Surviving France?.. Doesn't bl*@dy feel like it!

Surviving France?.. not sure!

Obviously it’s not just France, life is throwing up little hurdles that if we were elsewhere would not seem so trying but add them to dealing with the French system, quality of service, materials and equipment in general and I’m about ready to return Falaise to a garrison town, re-annexe Anjou and storm the Palais de l’ Elysée whilst crying 'God for Harry, England and St George!!

Never again will I complain about UK beaurocracy, business taxes or customer services, never again will I bemoan standing in front of a sullen youth with a bolt through their eye brow on a grey wind swept rain sodden retail park while they happily (optimistic!) refund me or exchange a product that was of un-merchantable quality.

Never again will I take for granted the act of ordering online or by telephone in the knowledge that I shall receive the very item ordered within 24-48 hours.(or even receive the very item ordered).

I shall no longer take for granted making a telephone call, just because I pay a large multi national corporation a monthly fee and have a contract that says I have constant and immediate use of tele-communications and internet technologies, what I really have is a subscription to the Gallic lottery.

And when I am knowingly being ripped off by the technically trained with a degree in rubber stamping, because my acsent instantly doubles the price of any service and increases delivery time by a minimum of 2 months I will simply shrug and say ‘c’est la vie’… my arse!

Surviving… possibly.

Frustrated… definitely.

Ready to kill the next person to give me a gallic shrug… safety catch off… deep breath… take aim sqeeze trigger…, oops, sorry haven’t got my permis de chasse yet.

If anyone wants me I’ll be lying underneath the landy with a bottle of malt deciding what to do next!

Hi John

Interesting post.

I lived in France for several years and ran a hotel ( mainly French guests ).

I now live in Denmark and run a campsite.

I used to have a regular 9 to 5 professional job in the UK where I spent my life before I decided to jack it all in, my wife is Danish.

Denmark where I now live is a very well thought out country - they like order and things have to be done the right way and with efficiency but efficient service doesnt mean cheap - you do not get many shrugs here - when something is wrong they want to fix it.

When we first purchased our hotel in France we wanted a sign making up - we went to a professional, and then we went again because the order hadnt been processed from the scrap of paper it had been written on, then we went again, then we went again. The sign was to tell people that they should not put wood on the fire after our experiences with guests loading loads of logs on twenty minutes before deciding to go to bed leaving safety concious moi ( not to mention frugal ) to save the half burnt wood for the next night and to put the fire to sleep before I went to sleep.

Sometimes I used to wonder if I could live in the UK again - it is not as efficient as Denmark and being self employed really shook me out of "woolley think mode" so I tend to find it difficult to work with people who are not effective or efficient.

I used to draw unfavourable comparisons but now I am not so sure. I think that unless I had my dream location I am always going to find something to please me and something to p*** me off. Differences can be irritating when you are a foreigner and although its tempting to paint the home country in glowing colours we can forget the things that didnt work there as well.

I suspect if you move around enough you learn to love it and hate it at the same time and hopefully you get to like it regardless.

I must say after living in Denmark (where I dont always like it) the thing that I would have most reservation about if I were to return to the UK would be what seems to me from a distance to be an epedemic of opinionated comment based on little or no knowledge but I know deep down its probably everywhere. Having said that my wife and her Danish friends actually read the Maastricht treaty treaty before voting on the issue and that is not atypical of Danes so I do feel a little justification there.

Either way I am coming around to thinking that any foreign country will annoy you at least some of the time and I am becoming more gentle with my criticism because I sense that nothing will ever be perfect and if my mother country (the UK) does in anyway seem better then its only because I am used to it.

Take a deep breath and careful with that axe Eugene !!!

Kind regards


We couldn’t possibly have saved the amount of money we did without our french architect.
Although we had one or two who did trey it on, they soon learned that he knew what was a reasonable price and adapted their devis. Also, he took off money for mistakes and fines for late work. Impossible for us to do.

Have been here now in France for… (let me calculate)… 40+ years :o …
Have worked & studied here… not the easiest of places if you have entrepreneurial ideas.
But like everything, there are ways around it. Just can’t expect it to be straight forward. Have to think “outside of the box”. Here, if you don’t ask, you don’t get & it’s the same for the French. Most of the workmen do like to try ripping you off… I have an “intermediary” now, & wow does he save me money! It’s amazing just how they will instantly cut their prices. Yep, you have got to look @ the good bits, do have help on hand when dealing with the dreaded French administration (as the advice will differ from one “bureau” to another running around all over the place is exhausting, demoralizing etc). I don’t mind helping, or redirecting (don’t know everything) if you have a problem. I have enough stories to write a book or two. Best wishes,Jan

I know that all the things you say can at varying times be true but France does have much to recommend it. We were ripped off at the beginning by many french and english artisans but now we have found a local man who is a star, not ripping us off and producing good quality work to boot.

