National Holiday?

Yesterday was Halloween in France, but that’s not the national holiday that had everyone NOT working. Today is All Saints Day (which is, of course, where Halloween has it’s origin). Can you believe All Saints Day is a national holiday? You can add this one to your international holiday list. And it’s big–festivals everywhere. In the South, any holiday means bulls run in the street (Abrivado). I wonder if they run the bulls at Christmas, too?

Oh, wait. Did I forget to mention that no one told me that today is a national holiday?

People stopping by unexpectedly is normal. (Remind you of living in the South U.S., Laura?), but I wasn’t expecting a steady stream of people yesterday. And in France, when people come to your home, you don’t just offer a coke or cup of coffee. No, you provide an aperitif, which includes a drink and a salty snack. And it seems they have a habit of showing up (unexpectedly) at mealtimes, or they stay so long it runs into mealtimes, and then you feed them. And if you read my blog, you’ll learn that a French meal is always at least 5 courses. I’m not exaggerating. When I”m alone during the day, I can eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but this is not acceptable, at least in our house, at other times. Normally, even “quick” meals consist of: aperitif, entre, plate, fromage (cheese), and dessert. (See previous blog on French food.) I’m convinced there is no such thing as a quick meal in France, unless you go to McDonalds or the French equivalent of McDonalds: Quik. Yes, that’s what it’s called–Quik.

And so, let me conclude by saying that I had a minor melt-down yesterday evening. An unexpected holiday is nothing to have a melt-down over. It was the proverbial straw…. After several weeks (let’s say months) of the stress of getting my residency documents, getting attacked by a dog (I”m still taking antibiotics for that one), trying to open a French banque account and buy a cell phone, and numerous other daily life stresses of being a “foreigner,” I just lost it. I mean, why didn’t someone do the small courtesy of telling the American it’s a holiday in France? You would think my husband would have thought to mention it? (And yes, Marion, French husbands are no different than American husbands.)

I’ve discovered that one of the greatest stresses of living abroad, for me, is that feeling of “lostness,” never knowing what comes next.

Next year I’ll be expecting All Saints Day.

Documents for France

Sometimes I feel like I’ve gathered my life into this 3-inch folder. And it keeps getting thicker.

The process of entering a new country seems never-ending. Once I’ve crossed a hurdle, there looms another. This week it was my cart de sejour. What a relief! But now I need to start thinking about changing my driving permit.

Sometimes I haven’t had the papers I’ve needed, and it’s more difficult to get them once you leave the States, or more expensive to have them delivered, so I had the idea to create a list of documents I’ve needed or thought I might need. I’ll add to it as needed. And if anyone has other suggestions, feel free to comment and I’ll add them to the list.

Oh, and sometimes you need these translated into French.

Documents from Country of Origin:

  • passport (and many photocopies)
  • birth certificate (many photocopies)
  • social security card
  • driver’s license
  • medical records
  • vaccination records
  • proof of address in country of origin (phone bills, electric bills)
  • financial statements: retirement accounts, bank accounts, insurance, tax documents, pay stubbs for 3 to 6 months, proof of income
  • health insurance records
  • marriage certificate, divorce papers
  • diplomas, transcripts, French language certificates or other proof of language study
  • resume or CV
  • work contracts
  • important phone numbers
  • contracts, agreements, records for any outstanding properties or other incidentals in country of origin (for example, I needed to have my contract for my storage unit with me so I could renew over the phone; car title; house or mortgage records).
  • Demande De VISA Pour Un Long Sejour (application for long-stay VISA)
  • Demande D’Attestation OFII (this document must be certified by the French Consulate in your country of origin and presented to the OFII in your French prefecture in order to obtain a carte de sejour)
  • Prepaid Flat Rate Mailing Envelope (for return of your passport and long-stay VISA)
  • head and shoulders photo (size differs in France, so read all instructions carefully for requirements)
  • Power of Attorney (I left these in case I needed someone to deal with business in the States in my absence. It turned out to be necessary. If you have real estate, you need a separate POA that states very specifically the liberties of the person in your stead, and must be notarized and filed in the precinct where the real estate presides; at least this was the case in Virginia.)

Documents in France:

  • proof of address (It’s a good idea to put a cell phone or some other bill in your name at your French address. Everything was in my husband’s name, so it was often complicated.)
  • proof of income (work contracts, pay stubbs, bank statements)
  • French bank card (open a bank account in France as soon as you can)
  • Livret de Famille (if you married in France)
  • Acte de Mariage (equivalent of a marriage certificate; certified by the local Marie)
  • Titre de sejour (record to show you paid taxes upon entering France; required for carte de sejour and auto insurance)
  • Certified D’Attestation OFII (this document must be certified by the French Consulate in your country of origin and presented to the OFII in your French prefecture in order to obtain a carte de sejour)
  • long-stay VISA
  • national identity card of spouse (if you are married to French national)
  • passport of spouse (if you are married to French national)

More helpful information: French Moving Planner