Paperwork 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.