Understanding French (Bordeaux)
When I came to France, I didn’t realise how much of an upheaval the move from the UK would be. What I found was that you were constantly on the phone to the likes of the CPAM, the Impôts (or tax office), the CAF for those with children and so on (well I do have a large family). Never mind the driving licence applications, the self employment declarations and the constant problems faced with the internet service providers and telephone companies.
The funny thing is I speak fluent French, like a native and it never dawned on me how the non French speakers might feel, the frustration, the agony, the isolation of it all. Even the doctor or hospital visit can be a nightmare, last thing you need when not feeling well is someone giving you some moral lecture on the fact you’re in France and should make the effort to speak French or worse, being left to wait for hours because they can’t be bothered because they think YOU don’t care about the French.
Where does it stop I thought, for me I know when it stopped, the constant headaches stopped because I got so organised that the French agencies just know you know when you have the answers, so they don’t mess you about.
All my friends tell me to let people know what I can do, the help I have given them, the money (and I mean thousands of Euros) that I have saved them in tax and contributions that they should never have paid.
I have always felt that I shouldn’t really rock the boat but let us face it, I can do this, you are probably reading this and it makes so much sense and you can do something about it too.
It is not about being an expert, although mine is in the field of IT, it is about knowing, about listening and most of all about caring. I do charge for my time but then again, if I didn’t need the cash, I probably wouldn’t and the fact is, it will probably saved time, hassle and money for whoever asked me for help.