If you’ve ever been in a need-to-know work situation you’ll understand that it’s always someone else who decides when you need to know something and how much they are going to tell you. It was especially frustrating to me when I was in a position that required disseminating information to the general public yet finding out those details from the person in charge was impossible. Luckily that’s all in the past and now it’s up to Bill and me to determine what information we need, how to get it, and will it be in French or English. The region that we live in, called Occitanie, publishes a review every 2 months to inform citizens about government spending, new and planned legislation, achievements in job creation, etc. I was astounded that each issue includes a section called “Political Groups Expression” where all parties, center, left, right, extreme, or moderate get to say their piece.
It shouldn’t surprise me that a government publication represents all points of view. Discussions about politics are frequent with our neighbors where everyone wants to understand the reasons you feel a certain way. There is no attitude of “I’m right and you’re wrong”; end of conversation. It’s these informal encounters that help us understand what our friends and neighbors are thinking politically but what about the day-to-day lives we all share?
The city’s official website does a great job of describing how to deal with city life such as schools, transport, health, and sports plus listing most of the upcoming cultural and entertainment activities, but even they can’t keep track of all of them. They also sponsor advertisements at bus stops and on sidewalks in addition to electronic billboards at busy intersections. All of those official activities plus many more open to the public are contained in the 3 newspapers that cover our area. Electronic editions with Facebook accounts for all of these make sure that we see everything available. With Carcassonne TV we can watch reports of future events and sometimes even see ourselves in a follow up broadcast if we attended a covered program.
When we want to know about national news, especially when it affects residents like us who haven’t yet obtained citizenship, there are at least 2 newspapers in English and I’ll put those links below. A monthly feature in one of these is “What changes in France this month” that highlights laws coming into force that day. The other paper publishes several books aimed at new arrivals and we used their “Filing taxes in France” to help us with our first-year returns. There is also an online expat forum that I check daily for practical information about life here. We generally can figure out all the procedures we have to follow but sometimes it’s helpful to have confirmation in your own language that you’re doing the right thing.
Obviously there’s no lack at all of opportunities to stay informed in French given that there are a couple dozen broadcast TV channels plus about 40 radio stations, all nationwide. Those numbers go way up when you add in everything that’s available to us through our cable box and we subscribe to the minimum plan. Even that package includes a British and an American news network if we get really confused and of course with the Internet we’re never out of touch.
Even with all of that electronic access to information, something that Bill said to me this morning made me think about what staying up to date really means. Our goal was to take some photos for this blog post and on the walk home we stopped to buy baguettes and heard about the baker’s vacation, chatted with our greengrocer while he was helping a farmer unload fresh produce that was picked this morning, and got cooking advice from the fish shop owner for the fillets that Bill will grill tonight. We’ve been invited across the street for drinks to hear about their most recent trip and their son’s new job. I’d say that we keep pretty well informed.
Websites for national news and practical help in English
The Local https://www.thelocal.fr/