« Someone found me... | Main | Pick Knickers Blog Meet »

June 09, 2005


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Had a run in with a fonctionnaire today...:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I heard that you actually have to be harsh with them, and get just as pissed back at them. Let them know that you're not going to take any shit! But then again I don't know, I'm the type to have mortification written all over my face. (And it doesn't help when I look a lot younger than my real age either!)


Juliana- I look a lot younger than my age too and people tend not to take my seriously. I know that this woman didn't take my seriously. It was pretty shameful the way she spoke to me but I suspect she be recieving a karma bitch slap soon. :)


oh my gosh
that reminds me of my carte de sejour story *snicker*
i HATE French fonctionnaires, especially the old haggy women.
I am so feeling your pain right now. You are not stupid and you are not the only one.
Things are better in Switzerland, you just have to give the fonctionnaires money every time you see them, but at least they're pleasant.


Oh dear, of course. CPAM. The bitch fonctionnaires from hell. Although I've had a few pleasant encounters with them too. But then, I've had pleasant experiences with the tax people, so... I suspect I just strike it lucky every time...
Don't take it personally, though, if you get a cow, she's a cow to everybody, not just you.


Ugh...I have been going through similar things lately. We are gearing up to go to the prefacture on Monday morning. It doesn't open until 9 am but we are going to get there at 7:30. And even though we have called and asked about all the correct documents, I am sure that we will be missing something. It seems I am always missing something.

Why are they so mean? Tibo and I have had a few positive experiences but there are far and few between. And usually we are in complete shock. "Wow, that person was nice." We leave and for the rest of the day we tell the story of the nice person at the Mairie, or the Secu office, etc. Often they are grumpy and intolerant for the entire day. It is not one of those it is 4:00 and I get off work in an hour type of things. Who knows....

I think you did a lot better than I would but then again I am not brave enough to go without my darling husband at this point. I think they would eat me alive.

living in the USA

Sweetheart, you should once try getting a US visa.... would broaden your horizon on fonctionaires...


i so disagree, living in the USA, I have done both...the US visa and the French fonctionnaire...nothing tops the hard condescenion and general rude bitchiness of the French. I think her horizons are pretty broad, and so are mine

AND I live in a so-called easy place to get a carte de sejour (not crazy like Paris or the 93) and they were still crazy hobags. My brother-in-law's US visa, an ARAB MALE, was a cakewalk compared to some of horror stories I have come across in France.


At least you didn't have to get naked for an X-Ray like in Besak. I am so glad I lived illegally there...


Aren't there any male ones? Can't you flirt with them a little or show a little skin to get what you want?


Totally sorry to hear about the day's encounter. Here where I live, Brownsville, Texas, we have ignorant people everywhere. Whats sucks more is that it is a voluntary igorance. Ugh... Hey don't sweat it! You'll be fine, what if you had hit her, would you have been deported???


OH my God!! I would have been sooo pissed!! I have been treatly badly both in America and out of America and it always seems like out of America hurts the worst because you expect everyone out there to be nicer than Americans. I would have had a hard time not bitching her out...but then again I would have had to do it in English......

Auntie M

Sorry to hear about the experience. I think it's one of the hardest things about being an expat... getting all the paperwork straight and knowing what you need in these situations. Next round will be to you... I'm sure.


Living in the USA - I'm married to a French guy, so I have been through the whole VISA process in the states and it's a peice of cake compared to the administrative hoops you have to hope here in France. My horizons are BROAD, dude.

Juliana- I'm sure there are male fonctionnaires somewhere in France just not in the offices I have to go to. Let me tell you where the flirting with the male employees really works is at the Sephora on the Champs Elysees. They hook you up with all kinds of goodies.

Sarah - next time I will be sending my darling husband to handle this with me, or at least bring him along. And now you have a darling husband, too! Yay!

Anne- you know she was semi-cowish with the other people before me, I think it something that had been festering inside her and when she got to me I was the straw that broken the camel's back. Oh well... I feel sorry that she has such a misrable life. And I believe in Karma and she'll be getting it right back in her face very soon.


I've seen perfectly normal French people expole and start screaming, practically foaming at the mouth, in these kind of situations. I, somehow, cannot bring myself to do the same.


This type of stuff happens to my wife...but never happens to me. Maybe the whole being 6'3" and the appearance that I'm not going to take any crap has something to do with it.

I wish you better luck next time.


Where you failed was in backing off. In fact, if she tells you it's a waste of her time, you should remind her that it's still part of her job, and maybe the person on the phone thought it was also a waste of her time not to warn you about the proper forms. Just tell her that if she gets this sorted out, she'll see less of you around.

But you must be tenacious. Never take no for an answer.


