The Maire Comes Through-The Prefecture Doesn’t

I had the most unexpected surprise happen to me today. Absolutely thrilling, no less.

See, today was the day for me to go and make a visit to our local Maire to see what the heck was taking so long in getting our permit to have the roof and façade done. We’ve been sitting here for a while now just waiting on them to tell us it was ok to fix our major issues which has resulted in numerous days of wind-blown tuiles and water leaking through the roof into the third story area of the house when it rains.

I had heard from my contractor last week that he had submitted all the necessary paperwork to them in the beginning of December and that he had not heard back. So this morning I spent time preparing for the worst and what I was going to say to them if the worst happened.

To my utmost and most pleasant surprise when I went to see them, the lady who takes care of the permits said that it was issued yesterday and all was good. The work could begin when the contractor was ready. She even happily took me over to the large book in the office where all the recorded permits are kept and showed me my lovely document all stamped, signed and approved by the Mayor with the beautiful city coat of arms proudly displayed on it. She explained to me everything it said (the thing was only two pages) and even made a photo copy for me to take home.

I should frame the dang thing since it’s pretty much the first French Administration paperwork that has come back with no hassles. I tell you, that is a monumental thing. These guys didn’t ask for stupid stuff, they didn’t require endless pages of meaningless words with a signature on each page of everyone and their mother, and the best part is that the permits are FREE!!! Yup, you got it. I didn’t have to pay a centime for it. Thanks goodness for small miracles.

Seems like we are one very important step closer to getting’ her done.

Now, for the “real” French Administration news. Before leaving the building I was stopped by the lady (who I happen to really like cause she’s just plain nice) who is taking care of the renewals of my family’s titre de sejour cards. Mine doesn’t need to be renewed really. It’s good for 3 years, but Dude’s is only good for one year and Tinki never got hers cuz the prefecture in Marseille lost all her paperwork.

Anyway, the nice lady said that Dude’s paperwork was ok and that the issue was with mine. Now mind you, I only went in originally to change my address, nothing more. See when you live in France and you have some sort of resident or work visa and you move, you have to inform the French Administration within 8 days of the move, so that would have been sometime in early September that we did the informing. Yes, folks, still waiting. There seems to be one issue after another that we just keep getting called back for. So guess what it was this time??!! I swear none of you guys are even going to believe it… I swear!

Drum roll please… dum da dum…. They said that they didn’t like that I was smiling in my picture and they refused it! Now I have to go and take another picture to submit to them and I can’t be smiling in it!

I told you that you wouldn’t believe it! What the heck?? Really, they didn’t like that I had a smile on my face when taking a picture! I swear, you guys, I couldn’t even make this one up if I tried. Even the nice lady had a look on her face like, “Yaaaaah….I don’t really get it”. I seriously think that this was the first time she had even heard of this excuse!

So now off to the Cabine de Photo for another round of pictures so we can finish this thing. I told the nice lady I would be back on Friday with the new pictures of me making a mad face and maybe the French Administration would finally get that this whole thing has not been amusing.

So I guess it was pretty much a 50-50 day which is better than a 100% crappy day so I can live with it.

As for now, I will stare lovingly at my permit and feel all warm and glowing tonight while I relish in the fact that something actually got accomplished in a timely manner.


About backyardprovence

I was finally able to realized my dream of living in France when I moved here in 2010. I love to read,I love history and road trips. I want to be doing anything outside in the fresh air. I want to have an entire room devoted to a personal library.

Posted on January 11, 2012, in French Daily and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Post the pic…

  2. Lady, this non smiling photo stuff is one of the great things we got from USA paranoia . After 9/11, little by little a lot of hussle such as endless searches in airports and electronic passports have been spread all over the world . To prevent any trick ( I guess) all official photos are now submitted to strict rules . No scarf, no hat, no smiling, a straight face only .
    This is very new, and it doesn’t come from France . So before blaming France, ask your NSA at home .

    About the house permit you must have omited to tell something too . Never did we need to get a permit to make reparations or maintenance . A permit is only needed to build a new building, even a mere garage, or if people want to do major changes in the outside aspect of their house, because houses have to keep some harmony with their surrounding .

    To finish, trouble with every administration and public services have been increased every year since the last 20 years, because all French governments, so-called “socialist” or not, have followed the EEC ” In free market we trust” deregulations ( the EEC itself following its master, Washington/Wall street). Privatization of a good part of the services ( even administrative ones), incredible downsizing of public servants, hiring of underpaid and underprepared precarious employees everywhere, instead of professional and experimented “fonctionnaires”, all this completely non-French new direction has made life harder and harder for us . Before the absolute domination of “free market”, trains were always in time in France, administrative hussle was 3 times shorter, electricity was easy and cheap, and so on .

