A spoonful of sugar

Course announcement from Fun-Mooc website

You probably remember when Julie Andrews as the title character nanny in the film Mary Poppins was trying to get her two charges, Jane and Michael, to clean their room. To introduce the song she begins with “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun” and then the orchestra starts up and you soon hear her sing “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”. When you move to another country where they don’t speak your native language it’s important to learn what the local people are saying for a variety of reasons. Once you get past the survival level where you can at least get food and shelter then you can start fitting in with your new neighbors and having fun. But of course, language isn’t the only challenge since there are cultural differences, new rules to learn, and administrative procedures to follow for everything from buying a train ticket to seeing a doctor. Thanks to an online course sponsored by the French government’s Ministry of Higher Learning, you can combine all of those tasks in one place. Continue reading “A spoonful of sugar”

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. Continue reading “Universal health care”

It’s always fun to compare

From the city’s home page

We look at the city’s website every morning to find out what’s going on around town. Somebody once told us that in a French town if the mayor’s office doesn’t know about something then it doesn’t exist. Although we typically search for cultural events such as art exhibits and concerts or tasting festivals of regional foods and wines, it’s here that we discovered the AVF (Welcome Wagon) for new arrivals, sports facilities such as tennis courts and swimming pools open to everyone, and city bus schedules. When our trash can accidentally ended up inside the collection truck along with its contents, guess where we found how to order a replacement that arrived 2 days later. Now that school is back in session, a special note at the top of the front page caught my eye: School lunch menus. Other than curiosity, we have no real need to know what the kids we say bonjour to everyday on our street are dining upon, but this country does have an international gourmet reputation so let’s see how early that begins. Continue reading “It’s always fun to compare”

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. Continue reading “Free association”

Is that what I think it is?

Does that say repulsive milk?

I like milk—chilled on my breakfast cereal in the summer or served hot with freshly cooked oatmeal in the winter. When our friend Larry makes chocolate chip cookies there’s nothing better than an afternoon snack of these delicious treats accompanied by a tall glass of cool milk. Can’t get to sleep in the evening? A mug of warm milk always does the trick for me. Bill, on the other hand, is not a fan. He can deal with cream, cheeses of all sorts, and even tolerates a daily serving of yogurt but he runs the other way if he sees me anywhere near the stove with a carton of milk. You could say that he is repulsed by the smell which is why I found it funny to see this Lait Répulsif on a pharmacy shelf. Continue reading “Is that what I think it is?”

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. Continue reading “Year 3 begins”

Living in France—the book

Cover of the booklet

Although probably not a bestseller, there is a publication from the Ministry of the Interior of France that anyone who is thinking of moving here will probably want on their electronic bookshelf. The price is certainly right—free—and it contains lots of practical information about preparing for the move and then what to do once you’ve arrived in your new country. Just as important, Living in France also addresses the key values represented in the Republic’s motto: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. This is followed by, “These are not simply abstract concepts: these values have concrete effects on day-to-day life by means of the rights and obligations of citizens and residents.” These benefits apply to the French themselves, to those of us living here, and even to visitors. Continue reading “Living in France—the book”