Feeling funny about France

Hi Guys,
Sorry for putting it under password protection for a few days but I wanted some particular family members to read this first. It is about a few simple facts of expat life. Part of it is that Seb and I realised that I am a housewife and will probably be a housewife for the next year or so.

As a way of explaining, my culture shock has been a bit like this scene with the unfortunate crab in Disney’s Little Mermaid, The more he tries to avoid those awkward horrible situations the more they chase him around:

Part of the point of that is, that I am now a housewife. There is no jobs available for me right now. Everytime I applied for a job I got treated like a specimen to CHOP APART. I realised I don’t speak enough french and unless you have a masters people barely look at you for employment. What “chopped” me more was that to even get a cleaning job I needed to apparently be a perfect French speaker.  So here I am doing something I had refused to even think about. Let alone consider.

Another part of the puzzle is France. It is Sebs home not mine. We live in his hometown too so everyone knows him. Everything is familiar for him, everything is expected and normal. For me I am the opposite of that in every way. I am Australian. Part of me felt a little foolish for my reactions, and left me worrying that in come cases I had overreacted.

After researching it I realised that I am fact a textbook example of moving overseas:
“What they, the foreign spouse, must learn to deal with is the loss of identity and the subsequent period of reshape and remodelling that ensues in the new environment.

As the trailing spouse leaves friends, family, a career path or an impassioned endeavour, priorities begin to shape shift and reordering them can become chaotic in its own right. Co-authors of “A Portable Identity”, relocation coaches Debra Bryson and Charise Hoge explain the phenomenon as a four stage process.

“The trailing spouse goes through several alterations: first, by the decision to move; second, by the actual departure from her home country; third, by the entry into the foreign country; and, finally, by the addition of new roles and relationships in her life overseas.”

This transition can result in feelings of resentment, disorientation, depression, boredom and extreme pessimism. When coupled with the problems of career abandonment, family issues, lack of support and difficulties in maintaining meaningful work the mental landscape of the trailing spouse can become very rocky indeed. “

My attitude right now is normal, I do really resent my situation right now, and that in turn makes me feel guilty and ashamed for feeling like that and then sad that it is happening. (maybe you can see a circle here like I can?)

An expatriate in Belgium describes it perfectly below.
“My support network was far away. I knew my friends and family loved and supported me, but I also knew they didn’t really understand what was wrong. How could they when I didn’t know myself?

The only person I had to talk to was Andrew. He would come stumbling in at the end of a long difficult day at work (saddled with his own stresses revolving around a new job) and just want to crash on the couch – the couch that still had the impression of my butt from sitting there all day long. I would be raring to go somewhere or do something – anything.

And I wanted to talk – and talk and talk, because I hadn’t talked to another soul all day (unless you count the cats who were frankly bored of my nattering and aren’t the greatest conversationalists.) Andrew just wanted to unwind from work, watch a little TV; read his book. It was a recipe for arguments – lots of them”

I can add to this much more and in so many ways. What is above is merely a basic vague summary. But at least I know I am normal. I am praying for that sixth month to arrive. As much as I have read, people start to get comfortable at six months.

I am a housewife. But here is where that remodelling comes in. I have never been able to sit down and take time to work out what I like to do the most. Part of it too means that like that little crab I may get away just in the nick of time to live on the shore but still survive.

Hope it gave some of you guys hope.
Nik

xxx

Part 2: The process of Marriage to a French Citizen

Seb proposed to me on the 17th of January, I left France at the end of February and was married on the 27 of April.

After the nearly mind-boggling visit to the prefecture I decided to try my luck on home turf. STUPID STUPID WOMAN I was…. Thinking that I would have better luck.

You have to realise that the further french people are away from a French bottle of wine the more grumpy they get. (I think the Australian Reds and New Zealand Whites are perfectly fine thankyou, but being in Australia I often heard a french person wax lyrical about that Red Bordeaux). This grumpiness resulted in often spectacular results, quite often with me dreaming of murder on french soil in Australia.

With bags still full I commenced my first call to the local consulate about information to commence the paper process of marriage. After two minutes of speaking broken french the man bursts out in Englsih. “DO NOT call Brisbane. Marriage “thing” is for Sydney.”

Not to be deterred I immediatly googled and called the Sydney Consulate of France.
“Hi, I would like to speak to someone about marrying a French citizen in Australia?” I remember trailing off, hopeful that this person in Sydney would be more English speaking than the Brisbane consulate.
“Erggggg blah blah blah blah… blah blah blah blah…” Was the reply in that fast french.
“Erm Je ne comprends pas… slowly please”
“Get your boyfriend to call- BEEP BEEP BEEP!”

Yep she hung up on me after telling me to get Seb to call. So he would at midnight in France call Sydney,Australia. We quickly found out that they hang up before even speaking to you. Really you have to hope they are in a wonderful mood (If I could have I would have laced their water with anti-depressants).

After about 2 weeks of calling everyday we finally hit the jackpot. We had PAPERWORK. Which sounds like a nightmare. But was actually wonderful to have a direction. We had information for lodging a Banns in France which is like an intention of marriage for Australia.

Because we are two different nationalities we had to lodge both. For Australia, its a document stating that you are of an ability to marry and your passport or birth certificate as identification.

