MOVING TO FRANCE: OVERVIEW AFTER SEVEN YEARS #1




We arrived in France on 16 April, 2014. I had retired just two weeks before. Our house in Pennsylvania had been put on the market but was as yet unsold. But we made it here and we have been here for just over seven years. I posted about our experiences after three years. It's time for an update.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

We have not regretted the decision to move to France for one second. Not one single second.

BUREAUCRACY

It's been an unforgettable couple of years for French bureaucrats. Brexit and COVID have generated the need to design, distribute, amend, interpret, and enforce all manner of forms and procedures.  

There are tens of thousands of Brits who spend from a few weeks to many months in holiday houses or primary residences throughout much of France, although the major concentrations are on the French side of the Channel and down along the Med. No longer citizens of an EU country, Brits will have to live by different rules. They will be limited to the number of days they can stay in France if they do not choose to become legal residents. There are driving licenses to consider, tax questions to consider, healthcare choices to consider.

And each change of status requires a new form. The French are getting better at new forms, though. COVID has caused electronic submissions to replace many face-to-face encounters. And they usually work reasonably well, against all expectations.

COVID has been a true test for a high-functioning bureaucracy. There were times that you couldn't leave the house without a piece of paper that detail your justification for breaking confinement. And the rollout of the vaccine was painfully slow. But once the French figured it out, the process that we went through through to get our two jabs was easy to navigate and efficiently accomplished. In fact, just about every expat that we discussed it with agreed that the vaccination centers were admirably well run.

We can only hope that, once COVID has been put behind us - to the extent that it can be - the French will go back to their normal, everyday blizzards of paperwork. To make a successful submission to a French bureaucrat, you just need to get good in the language and be polite. It's the best that you can do. Oh, and maintain a folder of every official piece of paper that you own, with a copy, and translated.

FOOD AND WINE

I can't say it too often. The snozzberries taste like snozzberries. (Google that quote if its origin doesn't immediately pop to mind. We are the makers of music and the dreamers of dreams. But I digress.) Veggies in France are not grown for their ability to be shipped across a country. They are grown for their taste. And since we live close to the Mediterranean, Spain and Italy and North Africa are as close to us as D.C. is to Boston, so most everything is in season somewhere nearby all year round. But we try to buy as local as possible because local French strawberries in season are exquisite. Mouth candy. Tomatoes come down to just about a dollar a pound when they start coming in. The asparagus farm down the way will sell you spears pulled from the ground today, sorted into whatever thickness that is your favorite, for a few dollars a pound. Apricots and peaches are sold in sheds at the edge of the orchards for a couple of dollars a pound. You get the picture. Diet changes with the seasons to take advantage of brief periods of peak local ripeness.

You're a meat eater? So as not to put off my vegan friends, I won't go into full, lyric mode when describing the taste of locally sourced lamb and poultry and pork. They taste the way that they are supposed to taste. It’s that simple. If you like lamb, you will REALLY like the lamb in France.

That's not to say that French comestibles are perfect, at least to this American expat. Corn on the cob here is just a step up from what we'd call field corn in the Northeast, nowhere in the neighborhood of Jersey sweet corn that literally melts in the mouth. Beef has a different taste, as it should given the differences in medication and diet. It needs getting used to...or a nice marinade. Peanut butter is expensive, particularly if you insist on it being mindfully produced. But I pick nits. 

Wine? We drink vrac, wine dispensed from a vat into a five-liter container in bulk at less than $2.00 a liter. When we have company, bottles of tasty sipping pink start at $5 or less. You can spend as much or as little as your taste coupled with your budget allows, all directly from vineyards just down the road.

Bottom line? We eat great for less money. I’ll tackle restaurants and other aspects of shopping in subsequent posts.

HEALTHCARE

Cathey and I have each had serious medical conditions requiring hospitalization since moving here. (We’re fine.) Our care could not have been better. In fact, when Cathey’s surgeon asked if she would like to go back to the States for the procedure, she just laughed. 

Healthcare in France is less expensive than in the USofA, about one-half of the cost per person. And healthcare in France has better outcomes, with life expectancy higher than the USofA and infant mortality lower. How can that be? Well, costs are kept low both because it’s a single-payer system and because prices are controlled at all levels, from office visits to your general practitioner to your prescription medications.

And the cost to the consumer is more than reasonable. Your ‘social charge’ is based on your income, certain pensions are excluded from the calculation, the amount of income exempted is reasonable, and the percentage is not dissimilar to FICA. Approximately 70% of costs are covered and, if you want supplemental insurance to cover the rest, costs for that are reasonable too. There are lots of choices for top-up insurance, from hospital only plans to plans that cover everything. We pay about $75.00 apiece per month for a plan in the middle. We pay nothing for drugs, doctor visits, most tests, and most hospitalizations. There's an active, competitive insurance marketplace that might seem odd but that works well in a sophisticated socialized system.

The fact the the USofA can’t institute a similar system is one reason that we won’t be returning any time soon.

NEXT UP

I will be continuing this series for a couple of weeks. Let me know in the comments if there are any particular topics that you would like me to discuss.





