There are so many things that I love about my life in France that I almost feel like I could write a list as long as J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings!
I love the smell of fresh croissants in the morning and the view of the Eiffel Tower from my desk. I love the different cities and their individual qualities and quirks. I love the food (oh my goodness the food), the wine and the small streets and passageways. I love the history of the country, the markets, the list goes on...
I love how France mixes the old and the new together so that they function in perfect harmony alongside each other. The markets are a perfect example, running every week for hundreds of years. Whether it's a food market, an antique market or a car boot sale the French don't let their markets lose their charm. Going to a market is one of my favourite things to do because with my wicker basket in hand I feel part of an age-old tradition that the French have fought to keep alive.
France also has some of the most spectacular architecture. In Paris, on a daily basis, you can find yourself walking past a palace (the Louvre), the Eiffel Tower and the beautiful Musée d'Orsay which was originally a train station built in 1898. Everything has a story to tell and as so much of the country has maintained its original architecture, you really feel like you're walking through history. Places I love to visit are Bordeaux in the south, Concarneau in Brittany and Arras in Pas-de-Calais.
France is famous for its food and I have eaten the best food of my life here over the last six years. Best of all, I still discover new and exciting restaurants on a weekly basis! My absolute favourites in Paris, where I live, are Holybelly for Brunch and Café de l'Industrie for dinner!
However, even if France is very beautiful, it can also be an extremely frustrating place to live, especially when you're being tested by the French administration system. The French administration system, if you hadn't already heard, is one of the most complicated in the world. They are absolutely obsessed with documentation and even carrying out the simplest tasks requires that you fight your way through layers upon layers of red tape. When you first arrive here, it almost seems like the system is against you.
- in order to get an apartment you need a bank account but in order to get a bank account you need an apartment with an electricity bill in your name. This is the first conundrum you'll face.
- to get a health care card you need to provide an original of your birth certificate translated by an official translator, seems reasonable right? Well, it would be if every social security office asked for the same thing but unfortunately they don't. Some ask for 10 documents, some ask for 30, some need a translation of your documents, some don't and to make matters worse every person you speak to in the same office will tell you something different. Oh, and don't forget to send all your documents by recorded delivery because if you don't they will say they lost them and you will have to begin the process all over again. It took me 5 years to get my card...I nearly gave up.
- last but not least their tax system is over complicated and absolutely no information is available in English. This is actually one of the biggest problems I think because even finding an advisor at the bank, someone at the social security office or someone at the tax office is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Of course we should make the effort to speak French but even the French don't understand their own administration system most of the time, proving that the system is just TOO complicated.
At the end of the day, when you love someone you accept them and their flaws, and you have to do the same with France. Yes, it has its flaws and yes sometimes the bureaucracy will make you want to punch a hole in the wall BUT it's also a fantastic place to live. There are so many things to love, so many people to connect with and an unlimited amount of patisseries to eat when the going gets a little tough.
I love France, imperfections and all!