    • Hey Phil- I totally appreciate your comments and have noticed even since living here between 2003 and 2005, that the administration is becoming harder to deal with and of course, when you go to an admin office there are less people to help you. In the post office that I frequent (not in my town) there are four possible windows but I have never been there at a time when all of the windows had workers behind them to wait on you. The maximum was two. I personally haven’t had an issue with the post, it just seems strange not having enough workers to get those lines moving. Now that I work in France and mingle amongst the other employed and underemployed French I have found out that the wages here are despicable, even for those who are in so-called “higher position” jobs on top of the fact that this burdening government takes a ridiculous amount of money each month from employee’s pay checks and then again in September for income tax! I have no idea how the majority of the French are surviving in a country where this happens and then to top it off everything is ridiculously expensive. Travel isn’t even cheap like it was years ago! As prices keep rising, salaries keep getting lower and the French administration continues to be a circus, I will be very curious to see what is in the future here.

      As for my picture, I definitely know it has nothing to do with 9/11 or strict rules. The reason that I know this is because the photo I submitted is the exact same one that I gave the prefecture a year ago in Marseille and they accepted it just fine, no problem. It’s simply the department that I now live in just wanting to be difficult. Since September we we submitted our applications for the address change, they have asked for the ridiculous. Every couple of weeks I get another letter in the mail about what is wrong, what they won’t accept and what to fix. Why the heck don’t they just tell me the first time instead of dragging it out. I gave them this picture 4 months ago and this is the first I am hearing about it! That’s a crock. They are just being difficult with no reason. Like I said this same picture was accepted before with no problem.

      As far as the permit. We are having a contractor working on the house. The rules in our town are that we have to submit a bunch of paperwork to the Maire for approval (this included photos of what would be worked on, a plan of the exterior of our house, any old permits of work done, proof of ownership and something else that we had to get from the notaire but I can’t remember what). Then the office of urbanisme in our village looks it over and does a bunch of paperwork and “permits” you to do the work. The reason for it is they consider the painting of a three story very large house and a total new roof something major that is seen by everyone in the town since we live in the town center. The work can not be done until we have this document signed and stamped by the Maire. If the work was being done all inside our house, we would not have been obliged to go to the Maire. You can just do the work yourself and no one has to know about it. Since it concerns the facade (and the scaffolding will be set up in our neighbor’s yard ) and the roof, the city has to say it is okay for you to do the work after they inspect all your documents. Permit is what comes to mind since that is what we would say in The States. Without this document the contractor could start the work. The maire has every right to prolong or stop the work if you do not furnish your correct paperwork. Viola. That’s what goes on in my town.

  3. Hi Miss . In every town, if you wish to drastically change walls or roof colour, you have to ask for a permit, for collective esthetical reasons .
    About photos, it depends on which document you want . I discovered last year that for passports, ID cards, driving licenses, you must now respect strict rules all around France . Maybe the document you required in Marseille was from another kind, a lighter one .

    Why didn’t they tell you before, every administration is becoming a complete mess right now . Rules change all the time, employees are forced to do works they never learnt as well as their ordinary one because they don’t replace retired people any more, young underpaid “slaves” do many tasks in administration, which was forbidden by law until the 80s, and here we are .
    If France has kept a last bit of her soul in this globalized brainless world, the real new revolution will arise here . But a lot of French lost their spirit and knowledge in the last decades, just like everywhere . Who will stop Barbarity before a universal nightmare ?
    I don’t care who starts, I just hope we will do it .

    • Hi Phil-My point exactly about them not telling me they didn’t like my photo. They’ve been staring at it since last September and they’ve had plenty of time to let me know! I suppose they could have just gotten the news about no smiles, but if that’s true (and I’m sure it’s not) then if they would have processed my stuff in a timely matter it all would have been finished before the new rules came into effect. As for the one in Marseille, nope same photo and same document. The nice lady at our Maire told me the last time I had to go in to give her some stuff that our department is more over bearing than Marseille. I think they have too much time on their hands since not as much immigration applications are processed as those in Marseille. This means that most likely they can sit around an dwell on the stupid stuff and Marseille just doesn’t have time for it. Could be true.
      I truly don’t mind having to give info to them as proof that I am here legally. I think it’s a great policy seeing as illegal immigration is so out of control in many countries. I just wish they would tell you in the beginning what they want and how they want it, then you know the rules. Instead it’s always so vague and that is frustrating because they start telling you “no” in stages! I also hate that one department of administration doesn’t know what is going on. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing!
      Well, I guess I still have to playing the waiting game and hope that they get their act together soon. It’s not quite what revolutions are made of, but it could be close:)

