How to make French bureaucracy work?

I see a lot of people venting their frustrations about French procedures - Tax, driving licences etc.

Perhaps I'm just lucky, but I have never had a (really) bad experience.

The guichet godesses I have dealt with have always been helpful, polite, and surprisingly pragmatic.

Autoentrepreneur - registration completed in ten minutes in the URSSAF office.

Carte vitale - One form filled in, photos taken, card received a couple of weeks later.

All of the above completed over a cup of coffee with a smile.

The only slight frustration I had was when I received the taxe d'habitation for my old address, and could not find the exit inventory to prove I had moved. I returned again a day later with some other paperwork and the problem was solved.

I think a lot of bad experiences stem from the fact that staff are so used to people shouting the odds at them that they begin most meetings with a slightly defensive approach.

They are also programmed to want all the paperwork to be "just so" - if anything appears irregular they will generally panic a little. This is where a little schmoozing can help to ease the situation, rather than a rant about "bloody French ...".

I think the key piece of advice I would give to anyone is, if you need to get something done, go there in person! Phonecalls generally get you nowhere, and it's hard to mount a charm offensive over the blower.

Also, before going to any administrative office, read carefully what paperwork you need to take - The person in front of you will be ticking off the same list!

James - From your advice, I imagine that you've already seen this excellent video!

We have had just about the same experience. Hand shakes, make friends, talk about the traffic on the way and so on, notice any photographs on desks and details like that, the person you are dealing with has a snuffle then offer tissue, tell them you wish it could be in a nice little café over a good coffee. As you say, schmooze...