The Bichier I Get, The More You’ll Love Me

Quite a few of my foreign friends have asked me why French people are so unpleasant to foreigners. I usually tell them not to worry about that. We don’t hate foreigners, we just don’t like people in general. That’s all… And basically French people are as rude towards foreigners as they are towards each-other. That’s the way we like it to be as we were all raised believing that “the bitchier I am, the more you’ll love me”.

Let me give you an example:

Two days ago, during my lunch break, I ran to the police station to make a new ID Card. Because in France, we think it’s logical to make ID cards at the police station you see.

Police woman (in a very customers oriented manner. Not!): Did you bring your Electricity bill, birth certificate, 2 identical ID pictures and your old ID card?

Me (proud, it took me 3 hours on Sunday night to gather all the paperwork): Yes, look it’s all here.

I organize the various useless pieces of paper neatly on the counter.

PW: C’est pas possible, you’re missing your old ID card. You’ll have to come back.

Me: Well, as a matter of fact, I don’t have an old ID card.

PW: How can you not have an old ID card. Has it been stolen? Do you have the official stamped statement that says it has been stolen?

Me: No, it wasn’t stolen, I simply never had an ID card.

PW: So you’re not French then, I thought I heard a little accent

(Clueless bitch)

Me: I am French and my accent is different from yours because we apparently do not come from the same region.

I bend my head on the side and smile.

PW: ha, so where are you from?

Me: Bordeaux

PW: But that’s in France

Me: It is indeed.

PW: So you’re French?

Me: I am indeed.

PW: But you don’t have an ID card?

Me: No, I don’t.

PW: You know you should always have identification on you.

Me: Yes (controlling bitch) I know, that’s why I have a passport, but I don’t always want to carry my passport around so that’s why I need an ID card.

PW: So how come you don’t have an ID card?

Me: Well, I used to have one when I was a kid but I never renewed it.

PW: That’s silly, how can you live without an ID card?

Me: Well for many years I lived overseas where they don’t give a damn about French ID cards, you see.

PW: Well, I’m not supposed to know what these overseas people want and not want.

Me: That’s why I’m telling you.

PW: So give me your passport then.

Of course, that’s when I realize I have left my passport at home. Crap. So much for patronizing her back.

Me: I have left it at home, but it’s not far so I’ll be right back.

She sighs loudly. I run home.

Me: Hi I’m back, here is my passport.

PW: Take a number and wait in line, please.

Me: But I…

PW: … and fill out this (huge) 4 sheet folder (with information that is already included on my birth certificate).

I fill out the form nicely and moan a little.

PW: Number 111 please

I have number 113, but nobody else is sitting there so I go to her counter and sit down.

PW: Are you number 111?

Me: No, I’m 113, but since nobody else is sitting here, I thought…

PW: You should’ve thought that it wasn’t your turn yet, so please go back to your sit and wait till it’s your turn.

Me: Ok, captain.

PW: Number 111?

PW: Number 111, please (she insists)

I smile softly at her waving with my little number

PW: Number 112, please

I’m boiling inside

PW: Number 112!

I stand up and take a sit in front of her. She sighs and moans something to herself.

PW: (she looks at my pieces of paper) These ID photos are not going to be accepted. We cannot continue the process. (read, had she said “c’est pas possible” I’d have pinched her nipples real hard).

Me: You are kidding me right? They were made by an accreditted photographer whose specialty is ID pictures.

PW: But obviously he didn’t do his job well. By the way, there are no accreditted photographers for ID pictures, they tend to accredit themselves, that’s all.

Me: So what is wrong with this photo? I know I look pale and sick in it, but it’s totally ok.

PW: Oh God, you do look pale, but that’s not the problem. First of all, it’s black and white and your left ear is missing. Your face has to be symetrical or the machine won’t understand.

Me: (trying to joke) But what if I had cut my ear, like Van Gogh you know. So that means that Van Gogh couldn’t get an ID card then? Just because a machine doesn’t find it symetrical enough?

PW: Van Gogh wasn’t French so he wouldn’t be allowed to have a French ID card anyway.

I hate it when Police women know about Dutch artists.

Me: (trying to flirt a little bit to make her my friend and accelerate the process): Oh I see you know quite a lot about art. Do you like Van Gogh?

PW: You’ll have to come back with better pictures.

She shows me other people’s files.

PW: Look this man brought good pictures, ok he looks horrible in it, poor man, but at least that’s an official picture.

Me: (getting really pissed off) Now I’ve had it! I can’t believe this is taking so much time, you’ve been sending me back home to get my damn passport, then you make me wait in line again, then you tell me I look pale and that my photos are not official. No wonder people complain about French administration. When I lived in Sweden, I had my ID card done within a day, you can have it done at the bank, the post office, the city hall ie lots of places and THEY TAKE THE ID PHOTO THEMSELVES, THE WAY THEY WANT IT, ACCORDING TO THEIR STANDARDS! They don’t keep on sending me people back and forth like this.

PW: I told you, I don’t know what these overseas people do and don’t do.

I leave the police station and run to the photoshop. Which is closed because it’s lunch time. I have a sandwich while I wait.

At the photoshop

Me: I’d like real official and accreditted ID photos please. With both ears please.

Photoman: Whatever. Sit down.

Click click

Photoman: You look a bit pale. I’ll have to touch it up a little. It’s 6 euros.

Back to the police station I don’t take a number, I don’t wait in line, I go straight to the police woman and put the photos in front of her.

PW: Well, that’s better.

Now that she’s done playing with my nerves, she finally smiles softly.

