Our French Life

An Amateur In France

bald tyre

Although I’ve been living here for just over a year now there are some days, or more recently a few weeks, that I feel like a complete amateur in France – and this generally costs me money.

So where to begin? Okay, so last September whilst we were busy sorting out our house, Mr Normandy noticed that the back two tyres of my car, were completely bald. Little did I realise that this was the beginning of my car troubles. In fact, if I have any sound advice to give you upon moving to France, I’d say treat yourself to a new car! It will be cheaper as second-hand cars, with double the mileage, cost a small fortune. This is even allowing for the fees you will pay for your Carte Grise, Certificate of Conformity etc.  I’d also check to see if there’s a main dealer near where you going to be living. But yes treat yourself and hopefully you won’t spend the best part of a year, in a garage, learning new French words for all manner of car parts.

My 11-year-old Volvo (oh gawd I need a new car!) has started to do what most cars do at that age – play up. I’m sure I’ve made many a person either Brit or French (I’m not fussy they’re going to know) glaze over with my tales of woo with this car. In fact, one person now says to me “how’s the car?”.

Back to the bald tyres. So I went in and was mighty proud of myself for getting the job done. This novelty has now worn off.

In January my front two tyres are bald. Again, went back to the same place and got those replaced.

A few weeks ago, somebody said “did you know your back tyre is bald?” What?! No!!! So I returned to the tyre place to ask why they were bald. Turns out, when I got the first set of tyres replaced, the garage put on the bill (facture) that the tracking needed doing. They didn’t come out to me and say “excuse me luv, there’s no point putting tyres on as they’ll be bald in a few months. Do you want us to do the tracking?” There is no scenario, world or universe whereby I would say “no thanks” They wrote it on the bill after I’d paid for the tyres and left the building. Did I look at this bill? What do you think? This gal was already fist pumping thin air, that she’d been proficient enough in French, to get her tyres changed.

So you can imagine what happens next. The same thing happens in January. I am blissfully unaware that my car really does need its tracking doing. Hence the bald tyres after (turns out the front one was also going) only a few months wear.

Now, when I tried to argue this point they were having none of it.  This is the thing – I’m very good at arguing. Takes a bow. You don’t say but even I (granted the French needs to improve to articulate myself better) can’t get a word in edgeways and that’s going some.

There seems to be a lack of logic, a lack of understanding and a lack of letting you explain your reasons why you think something is unfair! We told you the tracking needed doing. What on the bill after I’d paid? Yes, its advisory. What?! Anyhow lesson learnt at the cost of the best part of 500 euros – that in France they don’t do the tracking on your car as standard. You have to ask.

In the UK they would assume what’s the point on putting new tyres on if there tracking is out. They might include it in the price but am pretty sure it’s done as standard. I have come from a land where I can assume the next step will be taken without me having to ask.

So my current motto for living in France is NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING! Never assume logic will be the order of the day. You have to spell e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g out. Otherwise you’re going to be spending a whole lot of time saying “but why wouldn’t they do that anyway?!”

For instance, you can go and get your car diagnosed for problems but they don’t fix it there. Why?! God why?! It is purely a diagnostic garage. So you take your diagnostic report to a garage to fix it #wails.

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a pantomime.

panto horseNow, if you haven’t glazed over already. When I did go back to get more tyres to replace the bald ones, they actually took off the wrong tyre (a perfectly decent one), so I had to get that changed again. How they wouldn’t know it wasn’t bald is beyond me. Of course, I complained and was offered 20 euros for the inconvenience. Hold the phone!

Oh and when the technician was told to change the tyre back – the clock struck 12pm. Lunchtime. I knew I was in for it. The previously charming young man, turned into a lunchtime pumpkin and my wheel nuts were being flung all over the garage in sheer rage. I pointed out that he wasn’t happy – the lady looked a little embarrassed but I’m sure I detected a touch of lunchtime pumpkin sympathy.

When I left the garage I really hoped my tyres wouldn’t fling off at any given point especially in the area that has no mobile reception. They’re still on my car.

Okay so what else on the amateur front? Well, who knew that I wouldn’t get a refund of my doctors bill (25 euros) if the trainee doctor signed it? That would be me. I have to go back and stalk my local doctor, time it just right, so I avoid paying the 25 euro appointment charge. Luckily I now have “sorry to trouble you” in my pantomime vocabulary memory bank.

Recently I got a speeding ticket. Yes I am a walking disaster at the moment. Didn’t you see the sign asked Mr Normandy? Nope. There are signs for speed cameras? Turns out there are and if you look to your right, you’ll see this thin speed camera poking out through the grass of the hard shoulder. Now I thought I could do 130 kph turns out this stretch of road is 110 kph. I was doing like 5 miles over so yes got a ticket. In the post. 45 euros thank you very much.

What I do like about the French system is that whilst getting money back is quite a test of your character internal strength and any other facebook profound statement – giving money is so easy! In a warped kind of way you feel you’ve achieved something. I did it all online. Never have I been more satisfied whilst paying a fine.

I’m currently awaiting for the Gendarmes to knock on my door to insist I change my driving licence to a French one to take off a point. In France you get given points to be taken away whereas in the UK you have a ‘clean’ licence and points are added. So I don’t mind having -1 point on my licence. I jest. I think as I paid it very quickly – guilty as charged – it might go in the don’t worry about it file.

Whilst we’re on the subject of car stuff – your V5 aka Carte Grise has to be either in your vehicle or on you. Said she with it currently sitting in a drawer so I don’t lose it. If I get stopped that’s a fine #amateur.

And finally, did you know that car breakdown cover is included in your insurance here? However, check that it covers you for 0km from home as you pay extra for that. Otherwise you’re only covered if you are 30km from home. Again, what world, what universe would you not want cover to include anywhere you break down?! Not my world but hey this is my world and I still love it.

But guess what? Maybe this Mrs Normandy isn’t such an amateur after all as turns out I’m covered 0km from my home! Pure luck mind.

Are you an amateur in France. If you are I’d love to hear your stories as I’m sure this won’t be the last thing I had no idea about.

You have been reading….Our Normandy Life




Our French Life

How To Register Your Vehicle In France

It appears that most people tend to dread or worry about this process. I’m not sure why, as out of all of them, it’s low down on the brain drain pecking order. Less thought goes into this than, say, setting up a Micro Entrepreneur business (check), much less than if you start thinking about inheritance, dividing up assets and all that other fun adult stuff. And far less than filling out your first tax return form – check (with a “that will do if its wrong am sure they’ll tell me” type of approach). Actually make that forms – there’s a main one and lots of different ones to add a sense of danger and excitement to the occasion. Or you could employ an accountant but where’s the fun in that?!  Continue reading “How To Register Your Vehicle In France”