What a business! This changing of address in France! We just find all this administration ridiculous, totallly unnecessary, a complete waste of time!
After selling our house in the Var 2 months ago, we had to declare our used-to-be-second-home as our principal residence and as a consequence, we had to go through a lot of unnecessary administration like changing our car plate numbers (from departments 83 to 06) changing the address of our Carte Vitale (the card which allows us almost free medical cover), of our tax return, changing from one bank branch to another, and today, I started the first phase of changing the address in my French residence card,
The window transaction took only 3 minutes, but it’s the waiting at the queue outside the building exhausted every nerve cell out of me. It’s reminiscent of the queues infront of the Dept. of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines for applying or renewing passports. The advantage in the Philippines is, you can pay someone to do it for you. This is not the case in France.
The Prefecture in Nice opens at 9am. H dropped me at the gate and I got to the queue at 7:30am where 80 to 100 people were already ahead of me. This month of April, the Spring weather is still cold and rainshowers are recurrent. I’m glad I came well-protected from both as the showers started pouring as soon as I arrived. What gets me about Prefectures is that: you could be snowed over, hit by lightning, soaked wet or washed away in floodwaters but the functionnaires in their glasscovered counters wouldn’t care an inch as to install a waiting shade with benches or provide us each with an umbrella as it is common knowledge that these French civil servants take delight in making an applicant’s life miserable for a day. One classic example: you queue up for hours and hours, armed with a foot-thick transparent file containing all the imaginable documents you have ever since you were born to this earth but as soon as your turn comes up, she would ask you for an insignificant document that you haven’t thought related to your application so how ever you dramatize your situation, that you cannot possibly get hold of that document because your house just caught fire yesterday and all you were able to save was that foot-thick transparent file and the clothes you are wearing now, he will nary a chance sympathize with you as these functionaires are made of stony heart.
To be honest with you, my readers, I actually suffered the same fate few days ago, but not because our house caught on fire – it’s just my unnecessary stupidity.
To recant: Last week, I arrived at the queue at 6:30am complete with all the documents you could imagine. The previous day, the weather was so lovely, with blue skies and I actually had my first wear of duster this year, at home, as it was quite hot. So basing my weather prediction of that previous day, I went to the Prefecture in an almost summer dress. Lo and behold, I didn’t listen to the Weather News and I was caught unprepared. That day was particularly cold and it started to rain just as soon as I installed myself behind the 30th person in the queue. So imagine, I stood there for 2 1/2 hours shivering to the bones, but at least, I had an umbrella! When the main door finally opened, everybody ran inside like there was a stampede! I arrived at the room where I thought was the place intended for Changing Address of Residence Cards. I must have stood on the line for 40 minutes. When my turn came, the functionnaire said I am in the wrong room and that I must go to the other room next to the entrance. I was petrified! I almost wailed to the lady as I am sure I would be queueing up again.
“Don’t worry! the lady said. She said it in a magical way that I instantly believed her!
So I went to “the other room next door”.
“Huh, another queue, but no worries, only 10 people on the line.”
And guess what? As soon as the applicant infront of me reached the glass-covered counter, a notice was being put up stating “No more tickets!” (the “take-a-number” ticket system)
And I assumed that they just ran out of ticket because they didn’t bother to order from their printer. So when I reached the counter and explained to the man that I have been at the Prefecture grounds queueing up since 6:30 in the morning but committed the stupid mistake of waiting in a different room for 40 mins, and now finally that I reached “this” room that they have the gall to announce the depletion of their ticket supply?
“Desole, madame! (sorry, madam) Come back tomorrow!”
Believe me my dear readers, it’s not like I left the building without putting up a fight. I went back to the lady where I wasted 40 minutes queueing up, asked for her help, went into hysterics, went back to the room (the one next to the entrance), threatened them that I am going to shoot myself if they don’t give me a ticket…but to no avail!
You can cry blood instead of tears but as I’ve told you, a functionnaire is made of stony heart.
Luckily today, I got through the first stage. I just have to wait now for their notice (via the self-addressed envelope I submitted) that my newly-addressed residence card is ready for pick up. And that means queueing up as early as 7:30am and going through that stampede again.
By the way, after my transaction this morning, and after ecstatically calling up H to say “he could now pick me up as I was done”, and on my way out of the building, I noticed that the room where I just did the transaction had its shutters closed down, i.e., no more receiving of applicants for the day…and it was only 10:30am! So that explains why it’s really important that you are already there at dawn and, if possible, pitch tent the night before so you are assured to be the first on the line!