Also sitting under a tree with a bottle of malt sounds good, you want some company


“Bog off” has to be my favouritist Brit expression ever! - Thanks Richard for reminding me of it - . Not sure if this is on or off topic. In fact, the topic has left me standing. Probably time for a new thread and for us all to Bog Off and Get On with whatever it was we were supposed to be Getting On With. Or at least that’s what the wife thinks. Oops, err, what? Err, what? Oh yes, that would be it… ;~Sab

Oh John, I’ve laughed so much at this posting and many of the replies and responses. I love living here but can’t help but get fustrated at times and we all need to let of steam sometimes. Hang in there - it’ll be worth it (at least that’s what I keep telling myself) :slight_smile:

have you noticed…at least in paris…there is really no allowance for infirmity?..i fell at notre dame.and i was injured, but determined…i crawled out to see what i could…in the metro, of course…but here in the states the class action would be well underway…with years of litigation …but i must tell you…half the fun was watching the reaction when i asked directions…some people were helpful…some were…just what we have come to believe…i wasn’t crushed in the rush…but the possibility was distinctly looming…paris recognized my incompetence…but decided to let me live.

We bank with CA and La Poste, both take cash and both have ATM’s. When we were buying and a year after we moved here we were with Britline, having to post chqs was a pain, so we transferred to our local CA. Telling Britline to shut the account WHEN all cheques had been cleared. Did they do that - HAHA. We then got two registered letters from Banque de France and we were blacklisted, all credit stopped local account closed. It was very scary, and it was only for a 10 euro cheque!! Calling and writing made no difference. We paid the the person cash, and explained the situation (they were ok about it) got a signed letter to say we’d paid and after about two weeks we were back in the land of credit and normal living. Very scary!!

We have no problem paying in cash to our local La Poste - getting it out again is another matter, because it does not have an ATM, and you have to ‘order in advance’!

We use Credit Agricole Britline, which is in Normandy, and if we want to pay in a cheque we have to post it. We have yet to be in the fortunate position to have to pay in casd!

Barclays has a two door entry system and a security guard - yet…Bayonne is incredibly safe so I really don’t follow the rationale…very inconvenient!

You can see their point, kind of, no cash means they can have open customer desks which is friendlier and the staff have no reason to be fearful. I suppose too the cash the machine takes in is used to pay out so the machines are self feeding! An elegant solution in a way. If you have your carte bleu and pin, which I didnt. I wonder how long it takes to feed in 600E in 10s though and how many notes get rejected for being bent up etc? Big queues on shop paying in days.

Barclays in Bayonne no longer takes cash - the last time we wanted to pay some in we had to drive to Biarritz. Flipping ridiculous if you ask me.

BNP Paribas is my bank, they said that some of their branches still took cash but they were phasing it all out to reduce the risk of robbery. Seems the small rural banks are suffering from raids especially in the Charente where I am which is probably the poorest dept in France and full of desperate people. The machine is better equipped to resist robbery than the bank and is emptied and refilled by visiting bank security.

I had an amusant time in the bank trying to pay in 600E cash last week. You have to use the machine, I was told. OK but I hadnt my pin on me. Gallic shrug. So let me get this straight, you, a bank, cannot take my cash and credit my account? Non.

But I need to pay my fonciere and my account is empty. pas de p, take the cash to the tresorie. So they will accept cash but a bank wont?

C’est ca.

Apparently its down to security. The bank doesnt like having cash on the premises! Presumably then the bank robbers now target the tresorie, which not being a bank, is a push over

Odd isnt it. A bank that wont take cash. A bank without real money inside.


@ Charles called John (only to differentiate you from other Johns!!) I have always found both my local bank and local Mairie very courteous - but sometimes frustrating too. Like the time that I clearly explained to my bank that I needed a certified copy of my Passport (or birth certificate - I forget which) for a UK inheritance thing, and made an appointment to see “MY” man at the bank. Got there, waited, went in for appointment - to be told that in France it isn’t done at the Bank it is done at the Mairie!! Very polite - but I had wasted 3 days waiting for the appointment and an afternoon with the trip to the bank, when actually all I needed to do was walk 2 mins along the road to the Mairie to get a certified copy there! They were all very helpful and polite - but it was still a hugely frustrating afternoon!!
Also - when my daughter was at school in UK I filled in one form (I can see that may have changed since then) but I fill in reams of papers at the start of every school year for both Collége and Lycée here!! I definitely find there is more paperwork associated with education here than there was when we were in UK!!

@ Sandy Whitehead! “Mutual Respect” works for me!! :slight_smile:

John is sufficient!
I have always been impressed by the extremely good manners of the people where I live in Deux Sevres. It is usually the British who stand out because they are often noisy.As for service, the local bank and Mairie have always been very helpful and understanding. Compared to some of the paperwork involved in current UK education, I find France has less.

I do agree that there is ‘common courtesy’ I also believe that cultural differences do not change that concept. But maybe we should call it ’ mutual respect’. If we approach all situations with that in mind how can that be a myth?