      • I’m not sure we’re speaking of the same thing . Your anger seems addressed to administrations in general, or French ones and their general spirit. My anger is addressed to the direction things have taken lately .
        Thirty years ago you met people who knew what was needed . Ten years ago you could avoid exasperation, sometimes .
        Now there are too few workers, most of them either have been forced to leave their usual tasks for budget restrictions and find themselves in an unknown domain OR are just precarious employees under a short term underpaid contract, and have received a virtual training . In real French republic this was unthinkable : in public services or administrations there only could be state employees, with a real formation and enough experience to know .
        As though this was not enough, every year successive “governments” change the
        rules . Every year, and this is true for any French public system, procedures change . I’ve seen this madness coming . This also is a new disease . No wonder you get vague answers . It’s funny because in the France I’ve been bred in, vagueness in administration was totally banned and rather unthinkable too .
        BTW, I discovered to my surprise in 1981 that England had some common point with Morocco . I had a train ticket from London to Inverness through Glasgow, I wanted to go through Edinburgh, and I tried to ask if I could do that with no penalty to the guy behind the ticket desk . After some insistance all I could get was ” Maybe, you’ll see with the conductor in the train” . But I wanted to know before it would be too late . I tried another unifrom guy, and I got the same answer .
        I was amazed before this would never have happened in France, and by this time I thought the UK was under a strict mechanical control . This reminded me a scene of ” Three men in a boat”, when the author tells how he was asking in Waterloo Station which of the trains was the Liverpool Express or whatever . He asks everybody in the station, even train drivers, and it’s very funny .

        All this to say, don’t blame French administative routine, which has some good very old reasons to exist ( in fact this comes back to 1790s), but you can blame what’s going on now in every western country .

      • Hi Phil-Unfortunately, I have no knowledge of what the French administration was like many years ago. This is the first I’ve ever had to deal with it. It’s true that all government bureaucracy is falling to this curse, too. The United States is by far the worst offender (being American and openly admitting to this). I definitely know that if I was an immigrant to the US I would be complaining far worse than what I am doing here. They are relentless about immigration and it is much harder to immigrate there than here, but since I am doing the immigration here, I have to complain about my frustration and like I said, I have no previous knowledge to go on only my present day exasperating experience.
        I do hear you on the turn for the worst when it comes to administrative things, though. I have the same complaints about the administration in American which is so much worse than when I as a child. Only there it isn’t about underpaid, underemployed, or undereducated people, it is in fact the opposite which I feel is one of the main reasons why it is so bad. In The States these bureaucrats are over-educated, over paid and lazy, but it’s also exasperated by the fact that they also have too much power and not enough power to the people. Just like in France, their direction has changed and it is definitely for the worst.
        In the end, I would much rather deal with French Administration and their small idiosyncrasies. Even so, I will continue to vent my frustrations just because I am living it at the present. No country is going to be easy to immigrate to. I have a feeling every one would have something bad to say about how their present day administration is going to pot.
        Oh, by the way, I just came back from two places to have my new photo taken. To top it off, both of their photo booths were out of order and I couldn’t get it done. There is always something, isn’t there!

      • Lady, be careful with your photo . One year ago I had to renew my old unreadable driving license, and I discovered there were so many forbidden and compulsory things I said “Wooh…” The office lady told me I’d better go and have it done by a pro photographer because “now they know what’s required” . If you walk in town you’ll see some signs ” Photos d’identité ” officielles or not, in some photographers’ windows . If you do it in a photo booth, unless you know exactly the stuff, you may be disapponted once more when you go back to the office .

      • Hi Phil-Well,the photo booth (both of them) said that it took photos for official documents so they had better work or boy is someone gonna hear about it!

      • Well Miss ( I don’t know how to call you between David and Fisher, and son ) if I remember well my “1984 Orwellian times are coming” photo experience, the office lady told me things like nothing on your head, no glasses, no hat, no scarf around your neck, and you have to look at the camera straight, with no expression . Something about the head’s position too, not to up not too down, perfectly straight, horizontally and vertically . I don’t rememger well, I said OK OK .
        That’s why I did pay for a bloody photographer . Unless your photo boots have detailed explanations, you’d better ask someone first, maybe a photographer

  4. Ashley, the mad-face-because-this-is-not-amusing comment makes me chuckle. Do it! I dare you!

    I’m in the States. I told my daughter last night to remind me to get you some peanut butter!

    • Hi Toni-I am and I am posting the picture, too! Thanks for the peanut butter. Can you believe something so insignificant could be so wonderful! Ahhh, peanut butter, the grand staple of my family’s eating habits.

  5. Congratulations on getting your permit. That is a major step forward. Now about that picture, long before 9/11 and all the additional security, I remember that I went to renew my US passport and sent in a picture which had been taken at the end of the summer. I had a very dark tan and the passport agency rejected the picture because they said my skin was too dark for a caucasion. Face it, bureaucrats in all countries are weird.

    • Hi Michel-Okay, I laughed at that one! I feel a cry of racism coming on 🙂 I can’t believe they said that. I guess that kind of beats my story on just cracking a smile and yes, bureaucrats are weird. I even think that when you look that word up in the dictionary the definition should be “see weird”!

  6. Yippee – don’t smile for too long though, keep practising your serious photo face. We British citizens are no longer allowed to smile on our passports either, so don’t feel too bad about it!

    • Hey Jacqui-I think that policy is so dumb and I don’t even get why. I guess it doesn’t matter because any explanation they would give would probably be lame anyway. But in any case, I gotta go give them another one. Just what I want to do, go take a photo for the government! That was so not number one on my list of things to do.

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