Never get on the wrong side of a bureaucrat

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Never get on the wrong side of a bureaucrat

if you can manage it.

It’s difficult to pick up the nuances in French – difficult for me, anyway – but I’m pretty sure we got on the wrong side of several recently.

The rules say, and we triple checked, that as a NZ citizen, married to a non-French EU citizen, I do not need a visa, and my residency application process should be smooth and quick.

The rules didn’t tell us the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Yesterday I had to return to the prefecture to pay for a visa so that my residence application can go ahead. Perhaps we were talking to people who can only process documents and money, who have no authority to say, “Oh, yes, you’re correct, the law does say you don’t need this visa.”

It’s also possible that yesterday being pay day, budget day for Monsieur Hollande, they had to get every penny, centime and sous before close of business. (They do call it the ‘sous prefecture’ after all.)

For arguing the fact, we were made to wait. I’m not a hundred percent certain, but it did seem rather like we were being punished – me and my baby, standing in the middle of the ‘etranger’ (foreigners) department like a naughty child being made example of, while Luuk and his colleague
(Oh thank god we had a fluent and gutsy french speaker with us) went to buy ‘timbre fiscal’ to pay for my visa.

As soon as Luuk and his colleague left, the man who’d been dealing with us started telling another ‘etranger’ about our arguments, laughing at the ridiculousness, and complaining of how difficult it was… right in front of me! He was assuming I understand no french at all, I suppose, but talk about unprofessional.

Anyway, right or wrong (it’s wrong!), it’s done. I am here to stay. I may well be back at the prefecture in a few weeks, however, because if my card doesn’t arrive a week before my ‘recipice’ (temporary residence permit) expires I have to go in again and get an extension. If this is the case, and if the people we saw yesterday have any say in the matter it seems likely, I’ll have to go in at the crack of dawn and line up for two or three hours. But I’ve learned my lesson: leave the toddler (elsewhere); take the book.

Since coming to France I’ve also learned how to spell bureaucrat and bureaucracy. Silver linings eh?