Life in France

/Life in France

Banking question

By | 2017-12-15T08:51:06+00:00 December 15th, 2017|Life in France|

I have a question that I can't find the answer to online. Perhaps there's someone out there who's an expert on EU/French law who can help me answer this one? Barclays in France are insisting I fill out a w8-Ben for my kid, who is under 18 and a British citizen. I am reluctant to approve it as I don't see why the IRS need know about a foreign child opening an account in a foreign country. I can't find any information online about my legal obligations on this (in France or the EU) - but surely this contravenes a data-protection or right-to-privacy law somewhere? Children should be protected surely? Anyone know about this kind of stuff?

What is Ouigo?

By | 2017-08-29T11:53:43+00:00 August 29th, 2017|Life in France|

While the TGV might be the fastest and most comfortable way of travelling around France it is far from being the cheapest. A typical return journey from Strasbourg to Paris will set you back around 130€ for an off peak ticket, typically booked in advance. With these sorts of prices it's not surprising that the government has had to bow to pressure to provide more affordable long distance travel options for the nation. As minister of finance, President Emmanuel Macron deregulated the buses to finally introduce the nation to the joy of long distance coach journeys. Previously, the only way to travel by coach across the country was by charter or on an international stopping service. The reason for this was that previous governments did not want anyone directly competing with the railways. The Ouibus and Flixbus networks are the net result of this new legislation. Although, Ouibus is still operated by SNCF, the French railway company. French protectionism lives on! Happily, cash strapped travellers need not despair, there is an alternative to sitting in a musty box, with [...]

France Insoumise or the other (national) front

By | 2017-05-09T13:32:05+00:00 May 9th, 2017|Life in France|

If you are to believe the enthused youth electorate, the party lead by Jean-Luc Melenchon, know today as France Insoumise - or previously as the Front de Gauche (The Left-wing National Front) - are going to be the main opposition in the National Assembly come the elections in June. This belief despite their main man only gaining enough support to come forth in the Presidential elections and currently having only 10 representatives in the assembly. It seems that they are banking on a surge of support from disenfranchised voters following the collapse of France's two traditional political forces - The Socialist Party and The Republicans - and a belief that Macron only won by default (and not through policy). However, such gung-ho optimism should be pared back given a quick reading of their manifesto - which will make worrying reading for anyone with more than two pennies to rub together. Here's what they are currently posting as their "10 emblematic proposals" (I have translated from their very enigmatic French): A referendum to define the 6th Republic A new right [...]

Ni-Ni, Nazi or Banker?

By | 2017-05-02T07:40:58+00:00 May 2nd, 2017|Life in France|

Some might say that the French election has taken a turn for the worse this past week, though the truth is this has little to do with the candidates. It is more a case of the French electorate taking a turn for the worse. In my ten plus years in France never have I been so aware of the stupidity of your average French citizen. Alas, I knew this day would come. One of the factors driving me away from the United Kingdom was this same realisation - that your average British voter has about as much between his or her ears as a cockroach when it comes to politics. Only now, having mastered the French language and made an effort to understand French law and politics, do I realise that the population of France are about as clued-up as child of six when it comes to understanding how a country functions. Having integrated myself into French society I now have the unfortunate occasion to see acquaintances post their support for Le Pen on their Facebook time lines. I [...]

One week to go

By | 2017-04-16T20:25:19+00:00 April 16th, 2017|Life in France|

So we're a mere 7 days away from decision time. So, even though I have yet to qualify as a member of the electorate, I thought I would give you a quick biased run down of the 11 candidates hoping to become France's premier. Nathalie Arthaud Party: Communist Fight Club Day Job: Economics teacher Crazy rating: 5/5 (An economics teacher representing the communists? Seriously?!) Policy highlights: Plans to outlaw redundancy and let the workers have a say in the running of their employer's business. Free money for poor people. The end of capitalism, etc. Electability: 0/5 Philippe Poutou Party: The Anti-capitalists Day Job: Factory Hand Crazy rating: 5/5 Policy highlights: Overthrow capitalism through revolution and all that sort of thing... Electability: 0/5 Jean-Luc Mélenchon Party: The Super-Socialists for a Rebellious France Day Job: Politician Crazy rating: 4/5 (Former bog-standard socialist turned ultra-socialist) Policy highlights: Create constitutional chaos by forming the 6th Republic through a referendum. Ditch EU, Euro and Nato. Tax the rich so heavily they'll want to leave France. Electability: 3/5 (surprisingly popular with young voters looking to [...]

