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

Prefecture – a complicated word

It doesn’t sound so hard to pronounce right? Try pronouncing it french style when you are angry. It’s complicated all right. As soon as any strong emotion hits me I lose all french language ability and what results its something like a two-year old with horrible pronunciation.

Really, try this, imagine a young woman (aka moi), sitting there flushing red, attempting to produce a recognisable sentence with my pathetic range of vocabulary. I have a slightly panicked and confused look on my face and have curled my hands into those little white knuckled balls. AND I don’t understand a thing. I sit stiffly in the chair while VGT talks with the woman. I try to calm down and concentrate on understanding anything of whats being said. VGT glances at me with a funny look on his face. I must look pretty weird compared to my normal carefree, relaxed Australian style.

I bring this scene up for a very good reason. We are sitting in the office of etrangers (immigrants), at the prefecture. The Prefecture. Will. RULE. My. Visa. Here is the place I come for information, to give information and to get important things like my carte de sejour. Oh, and did I mention that we waited 10minutes for the lady at the desk to finish gossiping to serve us. There was no one else waiting but we still had to stand/sit/shuffle for a designated time. And she looked harassed!

So we are back to me sitting in the chair, my nails are now making pretty crescent shapes in my hand. She is speaking so fast it’s nearly spanish to me. Somehow the conversation is ending because she starts pausing (I am amazing at body language now, after a year in this country I am obliged to learn something ) and after all the hullabaloo of waiting and getting information I don’t understand she finishes with “Mairie”. My ears prick up like a dog hearing a whistle. The mayor, what has he got to do with it all?

As we walk back down the stairs VGT explains that for my carte de sejour we need to get married now by the Marie, and then I return to Australia, wait for my visa AND then come back. If we don’t get married now, I have to return after marriage into Australia to wait for my visa. So another plane ticket, or the extension for the fifth time of the ticket I have now…. Insert the sarcastic AWESOME!

So not only did the woman want me to rush into my marriage, she wanted it in three weeks. And then I had to go back to Australia. I am skeptical as to whether she gets a commission off the airlines too…

As we drive home I start screaming and crying at the same time “I TOLD YOU, I KNEW IT, I TOLD YOU SO!” It all stresses me out. But alas, I have survived my very first encounter with french bureaucracy. I have come out nearly whole, I don’t need a mental institution but I do need tissues…

The problem was I had been under the impression of a Fiance visa, allowing me to move and marry in one big swoop… after double checking different sources it is still possible. She was just… FRENCH.

Prefecture… There. I can write it without wanting to fisty someone in the eye. Don’t ask me to say it just yet. I ask for a little patience (maybe kindness too, the french aren’t too good at that, have you heard their national anthem?) But there, Prefecture. It’ll have to do.