left La Clusaz armed with birth certificates, passports, and as much other paperwork I could find to prevent any hold-ups. I arrived in Annecy and parked in a central car park called Place des Romains and walked to the CPAM office I had been instructed to go to. After the usual “take a number” system, the staff member who looked into my request explained she could not process a health care card for me: I needed to go to the office on the other side of Annecy and request one there. She wrote down the street and office name for me and off I went. Somehow, I found the office despite the name being completely different to the one she has written down. I explained my request to the receptionist, but she got stuck when she discovered I had no social security number.

French Carte VitaleAfter some phone calls and people shuffling by to check out my paperwork and tut that I had no social security number, the woman instructed me to go to the office in Avenue des Isles—the road beside the Place des Romains car park, where I had started the day. I couldn’t be annoyed at the wasted hours because I had expected this to happen. My days are much less stressful when I’ve set my expectations low, and if there’s any French paperwork to be done, I’ve discovered it’s best to set my expectations as low as they will go.

The good news when I arrived at the third office was that it was the right office and I was the first in the queue. The bad news was, when I eventually did get to see someone after a long wait in a corridor with three seats which were soon in demand as the corridor filled with others, that the woman helping me could not find my details on the computer system in front of her. More tutting; more French I didn’t quite get; more confusion on both sides of the table. She scribbled some notes on a piece of paper and sent me on my way without looking at any of my papers. No Carte Vitale, and no receipt that I had been there. I have to wait for something to arrive in the mail in order to apply for a Carte Vitale, and I’m guessing that I will be required to return to Annecy and relive today’s events all over again. I’ve included a picture of the Carte Vitale in case I never actually get to see my own.

I really should have just gone skiing instead.


I’m a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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4 comments on “French paperwork
  1. Eventually, very eventualeventually … you will get all the papers you need to fill out and then one day … Oh, happy day, oh happy da–hay-hay … you, too, will have that lovely shiny green thingy that often works and sometimes doesn’t.
    Wanna cry on my shoulder? I’ve gone through it already.
    Bon courage et A+,


  2. April says:

    Thanks Deborah – no papers yet, but maybe in a month hehehe!

  3. Ruby says:

    Ha ha, reminds me of trying to get the grant for students when I was there. Spent hours in offices and filling out forms, then got a nice letter to tell me that I would need to bring a copy of my visa to finalise the process. Thing is, Australians only have to get a visa if you’re studying for longer than three months … and European airports don’t stamp your passport any more!

  4. April says:

    Update: I received an application form this week!

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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