I leave the police station thinking that I’m starting to like this woman.

See, it works.



29 Responses

  1. I wonder if you really pinched her nipples she would have folded? I think she made you run back and forth like that so she could check out your butt each time you ran off.

    So, can you scan the rejected ID photo for us? The pale one eared you. 🙂

  2. PS. this was hilarious. I almost snorted Dr. Pepper through my nose twice. Thanks. 🙂

  3. Ahhh…So funny, but yet so true.

  4. Superb. Thank you.
    Umm….can I have one of those medals as well?

  5. Heh, brings back oh so fond memories of the time I had to apply for my carte de séjour. A whole two days of my life I will never get back. Still, I love French customer service : ) Preferable to the American “Have a nice day” routine. It must be exhausting being so chirpy all the time.

    Ooh yes, I’ll second the request for that Van Gogh photo ; )

  6. Hello, I’m visiting via Petite Anglaise.
    This post was so funny and it’s rfreshing to know that Frenchwomen in prefectures can be like that to other French people. I thought my bad experiences were due to me being English.
    On the other hand, I have to say that the people in the village where I live are really really nice.

  7. Not as funny as yours, but this is my experience of the local Prefecture: (sorry I don’t know how to do this properly so you can click on it.)

  8. Frog with a blog, you should film this! Perhaps with Hugh Laurie as you, specially for Petite.

  9. What a lovely story. Somehow,I liked it!

  10. Good Lord – and I thought American bureaucracy was bad! You poor guy. It sure made for an entertaining story, though. I think one of the reasons that I LOVE France and the French is that they don’t like people – and, in general, neither do I! Haha! Though, I do likes me a certain Frog…

  11. omg that was so funny. Like Aimee I snorted Diet Dr. Pepper through my nose. pssst…Dr.Pepper in Paris? Seriously? That is awesome.

  12. You’re fabulous!

  13. Frog,
    if you’re ever in Tokyo, you’ve got to join my weekly poker game. Open invitation, sir.

  14. I couldN,t stop laughing!!! true S&M, n’est pas?

  15. Amazing, it only happens to you that kind of thing 😉 You are so funny Frog :p

  16. this reminds me of trying to get a French driving licence at Beziers sous-préfecture. After a lot of argument she reluctantly took the forms but when I came back later she had her supervisor with and they both triumphantly (arms folded) told me I had not put my ‘nom de jeune fille’ down. I told her even more triumphantly that I had never been married. Hah! Was still sent away as I had photocopied wrong bit of passport.

    Eventually I went my Mairie and told them how horrible people were in the Sous-Prefecture,who they also hate, which got them on my side, and they sorted it out. I learnt this “divide and rule” approach from a book called “Almost French” about an Australian in Paris who had similar problems to you.

  17. Petite remarque revendicatrice :
    imaginez le mal qu’ont pu avoir les sans papiers de France lors de la séquence de régularisation engluée dans les nombreuses pièces à fournir…

  18. It’s definitely good to know that this kind of thing happens to the French as well…I’ve been living here 10 years and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had a good experience with French bureaucracy. My ID card request was turned down because… *I’ve been married too long*!! And the URSSAF…I think they’re made to suck lemons in training to get the expression just right. Mind you, at least as a Frog in Frogland don’t get the ‘Oh, you’re English are you? Thinking of buying? (I wish!) Prices have flambéed since you lot started coming over’ type comment!
    A bientôt!

  19. This is why I’m so very, very, VERY happy that my work takes care of all my French government communication–I think I’d walk in there with a gun, if left to my own devices. If you’d told me you were going, I could have waited outside for you with a biiiiiiig drink to help you recover, my poor dear Frog.

  20. OH.MY.GOD. Not only was your post freakin’ hilarious, but after reading Aimée’s first two comments, I thought I was going to die… Normally I swallow my laughter here at my desk at work, but I just couldn’t hold that one down. I’m guessin’ she got it on the mark there, my friend! They must not get to see cute guys like you in the préfecture very often.

    Oh, and Aimée? Seriously? Dr. Pepper? WHERE?!?! I know I’ve seen it on occasion in the past, but it’s been a while — I need to know where to get my hands on it!

  21. That was brilliantly told! I’m never going to complain about beaurocratic nightmare people in Kiev again.

  22. Frog, what a great post, I was laughing non-stop.

  23. Oh God…
    I have to renew my ID Card because I lost it… (when…? that’s a mystery…)
    And I don’t remember where I left my magic anti-administration sword…

  24. This is exactly why people go Postal, here in the states. And when I am elected, it will be legal to Tazer these kind of people, oh yes!

  25. Having just spent 3 hours on Friday with a friend in Aix-en-Provence, trying to find the RIGHT “police department” for her to report her pickpocketed wallet (so that she could get her national ID card and other id officially replaced), and having the local flics not even know WHERE to send us for something so basic, I can appreciate what you went through. It’s like these French “civil” servants have no motivation to care or be civil because they know they’ve got the job for life. And the more work they create for the rest of us, the more secure their jobs become. Vicious cycle, huh?

  26. Is there a latent emphasis on the ‘chier’ in your mispelled subject line? Faut pas faire chier Mémé! 🙂

  27. OMG Adam, you’re so right, I didn’t even notice the typo. It’s definitely a fab freudian slip. I’ll leave it that way. Just like all the other typos.

  28. “By the way, there are no accreditted photographers for ID pictures, they tend to accredit themselves, that’s all.”

    God love those French reflexive verbs…they come in so handy when you need to patronize someone!

  29. Sigh. Brings back such fond memories.

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