sometimes, i hate this country.

May 19, 2007

preface: france is a unitary state, meaning that all power flows from the central government. while there may be sub-national political entities, they must ultimately bow to the will of the national assembly. for example,  in many towns in france, the city hall is not just a symbol of the city and its council; it is, in fact, the central government’s office and the symbol of the republic in a municipality (ergo, the french end up at their city halls much more often than their canadian cousins).

this is unlike other countries, such as germany, switzerland, mexico, canada and the united states, which exist as federal states, meaning that their sub-national divisions such as provinces (and, occasionally, certain cities) operate independently of the central government’s authority. for example, in canada, it is the position of the federal government that official bilingualism is good for the country. therefore, all services provided by the government of canada are generally available in both english and french. however, this does not apply to the provinces, as they are separate institutions with identities established under the constitution.

therefore, while canada as a nation may be officially bilingual, only new brunswick (and, to a much lesser degree, ontario) follows the federal government’s example. all others are either officially unilingual (such as quebec, where french is designated the language of business and daily life) or decline to choose any language as “official.”

of course, this doesn’t just apply to language. i’m just using this as an example. all governmental services operate this way. therefore, one should not expect to find any provincial representation at any consular office anywhere in the world (with the exception of quebec in some select countries, and then again, only for immigration purposes).

finally, vital statistics is a provincial department. there is no nation-wide registry of births or deaths in canada.

i’m sitting in an office run by paris’ police prefecture, waiting for my papers to be processed for my precious “titre de séjour.” my application was officially submitted at about 11h30. that does not mean that i arrived here at 11h30.

i got here at about 8h35, just as the office opened, since i figured that it would be worthwhile to avoid any chance of a horrendous queue as experienced at the préfecture in nanterre. i was “helped” by a gentleman who promptly informed me that my documents were not in order and that i needed my exchange documents in addition to my proof of student status. of course, i protest this and say that this was never mentioned on their website. monsieur answers that they don’t list everything up there. i tell him that i came all the way from the 12th district (the office is in the 15th) and that i don’t feel like going back for the documents. he says that it’s really not that far (virtually around the corner, in fact!) and that he can’t issue me a number without the documents.

i go outside, kick the wall a few times out of frustration, buy myself a croissant to allow myself to calm down and hit the metro.

return home, collect the documents, call the consular section of the canadian embassy (which, by the way, is only open from 9h00 to 12h00, monday to friday), get disconnected twice by an automated answering service, get back into the metro and head back to the prefecture’s office. i’m helped by a charming young woman who asks to see my passport and fill out a form (which, conveniently, i had already filled out on the metro). does she ask to see my exchange documents? of course not, nor does anyone else ask throughout the course of the morning, meaning that my trip home and back had been made for nothing, thanks to the insistence of some bureaucrat who didn’t have his facts straight.

i get a number, i sit down, i wait, i get called. i submit my documents. i’m asked to wait while the girl helping me does a bit of necessary paperwork.

when i get called back, she tells me that my birth certificate – the one for which i had waited ten weeks due to the fuck-up of other bureaucrats at bc vital statistics in victoria – was no good. you see, it doesn’t show my parents’ names, so according to the french, it’s no good to them.

my reaction to the girl is quick: without thinking, i shout out “you [informal] personally are cheating me!” she quickly turns from sweetheart to bitch and gets her superior.

i ask the supervisor why it’s necessary. the answer is typical of french bureaucracy: “why, it’s so we can put their names on the residency card, of course!” (ironically, juliette had mentioned several days prior that, in france, this is sometimes necessary information.)

i’m getting denied over this? the fact that my fucking birth certificate that i spent $27 canadian (plus 30 euro for the translation) on doesn’t have my fucking parents’ names on it? one of which i haven’t spoken to in a number of years? because they want to put this completely useless information on a card? jesus christ! my dad hasn’t been in france for thirty years; my mother, never!


i have a good sob slumped up against the wall of the building as i plan my next move.


4 Responses to “sometimes, i hate this country.”

  1. Milan Says:

    That sounds truly maddening.

  2. mkushnir Says:

    christ, you can say that again.

  3. Sean Says:

    Wow. How awful.

    I have heard many jokes about how unnecessarily bureaucratic the French state was, but I often thought them to be Anglo-Saxon exaggerations. Perhaps not.

  4. morgan Says:

    I agree with Sean. I’ve heard similar things about the french state. Man mikey, I feel for you. All this red tape to cut through and some of it is thicker than the rest…and that flaming hoop known as your parents names….ugh. I would kill…and I would probably react very similarly to the way you did. Only my tirade would’ve been in english! LOL

    But yeah…poor guy 😦

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