Yesterday’s mail

Carte Vitale ImpossiblePaperwork in France seems to be endless, and although I’ve never really felt homesick for Australia in my ten years of living overseas, I find myself sometimes wishing I lived there just for the simplicity of living. Don’t get me wrong: I love the French lifestyle of long lunch breaks, shops closed on Sundays, and local bakeries still flourishing despite cheaper supermarket alternatives. However, I don’t get to live this lifestyle because my days are bogged down with filling out forms, chasing up correspondence and trying to get to the post office during their out-of-season reduced opening times to post the piles of paperwork.

Yesterday, for example, I received two letters. The first was a newsletter from my home insurance company. This would be great if I still used them for home insurance, but I don’t. The same thing happened with my car insurance last year, where I was advised that I had the right to vote for the members of the board or something because I was ‘a valued client’. Okay, this sort of mail isn’t really a problem, but it does mean I’m wasting my time opening crud instead of dealing with the real mail.

My second letter was indeed real mail. It was a bill for more than €3,000! What on earth could the bill be for? Apparently, it’s the cost of having a healthcare card for six months, and you must pay in advance of course. The health care card is the infamous Carte Vitale, which I applied for (and wrote about months ago). I still don’t have it. So, they’re trying to bill me for a service that I’m already paying for on the spot. They’re estimating how much it should cost, and if I’ve overpaid, I’ll see my money two years on.

In fact, while we’re talking about ridiculous billing, my landlord also qualifies. For three years, I’ve been a good tenant and we have a great relationship. He then decided to send me a bill for rent increases backdated for the past two years. Not just one increase, but two, as he is legally allowed, apparently, to up the rent by a government-specified amount each year. He forgot, and now he wants the money. So, whether I think the apartment is worth the upped rent or not, I have to pay it. How do I know this? Phone calls to various institutions to ask about my rights.

So, back to the Carte Vitale. Yesterday, I called the place who sent me the bill, but to ‘improve customer service’, they’re only open three days per week. Surely they could improve customer service by adding more people to their call centre to answer the phones while they’re off improving customer service. I called another number and they told me to call the first number. They’re open today, so I called them back, and after the usual long wait with client-calming hold music, a woman finally told me to call the company who had told me to call her. She at least gave me a different number. The number worked, and another woman told me that the Carte Vitale would take some time and that it was impossible to say how long. She also said I should have received a form for the Carte Vitale before the bill. She can’t send me one (it’s not done by the company she works for), so I have to wait until I get it, but she can send me a temporary Carte Vitale which I can use in the same way. This is apparently not an automatic thing.

Now, I’d really love to go outside and enjoy this beautiful sunny day, but I’ll be spending it checking my mail, writing letters and making phone calls instead. Oh, and looking for extra work to pay all these bills.


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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7 comments on “Yesterday’s mail
  1. Isabelle says:

    I sympathize with you!!
    Although I’m French, I happen to have my WTF moments with the Sécu too 🙁

    What I don’t understand is why they want to make you pay 3,000 euros… The Carte Vitale is free since you already contribute to healthcare through your pay slip.

    Ah, les mystères de la bureaucratie…

  2. April says:

    Ah, I have no pay slip. I’m une enterprise! Extra mysterious when it comes to figuring out what insurance is mandatory and what is not.

  3. April says:

    Hurrah! I have a piece of paper that acts as a temporary Carte Vitale at last! I’m in the system!

  4. Isabelle says:

    You at least need to celebrate with some champagne 😉

  5. Clara says:

    oh wow. sounds as if you are having an insanely beaurocratic time of it…that seems outrageous to raise rent retro-actively. that cannot be right. it seems to me that rent increases need to be agreed beforehand, to give the tenant the opportunity to raise issue, or move if its not deemed reasonable. hope it gets sorted.

  6. Even being an entreprise, this is idiotic! They are taking you for a ride, a foul ride, that’s for sure.
    All I can tell you is that the only thing that helps is yelling and threatening to porte plainte.
    We also had huge problems with them. You know why? Because I am the ‘breadwinner’ in the family, not my husband et … ça ne marche pas. Monsieur travaile et Madame keeps the house clean.
    Bon courage and hold on tight to that damn piece of paper, or make it a point not to get sick at all.

  7. Nadege says:

    Can you write back to those companies, “bureaucrates”, your landlord… that the check is in the mail? I wish there was a way to threaten those bastards. I was french too, and I ran out of patience with my ex-fellow countrymen. Trust me, I have no problems rubbing their “sensible” spots when I am in France. Check out “soyez la bienvenue chez moi” for some of the comments I wrote. The only way is to shame them, but diplomatically if possible.

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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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