The Little Things

I was really, really, really happy to be back in the US these last couple weeks. Even though I love France, being there for 2 months has given me a renewed appreciation for my home country. My absence also has me missing those certain little, familiar, often taken for granted things in US life….

Not A French Home

  • Big, beautiful American houses. They’re so colorful, pretty and have so much life. While French homes have old charm  and are built to last, they also seem a little sad. 99% are gray with a brown or orange roof. There, you’d never see a great big  house with a grand front porch and a meticulously landscaped yard.

A Small Line at the Prefecture

  • Government administration. Oh, I could write a book on the inefficient, incompetent, heartless, blood pressure raising experiences of dealing with French administration. After waiting for 5 hours at one of the world’s saddest places, the Immigration office (called the Prefecture), a week before I left, I walked out of the building without being able to extend my visa. It’s a long story, but I was advised to return at a date closer to my visa expiration so my next one could be issued with enough time to carry me until the end of May.  Considering this, on top of my initial visa experience, I’m not sure how I will survive the 4 years until citizenship.  But, I am sure a french friend who is living in the US would say the same thing about American administration after she waited 4 months for her work permit only to have it lost in the mail. She was then told the process must be restarted from the very beginning.

  • Convenience. Business’s in the US want to make money so they are driven by customer wants and needs. For example, if I wake up at 3am and decide I want to eat a taco, buy a pair of yoga pants, followed by a workout at a gym it’s not a problem. In France, it would be nearly impossible. In fact, one time I walked into a Paris restaurant and was told that they were not serving food that week because the cook was on vacation.
  • Cheap gas. Yes, you read correctly. In the US it cost $60 to fill the tank on my Pontiac G6 compared to $108 to fill the economically friendly,  Henri in Europe.
  • Breathing. And what I mean by that is being able to take a good breath outside without inhaling second hand smoke. This french stereotype, unfortunately, is true. 

Of course, being back in the States has me realizing a few things not so good. Things that give other countries a lot of ammunition to making fun of us and things that I, myself, have been guilty of (I won’t admit which ones).

Never would this happen in France and thank God for that...

  • First things first, unless you’re Mark Zuckerburg, put the pajamas away. Those are for sleeping only, not for going out in public, America.
  • Young American girls, I mean this with nothing but love – stop dressing like skanks. I never realized before spending 2 months in France, but a lot America college age girls could take example from their French counterparts. Last Friday night, in Nashville, we went to a sports bar on the Vanderbilt University campus.

    These only belong one place and that place contains a pole and super expensive drinks.

    Throughout the bar were scantily clad girls. One had on a red dress that barely passed her underwear line with a pair of glossy red stripper style shoes. The only instance where that would happen in France is if the girl was “working”. On a weekend night in Orleans, most of the girls could be found in something stylish, classy, but yet sexy and pretty.

  • Anyone denying our obesity epidemic needs to hop on a plane to France for a couple of days. Search for a fat person and maybe you’ll find one. Sadly, it’s true.  I can go for a week without seeing someone overweight. Basically, it’s

    In France there are 857 McDonald's compared to the United States 12,804.

    made me realize we must do something before we all die of heart disease and diabetes. Also, it’s just not fair that the French are so thin.

So, the past two weeks I throughly enjoyed American life, time with Fabien, our animals, going shopping, running, reading, watching Netflix and just relaxing. The past two weeks have me refreshed and ready to tackle the next 3 months with gusto. Also, I ‘m working on Spring Break trip that gives me heart palpitations and butterflies in my tummy! Details soon…

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The French Visa

“Congratulations, Stacie! You have been formally accepted to the Universite d’Orleans Institut de Francais.” Yay! When I received this letter, I exhaled and naively assumed my days of jumping through hoops were over and I could now focus my energy on the end goal – learning the french language.

“Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha”, said the French Embassy.

I thought all I needed was a little visa for study’s and based on the fact I am married to a citizen of their country, I might even get a little special treatment. First, I discovered I must make an appointment and have an interview at the nearest French embassy located in Atlanta. After I recovered from that aneurysm, I conceded and snapped up the earliest possible appointment-1 month later. Next, I began researching the requirements, which were filled with many gray areas. However, after 20 phone calls, a snarky email and being told (in English) that “the Embassy does not answer questions in English,”, Fabien (not me) received a call back from a disgruntled diplomat who advised him of the requirements for his wifes visa. So, like a good little documentor, I collected letters from my in-laws, bank statements, pay stubs, university diplomas, evidence of insurance coverage, marriage certificates, etc. for my appointment on Monday, December 12th.

The night before, I drove through the mountains, in the dark, to Atlanta to stay at a shady La Quinta Inn thinking it would all be worth it when the Consulate welcomed me to France and thanked me for choosing to study in their country. You’re welcome! Que the laughs again.

I was not denied at my interview, but was told, by the football shaped woman, that I did not qualify for the visa and she gave me several reasons why.  I named the person at their office who advised Fabien of the requirements and I provided documentation over and above what they were asking. She then reminded me of the Parisian motto: “Not my problem”. Stunned, furious and confused, I left the office in tears and drove 4 hours back to Nashville.

When I returned home, I feverishly research and reinforced what I already knew – she was wrong. At 1am, I wrote a scathing email to the Consulate and almost immediately receive a response that they would see me the next day. I was hesitant to spend another 8 hours driving only to walk away even more furious and hating France. At the crack of dawn, I called, demanded to speak with the man who emailed me and asked for his reassurance, which he (sort of) gave to me. So, I hopped in the car at 5am and drove through the mountain fog, to Atlanta…..again. 6 hours later, I was driving back to Nashville, visa in hand. Turns out, there was a mistake, the football shaped woman did not know what she was talking about and since they felt so guilty, they issued it on the spot.

Should you ever find yourself applying for a visa, it goes without saying, but it is so important to know your visa backwards and forwards. When I applied for a chinese visa, I researched the requirements so throughly that I received my visa even before Fabien, who had an attorney assisting him. However, with the french visa, I simply relied on what I was told my the embassy. One would think that would be enough, but you must confirm, reconfirm and know the requirements inside and out. Had I approached the french visa as the chinese, I would have been successful on the first attempt. But, then what fun would that have been?

After all was said and done, even though it was a lot of stress, work and miles on the car, the embassy’s mistake worked in my favor as it normally takes 3 weeks of processing time. In my opinion, the entire process was France testing my sanity. But most likely it was the Universe playing a game of “how bad do you want it?” Whatever the  reason – I am officially a recipient of a French visa.