mercredi 29 mars 2006

The French really seem to love paperwork. Especially when it comes to getting married. From the book
"A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle (they are explaining how to buy a car)

We should have been warned by the complications attached to the purchase of the house. We wanted to buy, the proprietor wanted to sell, a price was agreed, it was all straightforward. But then we became reluctant participants in the national sport of paper gathering. Birth certificates were required to prove we existed; passports to prove that we were British, marriage certificates to enable us to buy the house in our joint names; divorce certificates to prove that our marriage certificates were valid; proof that we had an address in England. (Our driver's licenses, plainly addressed, were judged to be insufficient; did we have more formal evidence of where we were living, like an old electricity bill?) Back and forth between France and England the pieces of paper went- every scrap of information except blood type and fingerprints- until the local lawyer had our lives contained in a dossier. The transaction could then proceed.
We made allowances for the system because we were foreigners buying a tiny part of France, and national security clearly had to be safeguarded. Less important business would doubtless be quicker and less demanding of paperwork. We went to buy a car.
It was the standard Citroën deux chevaux, a model that has changed very little in the past twenty-five years. Consequently, spare parts are available in every village. Mechanically it
is not much more complicated than a sewing machine, and any reasonably competent blacksmith can repair it. It is cheap, and has a comfortingly low top speed. Apart from the fact that the suspension is made of blancmange, which makes it the only car in the world likely to cause seasickness, it is a charming and practical vehicle. And the garage had one in stock.
The salesman looked at our driver's licenses, valid throughout the countries of the Common Market until well past the year 2000. With an expression of infinite regret, he shook his
head and looked up.
We produced our secret weapons: two passports.
We rummaged around in our papers. What could he want? Our marriage certificate? An old English electricity bill? We gave up, and asked him what else, apart from money, was needed to buy a car.
"You have an address in France?"
We gave it to him, and he noted it down on the sales form with great care, checking from time to time to make sure that the third carbon copy was legible.
"You have proof that this is your address? A telephone bill? An electricity bill?"
We explained that we hadn't yet received any bills because we had only just moved in. He explained that an address was necessary for the carte grise- the document of car ownership. No
address, no carte grise. No carte grise, no car.
Fortunately his salesman's instincts overcame his relish for a bureaucratic impasse, and he leaned forward with a solution. If we would provide him with the deed of sale of our house, the
whole affair could be brought to a swift and satisfactory conclusion, and we could have the car. The deed of sale was in the lawyer's office, fifteen miles away. We went to get it, and placed it triumphantly on his desk, together with a check. Now could we have the car?
"Malheureusement, non."

We must wait until the check had been cleared, a delay of four or five days, even though it was
drawn on a local bank. Could we go together to the bank and clear it immediately? No, we couldn't. It was lunchtime. The two area of endeavor in which France leads the world- bureacracy and gastronomy- had combined to put us in our place.
It made us mildly paranoid, and for weeks we never left home without photocopies of the family archives, waving passports and birth certificates at everyone from the checkout girl at the supermarket to the old man who loaded the wine into the car at the cooperative. The documents were always regarded with interest, because documents are holy things here and deserve respect, but we were often asked why we carried them around. Was this the way one was obliged to live in England? What a strange and tiresome country it must be. The only short answer to that was a shrug. We practiced shrugging.

So you say, "Nice way to copy and paste from a book Megan, but what does this have to do with getting married?" Everything of course.
I think even the French don't like getting married in France.
Here is what we have done so far
1) Similar to organizing a space launch, we had to carefully coordinate the City Hall, the Curé, and the Reception place for time and date.
2) Beginning of January we went to the City Hall to get the file.
3) Beginning of February I made an appointment with the Consulate to get the two pieces of paper required- saying I am not married and am free to get married in France (ie a marriage in France will be recognized in the US)
4) End of February, as close as possible to February 26th but not a half a day before, (cannot be issued more than 3 months before the date of the wedding. Because this would obviously require that you use the regular, cheaper shipping, not the arm and a leg express processing) get several copies of my birth certificate issued in VA and expressed over here. This was accomplished quickly, but it took me another week to coordinate my schedule of being home with that of the FedEx delivery person. He finally just left it at school for me.
5) Next I dropped it off at an official translator's to get translated into French. Not bad work- 50 euros for about a half an hour of work.
6) Find a doctor (see Healthy Thoughts entry), get the initial medical exam, get blood drawn and tested, (unlike for buying a house, this did require our blood type) get results, bring them back to the doctor as close as possible to March 26th- can't be done earlier than 2 months ahead of time, or else it isn't valid.
7) Fill out the paperwork, including the witness sheet. Each of us must have at least one witness, no more than two. If both of my witnesses do not show up the day of the wedding, we cannot get married. At least one must show up for each side. Must attach photocopies of their national ID. For Europeans, this is easy. For Americans, they will not accept driver's licenses. Nope, it has to be the passport. Argh. Fill out sheet including their names, occupations, and addresses, attach photocopies.
8) Attach proof of where you are living. This can be phone bills, electricity bills, rent payments, etc.
9) Have a mini heart attack when you realize that the Birth Certificate issued by Vital Records on the official paper with the official stamp is not official enough and that it needs an Authentication by the Office of the Secretary Commonwealth Authentication Division of Virginia saying that officially, this official document is officially official.
10) Panic and think that you may not be able to get married when and where you want, consider running off to Vegas.
11) Search for Vegas-like places in Europe.
12) Realize that there aren't any, and that you are in big trouble.
13) Make quick calls to the Consulate (who says that they can sign an official statement that you swore that your official birth certificate is officially yours), French Department of Foreign Affairs, and other City Halls, to see if they all require this- they don't, so you consider changing the location of the civil service.
14) Breath a big sigh of relief when you find out that the French Bureacracy is so crazy that even the city hall workers think it is crazy and waive the requirement.

2 commentaires:

Ed/Sue Smith a dit…

This is really funny! You ought to write a book once this is all over. We're going to have a big party no matter what when we all get over there. C'est la vie!

Anonyme a dit…

UNreal! Hard to keep one's sang-froid when dealing with such craziness, non?


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