Nardac- still working myself up to that point. Before this day, I've had very little contact with administrative offices because the hubbs did it all for me. Get a little more experience under my belt those fonctionnaires won't know what to do. :)


Hey here it's cncz or Nice husband .....
I do not know why she calls me this way in her blog but, isn't it better than...
Anyway, feel your pain. But allow me to give you some tips.
First France is the most bureaucratic country ever among the western europe countries (don't try Egypt or Algeria...), however they all follow the same logic: Get all identifications ever possible to justify your existence.
In other words, the next time you get there:
- Bring all the paper that you can think about (copies + original). I mean, everything from your A level - highschool, last prescription, last letter from the CPAM or even your last 24 payslip (guess u get the pic).
- STAY polite in any case. The fonctionnaires love when you get mad so they can work less and justify not to help you.
- Play the dumb (work 80%) but...Let's say your are arriving in a big queue. Just trust me, go straight to the counter just to ask only 'One question'. It will save you time and maybe get a special treatment. To the other people, tell them 'Je ne suis pas d'ici, c'est juste pour une petite question'
- Please do not forget the: Bonjour, vous parlez anglais.
- Bear in mind also that fonctionnaire are people like you and me, but it is so easy for them to hide behind 'the bureaucracy' especially when u work as a clerk.
- Always get change in case you need to make extra copies.
- Get some food or be prepared to have a full day of bureaucracy ecperience.
- Be nice with people that are with you, thay might give you some tips.

Hope it helps, enjoy your time in Paris.
However to respond to the comment about how nice Sephora or the Champs Elysees people are sweet. They are but not for locals...


Hi Flare !

>>They should have taught you in French class how to deal with
>>these putain fonctionnaires but alas, they do not

Someone told me this years ago and I've never forgotten:

1 - There are gazillions of people who have nothing better to do than – wait for it – go sit in CPAM or other social security offices, like Allocations Familiales, for a) warmth (depending on the weather); and/or b) personal contact (they're lonely); and/or c) sheer boredom. There is also choice d) – they want something.

2 – These fonctionnaires have to deal with the people in 1 above, all. day. long. Five.days. a. week. Every.week. They are acting normally, for it is their world, not yours (nor Amerloque's). It is the seventh level of hell, just like Dante's Inferno, which you read in school. Remember ? (smile)

The first piece of advice Amerloque can give is, unless it is some kind of massively urgent life-or-death issue, is :
"Always, but always, call first. Never, ever go. Even mail is better than going." Amerloque's French wife operates on this principle when dealing with the French bureaucracy. She sets up all her paperwork, puts her feet up, draws a cup of coffee or whatever, and calls. Or writes. To Amerloque's knowledge, she has never, ever gone personally. She looked at Amerloque in horror, when he suggested it, once.

The second piece of advice is:

Think about signing up with some kind of group health scheme (company ? hubby's company ? women's club ? sports club ?) so that they can take care of dealing with the CPAM hassles. Instead of sending papers to CPAM and receiving money, you send the papers to the "Mutuelle", who then send the papers to the CPAM and act as an intermediary between you and the CPAM. Amerloque's wife did this for all the SS stuff that could be handled through a Mutuelle. Calm. Peace. Not speed, but calm and peace are priceless.

Things will be better tomorrow. What's that they say in Korea, the land of the morning calm ? (smile)



I read about this in a book called A Year In The Merde. You would really appreciate this story, it's about a Brit forced to live in Paris.



You have gotten some good advice in this thread, but I agree with you and many others that the bureaucratic culture in France is more heinously maddening than elsewhere and that we should not blame the victim. I am the biggest defender of France and French culture there is, but have been dealing with this for thirty years on and off and it does not get any easier than what you described. No matter how fluent you are, how old you are, how accommodating or how intimidating, most of them just do not want to be of any help. If you are able to appeal to any higher authorities, they will sometimes back down. On the front lines, they are relentless. After getting sent back and forth between the prefecture of the 14th arrondissement and the prefecture on the Ile de la Cite four times, and after tears didn't work, I went to a see lawyer. She told me that they had to process me at Ile de la Cite. So after I told them that I had gotten legal advice, they decided to stop lying about it and processed my carte de sejour request. For whatever reason, the fonctionnaire subculture seems to be an irremediable nightmare.


C'est la planque idéale la FP en France, alors les gens ne font rien, ou font mine de faire qque chose qui ressemble à du travail (comme préparer les prochaines vacances!).
C'est TRES TRES difficile d'y rentrer, il faut vraiment être très fort et servile pour avoir un truc intéressant mais ensuite tu n'en sors plus et tu n'as plus qu'à t'encroûter pour le restant de tes jours. Il y a des gens qui appellent ça avoir une vie...La Sécurité de l'Emploi comme on dit!
Je peux concevoir qu'il y ait un choc des valeurs avec des expats. Perso, moi le choc je l'ai eu la première fois où je suis allé à Londres: je n'ai pas fait la queue à la poste plus de 10mn (!!!) en France il faut compter (non il ne faut pas compter en fait...) 45 mn minimum pour avoir une guichetière souvent "grumpy" en effet...("rude" c'est plus approprié non?)
Oui la FP, ça coute cher, c'est inefficace et ça donne une mauvaise image de la France; mais c'est inamovible, irréformable. La seule solution, en fait, c'est d'attendre l'ouverture à la concurrence. Rassure toi: tout le monde veut que ça change (personne n'aime poireauter une heure pour un service minable, qud il y en a un), mais ça changera jamais...Parfois j'en viens à me dire que, l'un dans l'autre, je préfererais payer plus cher pour un service de meilleure qualité...

The comments to this entry are closed.