Lovely Awkward: A Year of Wine, Romance and Life Among the French

Lovely Awkward: A Year of Wine, Romance and Life Among the French

Monday 28 March 2011

Allowed to be a wee bit French

Thursday was a big day for me.

I woke up humming the song from the end of the movie Green Card -- the 1990 film where Gérard Depardieu, who is French, marries an American so that he can get a green card and she can get a green house (rented only to married couples). I was doing this, I assume, because I often sing songs that betray what I'm thinking subconsciously -- an annoying habit that can be a bit scary. I've told people about this habit before and then later insulted them by singing some song in front of them that reveals what I'm really thinking. Embarrassing and somewhat jerky of me, but I can't help it.

The Green Card song I was singing on Thursday was Eyes on the Prize (listen) and it was related to my day in two ways. 1) I had my eyes on the prize and 2) If I explain this, I'll ruin the end of the movie -- albeit, made in the 90s. (If you've seen the movie, I also kept saying "Monticello" over and over to myself... without any reason to worry. I think I just liked the drama of that final scene.)

Anyway... this was the day that I had a meeting with the prefecture in Nice to find out if they'd let me stay in the country.

I was nervous because I thought they might give me that frightening French test I sometimes talk about. The one that I imagine will have me singing La Marseillaise backwards (unless that's unpatriotic), naming all of the French politicians by their departments of origin (French region), and riding around on a bicycle in a laboratory as more and more baguettes are added into the basket on the front. (A friend of mine joked that the test is simple: They just measure your level of ennui.) I was also afraid that the person behind the counter would just say, "No."

The prefecture is a funny place, probably with the most emotionally diverse job duties I've ever seen. In the morning, étrangers are herded in like cattle. The doors open early and everyone pushes in to see if they'll be allowed a proper appointment for a visa or carte de sejour or whatever it is that will permit them to stay in France. The people behind the glass have to deal with applicants of all sorts: confused, angry, sad, and the rare organized and efficient ones. But in the afternoon, the people behind the glass move on to the scheduled appointments. So after some of them have been argued with for hours (despite a piece of paper taped to the window says that yelling and insults won't be tolerated), they move on to the happy, happy people -- the ones who are likely to be accepted.

When I sat down to get my visa, I was shocked at how easy the process could be. Mind you, this was after months of scraping together papers, making sure we'd followed protocol and after the lovely little wedding we had in Nice. It's hard when you try to be a good person and to make decisions in your life that make you happy, but then you have to reduce all of those decisions and actions down to a form-letter check list so you can get through a long bureaucratic process. I get it. But I also don't.

Either way, the end result was that we made it through!

I'm not quite sure what my status is so I'm just going to say that I'm a wee bit French, because France has said I can stay here. I've also decided that the way I will show my new patriotism is in getting rid of my singing affliction, if I can. Now that I'm Frenchish, I don't have to sing my subliminal thoughts. I guess I can just go ahead and say them with my French directness. Right? That's got to help me with this entrance exam! (If this fabled exam does, in fact, exist.)


I just noticed that Zhu, who commented on an earlier post, went through this whole process, but in the opposite direction. She leaped from France to Ottawa -- my hometown. Here's her blog about the experience.


  1. Congratulations!


  2. I'm glad I didn't do the "moving to France" experience. Never had much luck with the French administration when I lived there :-D In fact, I went to the Préfecture a few times for a friend of mine (questions about the carte de séjour) and a nice fonctionnaire complimented me on my French. Duh, I AM French :-D Lucky as I am, Sarko would probably have put me on a plane back "home"!

    Anyway, congratulations on the carte de séjour. I became a Canadian citizen a couple of years ago but I still remember the stress of going through the immigration process. Like you, when Canada told me I could stay, I felt honoured and I would have kissed the immigration official! Of course, I didn't. In Canada, you don't kiss. Silly French me.

  3. No, Canadians don't really kiss. But when you're happy (or when you've had a little to drink), high-fives are totally acceptable.

    Congrats on your Canadianness (even though you've already had it for some time)!

  4. Congrats!
    I guess all that waiting paid off. Hopefully, things will go as smoothly for me once we get our paperwork together.

  5. Tanya: It was surprisingly easy at the end, even though I thought I'd fallen into a lost-in-administration purgatory for a bit. I'm sure yours will go smoothly, too!