Saturday, 13 February 2010

French Bureaucracy

Many of our English friends are getting upset over and over again whenever they only think of French bureaucracy. As someone who lived his whole life in the Netherlands, the French bureaucrats seem to be a lot more laid back than their Dutch colleagues. Having said that, sometimes it has advantages when you know beforehand how a civil servant is going to react; one can actually anticipate a bit that way.
The last time we had to go to the Mairie was to obtain the yearly “certificat de vie”, without which Dutch insurance companies do not pay out annuities. This is a very relaxed exercise; you hand in your form, the secretary asks “Comme l’habitude?”, she writes something, seals it with a stamp and a few seconds later you are back on the street, with a form that would even satisfy the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, and without any costs. Just pointing at a doorknob in a Dutch town hall would set you back at least € 10! We were just about to set off for lunch, when one of the local officials, in charge of the “Recensement” (Census) who saw us walking past his window, came after us.
Could we spare some time to fill in some questionnaires? It would save him the 3 km trip from the town hall to our house....
The French do not keep a proper record of who is living where and since when; the only way they keep track of demography is the census. The INSEE (Bureau of Statistics) organises every year a number of censuses, spread over the whole of France. It is not organised by postal code or by Canton, because Cormatin is on the list for 2010, whilst Saint-Gengoux, capital of our Canton with the same postal code is up in 2013.
The guy who called us back was Pierre M., a very amiable man whom we know quite well now because he is always present whenever an event in Cormatin is being prepared. So a few minutes later we answered the questions on his questionnaire, which were questions for the two of us: when did we move to France, were we living together, what sort of heating did we use in the house, etc.
After that we had to fill in a personal questionnaire, about educational and professional backgrounds, etc. Whenever we did not understand a question, and he thought it was irrelevant (or he could not be asked to explain!), he waved his hand as if to say “Ah, why don’t we forget about that one!”. After 15 minutes we were released with the words: “Well, that got you off the hook for another 5 years!”. Anyway, if my English friends read how easy these sort of things are handled in the “campagne”, they should stop moaning about French bureaucracy. And if they still insist, I would advise them to move to the Netherlands for just one month, and then say what they think about the French!

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

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