INTERSTELLAR TRAVEL, GUNS, AND D.C. STATEHOOD

Some stuff to get off my chest...

INTERSTELLAR TRAVEL

Check out a guy named Cameron Smith on YouTube. 
Here's a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CprziVZHqBk 
Settle in. It's over an hour long and he's not the most dynamic speaker. But if you want to think seriously about how the human race might colonize planets in solar systems other than our own, this guy has done the initial serious thinking for you.
 

Some of my favorite science fiction stories have been concerned with generation ships, interstellar conveyances that recognize that sub-light travel between solar systems requires planning for, at the very least, hundreds of years of travel. These works of fiction vary widely thematically. Many end badly or, if they end well, are initially presented to the reader as being a failed project that required saving. Regardless, I think that one of the reasons that I enjoy these stories is that, in order to be serious, they have to take the time to create scenarios that explain the effect on culture of living as isolated populations of humans in a hostile environment. 

There are, of course, differences within the genre. In Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clark, we're not talking about humans at all, but rather an apparently uninhabited generation ship from an alien system that enters our solar system, slingshots around our sun, and leaves for interstellar space without seeming to pay too much attention to either our solar system or the humans that were attempting to explore it. Cities in Flight by James Blish avoids the question of evolving cultures almost entirely by simply putting bubbles around Earth cities and having them leave Earth and bop around space as a backdrop for relatively mundane economic and political story lines. Mundane for hard science fiction fans, anyway. Perhaps the first book that I read that attempts to seriously approach the question of culture on a generation ship is Starship by Brian W, Aldiss. Oddly enough, it's not the work on which the Jefferson Starship based their first album, but my love of acid rock is another story entirely.

Back to Cameron Smith. This guy has given serious thought to a project that he admits is a century away from viability. Given the requirements of establishing a human outpost without the prospect of communication with the home world more quickly than at intervals of light years apart, there is much to consider, from genetic diversity to language and governance and viewscapes and so much more. 
 
Did you know that on a space station with low air pressure and high oxygen content, humans lose the ability to whistle?
 
Smith posits that in order to ensure success, a generation ship should carry 40,000 humans plus all of the necessary plants and animals to approximate human cultural norms. Because, he says, that's one of the main reasons to embark on such an adventure, to preserve human culture. As I said, he's not a very dynamic speaker, but I find the subject matter fascinating. See if you do, too.

GUNS

People who don't see the logic of banning high caliber, rapid firing, large magazine rifles are not the type of people to be swayed by logical argument. I therefore try to use their own twisted logic against them. I tell them that their two most sacred mantras in favor of their idea of Second Amendment rights are actually the most persuasive arguments for gun control.
 
They say: Guns don't kill people. People kill people.
I say: Then explain to me as if we're in kindergarten why you want to make it easier for people who want to kill people to get their hands on the means to kill as many people as they could possibly want to kill. I'll wait.

They say: If you criminalize guns, only criminals will have them.
I say: Good, then the alienated teenager won't have one and the deranged fired worker won't have one and the abusive husband won't have one and toddlers won't have one to accidentally kill a playmate with. If criminals are the only ones with guns, we'll all be safer. Real criminals don't shoot up suburban malls for no good reason. There's no money in it.

There's a logical reason that stricter gun control can be demonstrated to be Constitutional, too. If you happen to be debating about the subject with someone who might be susceptible to a flash of reasonableness now and then, try this...
 
They say: My Second Amendment rights are enshrined in the Constitution.
You say: Explain to me, like we were in kindergarten, why the right to keep and bear arms is not a part of the First Amendment. Let me suggest that the Founders didn't find it necessary to define or add modifiers to First Amendment rights. Freedom of Speech. of Press. of Religion. By right. Every other right does need and receive appropriate modification. No billeting troops in private homes EXCEPT in times of war. No searches and seizures WITHOUT a warrant. Trials for major crimes can ONLY take place AFTER an indictment. And that's why that pesky phrase about militias is in the Second. It was meant to be there. It modifies the right. Otherwise, that right would be in the First, unmodified. Do you think that the Founders just threw the phrase about militias in the Second for the fun of it? Show me another place in the Constitution where they did something like that. I'll wait.

The Second guarantees that the federal government will not prevent states from forming militias. That was a non controversial statement not so long ago. I believe that it is, to coin a phrase, Original Intent.

D.C STATEHOOD

Speaking of the Constitution, these days it seems as though the Constitution is like the Bible. The folks who talk about it loudest are folks who haven't read it or don't want you to read it. 

The Constitution did not create Washington, D.C. The Constitution didn't even require that a federal district be created that would be the seat of American government. The Constitution says that Congress MAY create a federal district. MAY isn't SHALL. It was up to Congress. 
 
And Congress did. And once Congress had, the Constitution says that Congress has EXCLUSIVE authority over ALL of the District. Article 1, Section 8 doesn't require D.C. and does not prohibit Congress from using its legislative authority to make that district a state. That’s what Congress does...legislate. And what Congress giveth, Congress can taketh away.



 


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Stay safe. Be well.

Peace Out!

Ira

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