Ask any expat what they find hardest about living in France and the answer is invariably the same, dealing with the dreaded French administration. Ask them what is the one most stressful thing when it comes to French form filling and time and time again, the response will be the same, getting a Carte Vitale. Like most expats, I’ve had my fair share of dealing with official government departments and I can honestly say that on more than one occasion I’ve been close to breaking point when trying to sort out health cover issues. It took me nearly three years of letter writing and general hassle to get my daughter issued with her own Carte Vitale (and this was despite her having been in the system for the last decade) so if there’s any way to avoid the pain of going through this process, then I’m sure I won’t be the only person who’s eager to hear about it!
So I’m sure you’ll be delighted to know that there is now way to deal with French administration without tearing your hair out… SFN member John Dislins has recently launched Please Help a bespoke trouble shooting service for English speakers in France. The idea behind Please Help is quite simple. They will deal with all the things that you don’t want to. As John explains, “My professional background is problem solving and trouble shooting and I’ve worked for some of the biggest companies in France as a project manager. When we moved to France in 2008, we moved several times and despite being bi-lingual, I quickly realised that getting healthcare and social security cover sorted can be hugely complicated. I was born in Belgium and lived in both France and the UK when I was growing up so I have a foot in both camps but when I came to live here I saw that the problems are often not just caused by the language issue. People can be perfectly able to speak French but still find the French system too complex to deal with. And this can be incredibly frustrating. You need to keep a level head which you can’t always do if you are personally involved!”
John decided to start PleaseHelp to use the skills that he has as a consultant to help people facing these kind of problems. Getting Carte Vitale issues sorted is a big part of the workload but John finds that he and his team also spend a lot of time advising French residents on employment, pension and family problems. He and his partner Nicky have six children between them, the older children were born in the UK and the younger ones in France so they are all too familiar with the paperwork involved. John says he specialises in “helping people to get what they are entitled to’ and that as far as the infamous Carte Vitale’s are concerned, “providing people have the right to one, I have been known to complete the process and obtain the card within 30 days. I know exactly what is needed to obtain the card and will supply all the required information in the correct formats, thus fast-tracking the process and preventing any delays.”
John is keen that the service should be affordable with no hidden charges so he has created a simple pricing structure where clients can have a monthly contract for as little as 30€. This will cover things like company set up and creation, dealing with official paperwork or simply canceling a mobile phone contract. He also prides himself on providing a very fast turn around. He explains “We have a facility to flag queries as being ‘urgent’ on the contact form. These can then be prioritised according to need. For example, last week I had a client who needed his health cover sorting ASAP as he had a hospital visit scheduled. I was able to get his attestation and fax it directly to the hospital admissions department. We have a massive database of FAQ’s which means that my team can offer a very fast response.”
Pleasehelp.fr can provide court approved translations - €45 for (1 page) birth or marriage certificates - less still for pre-translated documents; other languages are available upon request. John is also happy to help organise any kind of travel arrangements which is a real bonus for those of us who don’t particularly enjoy speaking French on the phone.
So if you need to book a taxi, phone a medical specialist, get a Carte Vitale or have any other administrative issues to tackle, why not give John a call and see if he can help?
I used the services of "please help.fr" recently and my problem was solved with a phone call and utter pleasantness. Highly recommended. John was great and actually there was no charge in this case. Great result.
A Further update on John... as a result of his persistence with Pacifica and up to 6 phone calls a day to them we have now received the money for our claim (20k Euros).
John managed to knock down all their objections over the 7 weeks the claim took, starting from 'you have no claim at all', thru 'your policy is invalid' , 'you are only 60% covered', 'you do not have new for old' (I live in a 17the century building!} and finally we don't believe this is a Catstrophe Naturelle (declared by the Marie 6 weeks ago).
Cannot recommend PleaseHelp and in particular John Dislins highly enough. He has guided me through the complexities and nightmare French bureaucracy many times. Well worth the subscription in my opinion.
John has been a great help to me and my family in dealing with the recent Catastrophe Naturelle here in the Languedoc. He has helped us communicate with the maire, builders, tree surgeons and most of all our insurance company. He even let me into the secrets of FREE mobile and their Tabac sim card machine.
I would unhesitatingly recommend him and look forward to a long mutually beneficial relationship. All 30 euros a month incredible.
Hi John, I was wondering if you would give me a call on 06 48 59 06 99. I was about to set myself up in business doing the same as you are doing. I live near Carhaix, 29 and was wondering if rather to set as competitions, I could join forces with you. I am french leaved in the UK for 20 years. Perfectly bilingual. I too notice how most are struggling to find their way around the system. Dealing with suppliers, administration… Because they don’t ask the right questions, they most of the time miss out
Its a very nice idea and a bit localised, e.g. home care or support for elderly it will be very useful for many. We are getting an elderly couple every now and then to the sunday service and just imagine how much they struggle with admin issues in daily life...
John, get a French member of your team to proofread the French version of your site - considering how much actual text there is, there are rather a lot of minor, but still off-putting, grammatical and other mistakes.
I'm going to say something apparently frivolous that does help. Get dressed up smartly when you go to see fonctionaires. If you're one of a couple, let the woman speak to a man with plenty of fluttering of eyelashes, or the man speak to a woman with plenty of flirting, even if she's an old boot. This goes against the grain for a lot of Brits, but grit your teeth and try it. It sounds so trivial, but you'll be surprised at the change of attitude and politeness, especially if they are faced by a suit. The bureaucracy will still be there, but the person dealing with you may go out of their way to be helpful.
The Carte Vitale was not too bad for us, though long-winded, the worst thing was actually importing our car, a virtually new Nissan. Applying for our Carte de Sejour was a laugh looking back, but took some time.