The banns requires all that stuff plus proof of address, proof of relationship, proof of no previous continuing relationship, and sometimes even toenail clippings(just joking for the last bit).

If it wasn’t an original they would send the whole thing back to you. It also all had to be within three months of issue. These people like shiny new things. Not some document that was 23 years old like my Australian Birth Certificate.

To compact that problem. The documents for a Banns changes from district to district. If you are going through this yourself. Call the local district of your partner to be. Some places are content with a passport. Others need your life story.

In the end we had two rejections for bad compilation of paperwork. And one delay with Sebs birth certificate needing to be reposted from France to Sydney. I was interviewed about our relationship and to stop them critising the relationship I submitted copies of my passport for visitation dates, every email we had written, phone texts and calls plus facebook documentation. From submitting those documents the “realness’ of our relationship was accepted.

We recieved the go ahead to marry A WEEK BEFORE THE MARRIAGE. I’ll continue next post about the documents needed post marriage. (Yes there is more.. You really had no idea, did you?)

Chat Noir

So I am pretty convinced that I am THE BLACK CAT… Seb has passed on his bad luck to his usually good tempered wife.
In the space of a fortnight I have
# broken my favourite necklace
# burnt my leg on Sebastien’s motorbike exhaust
# paid an extra $700 to get to France
# Got a flat tyre on the four hour drive home from the aiport turning it into a 6 hour adventure after 29 hours of plane trips.
# paying a further 300 Euros to get a stamp to validated my visa.
# have catered for a friends birthday only for them to invite an extra 5 people for what was a 6 person dinner…

The necklace is fixed, and my leg is healing.

The car tyre was replaced along with the other front tyre. (Found out that here if you want to be covered by insurance you must replace both at the same time, nasty surprise)

I am seeking reimbursement for the airport problem.
I had arrived and my travel agency had not reissued my ticket for a date change. Emirates had me as having already flown on the 29th of July. Luckily they re-issued the ticket on the spot. (I paid $700 and am now seeking a refund for said money)

The dinner for our friend I felt a little like Jesus, turning what was supposed to be a few tomatoes for a chicken salad into some bruschetta, followed by roasted stuffed chicken breasts and then pan fried rosemary potatoes. I literally was pulling stuff out of nowhere with the aid of some bread and potatoes. (Gotta love carbs to fill someone up!)

And the extra 340 Euros is for my medical stamp. Which leaves me to fume silently considering that if I was a student it would be around 55-60 Euros and a worker pays about 100. Why is it that an unemployed housewife (at the moment, I am looking for work!) has to pay so much for a stamp considering that I will be in the french society a lot longer and plan to conribute to it rather than a student or worker who is here for studies or money? That goads me into those silent snarls.

Does anyone else have these bad runs? I am trying to stay positive but sometimes that smile is just pasted on a face that is hiding a snarl!

Mignonne
x

PART 1: The process of Marriage to a French Citizen

I was just starting to bask in the idea of being engaged when we took our first visit to the prefecture. It is something that I prefer to think of as an ambush which I wrote about here. We are in love, we were in love. We are pathetic apart. Really badly, Sebastien’s friends don’t like him anymore when I am not around. And me? I can’t stand being away. Our decision to get married was compulsory. We could no longer handle being apart.

However after that episode I continued down our set idea and path. Originally we started looking at marrying in France. I was caught up in the romantics of a French wedding. The real reason was that I would get the marriage paperwork straight after the wedding. Taking less time than being processed in an Overseas French Embassy. There was also the bonus of using it to hide from a case of family politics. Who would I invite, who I would forget and who I would deliberately forget. That was a very lovely bonus.

However at that point in time we realised a few things. The amount of paperwork, apostilles, translations I would need would be utterly crazy and ridiculous let alone the time constrictions and the massive cost. Some people have Daddy behind them but we did not. And I was completeing full time uni in the process.The French Embassy in Australia didn’t help at all. The marriage office could barely speak English and never replied to any emails that I wrote.

To summarise the marriage process in France:

  1. I would need to apply for a marriage visa with required paper work, translated, apostilled. Applying for this visa would require a flight to Sydney from Brisbane to get it then endorsed by the French Embassy.
  2. I would then fly to France and we would lodge a Banns and also the Australian version of the Banns (Notice of Intent to Marriage). This process would take about 4 months to complete if the French were in a good mood and if all paperwork arrived on time. (More about this later)
  3. Please do remember that at this point I could arrive at the Mairie of my husbands townn and even though I have the Visa permission he may or may not accept our Banns on  various conditions such as a of a lack of paperwork. I may not have enough sufficient identity, or proof of relationship. If I flew over there was still a risk of rejection.
  4. After the required time had passed of 4 weeks Australian, and 3 Weeks France. We would then have permission to marry.
  5. We rush to marry and collect required marriage paperwork. Of marriage certificate AND livrette famille.
  6. THEN I would return to Australia and apply for my spousal residency visa. In France, they have phased out the Fiance visa for Australian’s. The choice was this or marriage in Australia.

Because of this run around. We chose to marry in Australia. It still was stressful but cost wise, translation and apostille wise it was a lot easier to do and more economical. We basically cut out the whole step of the Marriage Visa including flights.

Next time I’ll let you know about the actual marriage paperwork from France to marry in Australia. That’s when the fun/mess/anger/stress truly starts 🙂
Mignonne 🙂