I had heard about French administration. I had heard that it was difficult, and that there would be a lot to do, and that it seems like a neverending process of signing papers and sending people documents they didn’t ask for when you were sitting in their office with everything laid out in front of you. Little did I know that the people telling me these things were really trying to ease me into this whole thing. They didn’t tell me I’d have nightmares about paperwork and paperwork-related PTSD. Also, on signing papers: apparently blue ink is THE ONLY COLOR INK YOU CAN SIGN ANY DOCUMENT IN. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Ever. So my question is, why didn’t anyone tell me and why didn’t anyone give me a shoebox full of blue pens as a going away present?! Whatever, I’ll just sit here and fume silently about my paperwork woes as I locate my translated birth certificate and take ugly passport photos of myself (you are NOT allowed to smile in these photos, ever) in metro station photo booths.
Where was I? Oh yes, paperwork. Let’s see what we’ve got here….Sarah and I filled out paperwork to open bank accounts around two weeks ago and still don’t have credit cards or checkbooks (did I mention the process is painfully slow too? I’ve asked other assistants and they’re in the same boat). We filled out paperwork and sent it to the OFII (French Office of Immigration and Integration), received a response saying they had received our paperwork, and are now waiting for another response telling us when to come in for a medical evaluation (did I mention that if we don’t have an OFII stamp in our passports after being here for 3 months then we can’t travel out of the country, but we have to wait for them to tell us when to come in?!). We filled out paperwork to get a Social Security card, but just received a letter saying there’s more stuff they need (did I mention that they didn’t ask for said stuff when we were there in person?). I filled out extensive paperwork at both my schools and signed this thing called a Procès Verbal d’Installation which I still have no clue what it means and sent it in to get an advance on my salary (did I mention that it needed to be sent in by October 10th and one of my schools didn’t have me sign that PVI thing until October 8th? And that they needed my social security number but I obviously don’t have one yet?). We sent in the paperwork to receive monthly metro passes about a week and a half ago, and still haven’t received them yet (did I mention that you can’t just go into a station and get one, you have to send for it, and in the meantime I’m still throwing my money at metro ticket machines?) We still have yet to fill out paperwork to receive government financial aid on our rent (did I mention that your landlord has to fill out part of it? We’re lucky that our crazy landlord comes by the apartment 3 times a week “just to check in,” but some people’s landlords live in other parts of France and rent using online resources, like my parents did with our apartment in New York). I’m sure there are other things that I’ve forgotten, which really can’t be good, but I’m struggling a little bit amidst this quicksand-like administrative work.
So, in short: French administration is notorious for always finding something new for you to fill out, and is notorious for taking for-freaking-EVER to generate any kind of response to the paperwork you sent in as quickly as you could because they told you it was urgent and had to be done right away like right now this very second stop whatever you’re doing even if you have shampoo in your hair or are putting out a fire or are giving birth and fill out this paperwork now! Clearly, it’s a little less urgent on their side of things.
And, as Forrest Gump says, that’s all I have to say about that. À bientôt mes chéris – that is, if I haven’t landed myself in jail for a paperwork-related crime of passion.