20 October 2009

Today a grève: Welcome to France

There are some very wonderful things about socialism in France. For instance, I have had health care from the beginning of my official residency. Downside? I have not the slightest idea how to access it because I do not have my social security number nor my carte vitale (the French « credit card » of medical information that you take with you to the doctor). It's no big deal though because the pharmacists here have much more freedom to prescribe medications than in good ol' USA, so if I need something I can more than likely get it regardless.

I will not bore you with the details of how many hours I have wasted trying to figure out how to get my social security information. The best advice I've received on how to deal with any sort of stressful situation in France? Sit back, have a glass of wine and some delicious chocolate and don't worry about it. I'm trying!(Another great thing about France is that you can buy a delicious bottle of wine for only €2 (about 3 USD)-- probably the least expensive thing in the whole country). Apparently the government will send me everything I need to know via snail mail...eventually.

Example number two of socialism at its best: the attitude towards work in France. We French work because it allows us to live a comfortable life and contributes to society... oh and it helps us to finance our luxury items (like dog grooming which costs upwards of €60 in Paris). This laissez faire attitude is great when you are the employee. Hardly anyone ever gets fired from their jobs and most people pick a job and stick with it for life (the French take this so seriously that when France telecom recently started going capitalist and telling their employees that they could relocate or lose their jobs they took it as life or death. Seriously. So far 25 have committed suicide and it is all over the news).

The downside? How about when you go to a café and ask for a coffee and the waiter says « non ». He's not working for tips so what does he care? But as long as you can master that whole sit back and relax thing you really can't go wrong in la belle France!

This brings me to my original point. This week is apperantly some type of socialism week in France, so the train companies decided that they would celebrate by doing what the French do best: faire la grève (go on strike). What tickles me about this strike is that they publicly announced the start and stop times. Oh France, you're so cute with your grèves.In preparation for a horrific commute to work I gave myself 2 ½ hours to get to work. It only took me 1 hour (it usually takes over an hour). What?! Oui.

So I arrive at 9:15 and have class with Monsieur Lelong at 10h:15, the directrice tells me that Monsieur Lelong is out sick today so I need to prepare the whole gym lesson in English. No problem. I have a whole « Head, shoulders, knees, and toes » lesson planned out including a game of « Simon says » at the end of the class if the kids are good. I walk up to the classroom at 10:30 and the directrice appears. « You wont be working with the kids today because you are not allowed to work with a substitute teacher » she tells me, « you can use this time for preparation. Preparation for what exactly?So now its 11:45 and here I am « preparing » for class that I don't have until 3:00.

Am I stressed about this? Nah. I'm trying on this whole relaxed attitude thing. In fact, I've taken a nap almost every day that I've been here. I've hardly ever purposefully taken a nap in my life.

Vive la France!!!!!


  1. I would just go to your local MGEN office and ask if you're in the system yet and if you could have your numéro de sécu so that you can be remboursé for medical costs. They can ignore phone calls and e-mails, but it's harder to ignore you when you get right in their faces.

  2. Oooooh les greves. Best ever.

    When I was in Grenbole, my university's students went on strike mid October. They really didn't want us international students ruining their greve, so they barricaded themselves into our building and lived in there. We had to find random places around the city for the last month and three weeks of my time in Grenoble just to have class. It was glorious! (and just so you know, the day I left Grenoble, I bought the newspaper in the train station and they had a big picture of the police physically removing the students from our school...pretty cool)

    I also remember when the tram and bus workers went on strike...I walked to campus which took me an hour and fifteen minutes but those who took the bus took three hours to get to class. Silly, silly.

    You're right, vive la France! :)


  3. Comme dit M de Gaulle en 1958 "Il y a un certain idee de la France". C'est encore plus vraie en 2010. The essence is that the world owes the French a living.
    Having lost every battle in the past 125 years, welcomed the Nazis and betrayed the English to the Germans in 1940 and sent 10,000s of Jews and Frenchmen to die in German concentration camps in 1942/43 without any punishment in order to have a quiet life and avoid the war, the French socialist and communist unions cannot accept that their members should work as long as or retire as late as everyone else in the world. So in this frozen "democracy" a small proportion of the electors - the unionised employees, almost all on the public payroll, reject the President's electoral mandate and relevant law approved by the Parliament by violence in the streets. Hilariously a France TV announcer demonstrated his support for the strikers by giving his news news review unshaved - because he could not strike.
    So one sees the decline of a great united country led by Napoleon that shook the world to a syndicalist potpourri led by the eponymous Segolene Royal who "pete contre la tonerre".
    Hubris! as the Greeks have again shown us the ose whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad!