Category Archives: Dealing with government

Universal health care

Carte Vitale brochure

Everyone who lives and/or works in France is required to have health insurance. In fact, it’s treated as a fundamental right in the Constitution with the Preamble stating that the Nation “shall guarantee to all, notably to children, mothers and elderly workers, protection of their health….” When applying for our visa that allowed us to stay here during the first year we had to prove that we had health insurance coverage that would take care of any emergency situations plus pay for sending us back to the US for treatment of anything serious and/or long term during the one-year validity of our visa. A common benefit of travel insurance is repatriation to the country where your trip began, so a policy for that was easy to find and accepted for the visa application. Once you’ve lived in France for at least 3 continuous months you become eligible to apply for Protection Universelle Maladie that we think of as universal health care and we have now been accepted. Read the rest of this entry

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Free association

Festival of Associations

There are over 500 clubs, interest groups, and other hobby alliances, all classed as Associations,  registered with the mayor’s office in Carcassonne. That seemed like a lot for a town of 50,000 inhabitants until I started investigating why there might be so many. A law went into effect in 1901 to ensure that two or more persons were free to organize themselves without fear of persecution by the government. Additional benefits, at least where we live, include members being able to use city property for meetings, free publicity for their events, very modest monetary support, and the ability to hold a garage/yard sale annually. Individuals are prohibited from having what our British friends call a car-boot sale, as its considered unfair competition to a town or village’s small shopkeepers, so being able to raise money for an organization in this way can be vital. Read the rest of this entry

The taxes are here

Tax forms in a plain blue wrapper

Since today, April 15, is traditionally Tax Day in the US, it probably sounds odd for us to say that we were happy to see our French income tax forms arrive last week, but that’s exactly how we feel. Last year was our first time to report our revenue and it turned out to be relatively simple as I wrote about in the blog post You can run, but…. We filled out the paper forms, following a guide in English that we purchased, and deposited them directly into the huge mailbox in front of the Center of Public Finance office just before the mid-May due date. According to the treaty between our 2 countries, generally speaking, you pay tax based on where you earn the money and since our income is all from US pensions, we anticipated that only Uncle Sam would be sending us a bill. Four months later we were pleased to discover that the French government agreed and sent us a letter to confirm that; however, one important piece of information was missing from that document. Read the rest of this entry

The games we play

Cable TV & Internet boxes

About a month before we left the US our Internet provider notified us that the price on our basic service was going to increase to $145 per month. This was the minimum bundle offered giving us high speed Internet access, 300 television channels, and 200 minutes of landline calls within the US. The first year that we lived in France we were in a house that included wi-fi and TV in the rent so that charge was not a concern. When we bought a house, however, Bill started investigating getting us hooked up to the outside world and we were both amazed. He found a package with the second largest provider in the country that gave us high speed Internet, 200 channels, and unlimited calls to most countries around the world, including the USA for a monthly fee of 17.99 euros. As the end of that 12-month contract approached, bringing with it a price increase, it was time to play that same game we were used to before: seeing if you can find a cheaper price. Read the rest of this entry

Year 3 begins

The fortress in Carcassonne

Although we tend to use March 1 as the starting date for our new life in France, the government here considers February 20 the date since that’s when our initial visa began. Americans can enter the country for up to 90 days on their airline ticket alone, but for those of us who didn’t buy a round-trip flight, you have to do a bit more work. During that initial grace period you must schedule a medical appointment with the immigration office who will then stamp your visa as valid for an additional 9 months. At the end of your first year you can trade in the visa for a residency card that must then be renewed annually using essentially the same documentation required to come here in the first place. Basically you must prove that you won’t be a burden to the taxpayers in that you have sufficient income, health insurance, housing, etc. to take care of yourself. This week we again succeeded in doing that so we have brand new residency cards. Read the rest of this entry

It’s Linky, it’s Linky ♫♬♫

Our Linky communicating electric meter

When I was growing up, a favorite toy was Slinky®—a long metal spring that could walk down stairs or slither from one hand to the other. The company also made a version in the shape of a dog and of a train that you could pull along the floor, always with the rear half hesitating and then suddenly springing forward to meet the front. Perhaps you remember the television commercial jingle that included “It’s Slinky, it’s Slinky, it’s fun for a girl or a boy”. Fast forward 60 years to another place and time where we received a similarly named product but with a totally different, but fun (?), function: the Linky communicating electric meter. Read the rest of this entry

Not too taxing

Copper street lights at the train station

Now that we’ve been homeowners for more than a full calendar year, it’s time to talk about paying the taxes. We’ve never been ones to shy away from “render(ing) unto Caesar” since we understand the importance of sharing the cost of maintaining a civilized society. For example, when we take the city bus or a regional train instead of using a car, we might be helping the environment but at a fare of only 1 euro/dollar per trip, a lot of people are chipping in to make that possible. So where does this money come from and how do we pay our portion? Read the rest of this entry

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