Thursday, February 03, 2005

French Red Tape

I really love this article. Jon Henley, the Paris Guardian correspondant and a friend,
really gets it right!,,1385678,00.html

Here's a taste
A brief entanglement with the charms of French red tape

Jon Henley in Paris
Saturday January 8, 2005
The Guardian

There exists, as all residents of France know, a gnomic Gallic god who occasionally decides, for reasons unclear to mere mortals, that the time has come for you to be re-acquainted with the very singular charms of French bureaucracy.

This painful but doubtless improving experience can take many forms. You will be peacefully living your life - your last bruising bout with French officialdom no more than a distant memory - when a harmless-looking letter from the Centre de Gestion de la Caisse d'Allocations Familiales will land on your doormat.

You are soon plunged into a strange and terrifying netherworld. Clinging desperately to the limp scrap of your queue number as if it were your only hope of getting out alive, you must confront ranks of pale and impatient people waving impenetrable forms and demanding why you still have not provided an officially approved translation of your maternal grandmother's birth certificate, or just when you were thinking of furnishing copies of your certificat K bis along with your last two déclarations trimestrielles aux services fiscaux. (I am not making any of this up.)

The letter can, of course, also come from the Centre Générale de Sécurité Sociale, the Service du Traitement des Demandes de Logement or, if the gnomic god is feeling particularly playful, the Union de Recouvrement des Cotisations de Sécurité Sociale et d'Allocations Familiales. Only one thing is quite sure: come it will.

Anyway. It was, as I'm sure you had guessed, my turn last week. The only consolation, when the letter stamped Direction Départementale du Travail, de l'Emploi et de la Formation Professionelle arrived, was that it was aimed only tangentially at me, concerning mainly the nice Polish woman who cleans and irons for us once a week and who, after nearly a decade as an illegal alien, has embarked on the administrative equivalent of one of those awesome obstacle courses for would-be SAS members. She wants, as the French say in such circumstances, to regularise her situation.


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