Show me a motion

By | 2017-01-16T12:57:55+00:00 January 16th, 2017|Life in France|

A little while ago I came across this one-liner on Facebook which I duly shared with my students: Grammar: the difference between knowing your shit and knowing you're shit. I thought this was a neat way to demonstrate to those learning the language of, albeit far removed from, Shakespeare how a simple apostrophe can dramatically change the meaning of something. It also helps demonstrate the flexibility of the noun "shit;" which in literal terms we know signifies excrement but here implies two polar states of enlightenment - first devout knowledge and then half-wittedness. While some might frown on me for teaching the youth of France English swear words it is worth considering how many everyday, anglophonic conversations might contain one of the following uses of the excremental word: To shit on someone from a great height To be full of shit To be in the shit To take someone’s shit To shit or get off the toilet To say "No shit" or "Are you shitting me?" To talk bullshit To talk shit When the shit hits the fan etc. [...]

Body transformation

By | 2017-01-06T11:16:30+00:00 November 8th, 2016|Life in France|

It's approximately a year ago that I began a new diet and on this first anniversary I thought I'd share the results with you. So if you are fed up to the back teeth with the US election please read on... Some background first: I first put on flab in my mid-teens. My mother put this down to an excessive intake of fizzy drinks (sodas) and soon had me drinking 'diet' varieties; while these didn't make me lose weight one could argue that I didn't get any flabbier. By the time I reached University age I weighed-in at 58 kilos (9st 2lb in old money) and was selected to cox for the rowing team. But despite weighing the same as a super featherweight boxer - my physical appearance looked far from athletic - I was somehow skinny and flabby at the same time. How could this be? I was practising sports six days a week! My high consumption of beer seemed like the obvious culprit. Then I truly began to pile on the pounds when I graduated from University [...]

Two-and-a-half freedoms

By | 2017-01-06T11:16:30+00:00 June 29th, 2016|Life in France, pointless whinging|

I was on France 3 TV the night before the Brexit vote. The main point I raise for British expats living and working in Europe is that without the four freedoms afforded by membership of the EU - most of us are going to be righteously stuffed if we attempt to carry on our lives abroad. Taking French nationality, I propose, may be the only solution. In case you're wondering what these four basic rights are: The free movement of goods. The free movement of services and freedom of establishment. The free movement of persons (and citizenship), including free movement of workers. The free movement of capital. At the moment the UKippers and Leavers are pretending that the UK can simply do away with half of number 2 and all of number 3 and carry on as before - reducing it down to two-and-a-half freedoms. Aside from it sounding less snappy - the implications are massive, and arguably all negative in their outlook. At the moment the EU are saying they won't be nasty about the settlement for the [...]

I have an accent

By | 2016-05-15T20:52:41+00:00 May 15th, 2016|Life in France|

About five minutes into an under-8s rugby match I was refereeing last weekend one of the fresh-faced little "rugbymen" briefly interrupted proceedings with "I have a question." I obliged him with a moment's attention - did the penalty need explaining perhaps? "Are you Breton?" he quizzed. I'm sure Nigel Owens doesn't have to deal with these kind of left-field challenges, but seeing as we were pressed for time I simply smiled, said "No" and reminded him he should be standing 5 metres from the ball. That's what Nigel would do - I thought to myself. To be fair he won't be the last Francophone to comment on my strange pronunciation, but I was happy he'd picked me out as vaguely French rather than obviously foreign. That English accent is rather difficult to get rid of after all. Now entering my tenth year in France, I'm happy to report that I can express myself in almost any situation - with perhaps one exception. That is when faced with someone who presumes, because I speak with an accent, that I must [...]

Flying to the UK?

By | 2016-01-02T17:54:42+00:00 January 2nd, 2016|Strasbourg|

It seems life in Strasbourg maybe about to get complicated for us expats, again. Having waited years for a direct UK flight to come to the city - Easyjet and Ryanair both opened routes the within the same twelve months to London. Up until 2014 we'd either had to endure the minibus service to Baden Airpark for Ryanair's wonderless service to Karlsruhe, a lengthy train ride to Basel for the Euroairport or a day-long journey by train via Paris - in order to get to London. Yesterday however I noticed that both low-cost carriers appear to have withdrawn their services. Ryanair appear to have suspended flying to Strasbourg at least until late August while Easyjet appear to be closing their route completely on the 21st March - as neither route is now bookable online. If both carriers withdraw from Strasbourg, for whatever reason (and I suspect French protectionism might be in play), then it will be a big step backwards for Europe's capital city.