Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Carless days...and months

I'm currently having some time out from my job; taking some annual leave left over from the previous year. Time out means staying in bed longer, doing things I wouldn't normally have time to do, spending some time with Jean-Claude and wondering where this life of mine is taking me. I have no clues as to my future, in any shape or form and while that may appear romantic and exciting it's impossible to put down roots. You could say I'm free but free to do what?

For one thing I still can't do anything about getting a car. Once again the French administration has shown its appalling lack of service, incompetence. Months ago I went into the sous-prefecture with all the documentation required to convert my NZ driver's license to a French one. I went armed with additional proof that this process was, indeed, approved by the French Government. OK, my documentation was all in order and I was told that I would have to stop driving on the expiry date of my old visa. Well, how long was it going to take to get the new license? She shrugged and said she had no idea, that every country was different.

I had no choice. I reached the expiry of my visa, my renewed tire de sejour kicked in but there was no sign of anything relating to the driver license so I waited some more. I couldn't drive, I couldn't even practice driving. Two months later I went in and explained the situation was getting critical. There was then a lot of 'kerfuffling' in the background as if they couldn't find my dossier (that would have been a complete disaster as one must have applied for a license exchange within one year of arriving in France).

Finally the woman came back to the counter and said there was a problem. Signal for twisting guts and a hot flush to arrive. I was told that the woman responsible for my dossier had left to have a baby and she hadn't been replaced by management and they were a bit over-worked so....nothing had been done. And that's a real weakness in France; people don't do things if it's not written into THEIR contract, teamwork doesn't seem to exist so unfortunate people like me are just conveniently ignored no matter how it screws up their lives. Nobody cares, no-one is accountable, no one takes initiative.

Oh, and by the way, this other woman had decided that my impeccable documentation was now no longer complete. I needed a translation of my license. No problem, I smiled, this international license supplies the translation. You guessed it, she refused to accept it. For goodness sake, how much translation is required of my name, a date and a few random letters of the alphabet? Because that's all there is.

No, I must find an officially approved translator, spend money, get it sent to me, come back and get this woman to give me a 'note from the teacher' to say my real license was on its way. My disguised anger should have choked me. Instead I had to be gracious and grateful. After emailing translators and getting no reply I decided to go to the NZ Embassy in Paris and organise it all there. I should have the translation in a week (having paid 60 euros).

The one thing I am grateful for is that NZ and France have an agreement to exchange licenses so I don't have to spend thousands of euros and a lot of stress doing French theory and practical tests here.

On checking the internet, here's the latest info on French driver licenses

New driver's licence from January 2013

As of this date, the licence will take the form of a credit card with a photograph and will include the details of the types of authorised vehicle. This new licence will contain a microchip and a machine readable zone. Note that from January 2013, drivers with an older licence will have their licence changed, and all old licences will be renewed by January 2033. It will be required to renew the new style licence every 15 years.

This reform is part of a European directive of 2006 which provides a single, secure format driving licence issued in all countries of the European Union (EU).


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