Welcome to my first foray into the world of blogging. I hope it will be something that develops and improves with my writing style. It is my experiences of foreign cultures, many similar to my own and some completely alien as I live an expat life and throw in the odd journey or two along the way.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

La Vie francaise

As I expected, my good intentions of writing every week took a dip over the last 2 due to having 2 boys to entertain on their hols! But back to work today so I thought I would give a little insight into la vie francaise.

Before school broke up for the holidays the school held the Loto in the village hall. I say village hall, it is more accurately described as a large gym where local sports groups play handball and basketball and known in french as la salle polyvalente. It was on a Friday and started at 830 pm. Knowing that the French rarely start on time we arrived slightly late but weren't the last. We had the basics of how to play explained to us and bought our cards and counters (cartons and jetons). It turns out that it is Bingo. The counters are used so that they can re-use the cards each time. The French are quite addicted to their Loto and go to at least one a week. Many take it very seriously with chatting and noise discouraged. Even at the school's event, where the kids were included and expected to take part, children older than 5 were expected to sit at the tables and not make a noise! The boys had been practising it all week at school and did well identifying their numbers. We didn't even get close to a full card and never managed to be the first to fill a line - so no prizes for us. The prizes ranged from a sledge filled with children's toys and books to a gift certificate for €100 to a 5kg bag of flour and some cider! They broke for coffee at 11pm and still had five more games to play. The kids had been good but even they had a limit to how long they can listen to numbers being called out in French! So, using my leg in a brace as an excuse we left.

As previously mentioned we started the process of registering our car in France. The MOT centres here don't fix anything that is wrong - just fail your car and you have to then pay to re-test later. So we booked the car in with our local garage, Monsieur Perrot to get anything fixed that needed it before the test. When we went back to pick it up he said that he hadn't done much except change a couple of bulbs so he hadn't yet worked out how much we owed him and that he would give us an invoice, sometime!

We had been told that registering the car can be a lengthy and frustrating process. But also that if you are organised it is ok. So we got organised. Having made a list of everything we needed and the order it needed to happen. We started slowly ticking things off. I think it is the length of time that it takes that is possibly the frustrating part but happily we got every document that we needed. Last week I left the house before everyone else was awake to get to Foix, our principal town with the Prefecture, in time to join the queue for the carte grise - the official document for your car similar to the V5 in Britain. I was 5th in the queue as the doors opened. Then we had to wait some more for the ticket machine to wake up in order to get our number to be served. It was a very orderly process and I felt quite French sitting with my dossier folder like everyone else! 10 minutes later I was at the counter passing over all the necessary documents to a very bored lady who obviously did this day in and out. Then I moved on down the hall to pay our tax for the carte grise - this time no queue. Then there was one final thing to do - find Intermarche and the man who makes the registration plates (plaques). Knowing that the kids would enjoy seeing the plates go on I took them home. We then went to our local garage and the very nice Monsieur Perrot put them on for us - and still hadn't worked out the invoice!

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