One very awkward englishman, boldly goes…

Archive for December, 2011

Joyeux Noel

Merry Christmas to all. Peace, love and happiness. X



French bureaucracy (a little moan)

Now, I am never one to moan. I am more a man of action rather than words. Upon arrival in France I was fully prepared for a long struggle with the infamous French bureaucracy I had heard so much about. I had many documents and files ready, sharpened and available for my upcoming battle with the various French systems in order to do things properly. I also felt that with all of this complete it would help my transition into life in France and make me feel more like I belonged here. Little did I know just what I was letting myself in for.

Here is just one example of the complications of the bureaucratic system here. I was advised by the British Consulate to register with the French Social Security system straight away, as this will be needed when I start work. On my first meeting with the Social Security office I was given a shopping list of documents that I would need to bring back on my next meeting to  be sent away. Once this has been processed I will then receive my Cart Vital (social security account). These documents included…

– My Passport

-The Contract for my apartment

-A letter from my fiancé to say that I live in the apartment (as I wasn’t in France when she signed the contract)

– Her French Identification photocopied

– My Birth Certificate ; the original however will not be acceptable as it must have a stamp from the local authority of my birth from the last 3 months. For this I had to phone up Canterbury county council to get them to send a fresh stamped and dated copy. (There was a fee for this)

– A translation of my birth certificate – Not just any translation which could be done by my fiancé, but a translation done by one of their registered translation companies. For this I had to travel outside of Marseille to a small company and wait 3 days for the document to be translated, to then go back and pick this up. (This also had a fee)

– A photocopy of a letter from my local Pole emploi to say that I had registered with them.

– 2 passport photos.

This all took the best part of a month to gather together, and yesterday I finally returned to the local social security office, hopeful in the knowledge that I might finally be closer to legality. After waiting a good 35 minutes I was told that they would not process my application, as in fact I needed to have a job lined up before they could send off for my social security. It was also fine to use my British social security number for the first few months instead. It turns out that the original information I was given by both the British Consulate and the first meeting I had at the Social Security office was incorrect and I had just wasted the last month and a half waiting for this documentation, when I could have been working.

The question of what happens when my birth certificate and translation expire was met with a shrug and a mumble. The question of why I was given incorrect information from the Social Security office to start with was met with the response “Oh he (the man I originally dealt with) is always making mistakes and getting the information wrong.” SO WHY IS HE STILL WORKING HERE THEN?

This is just Social security. I have had similar experiences when opening a bank account. My fiancé has just been told she can’t register to vote next year because she doesn’t have the right type of household bill! (How exactly are they meant to increase the amount of young people and people from the deprived areas of the city to vote when they make the process to register to complicated and pedantic). One thing is for sure – nothing happens quickly here and you have to be very patient. essentially, I don’t mind the fact that the system is complicated. I was prepared for this. What is more frustrating is when you are given conflicting advice from various people who are supposed to represent and work for the system. You get the impression that system is so complex that they don’t even understand it.

I would love to hear from other people if they have had similar experiences via the comments section below.




L’Estaque is a small fishing port to the north-west of Marseille, made famous for being the destination of choice for artists of the impressionist era. Although getting there can be a challenge – owing to an irregular bus service, it is well worth a visit. As well as the small harbour, there is also a small beach to the north, and a large boule pitch, as well as the usual mix of small café and restaurants.






The crazy neighbour

Upon arrival in a foreign country you can’t help but have ‘rose tinted glasses‘ when walking around, viewing every minute detail as a thing of wonder and excitement. After a month and a half of living here I can feel that this is definitely starting to wear off, and I am seeing Marseille as my new home, rather than a temporary vacation.

A great example of this is my neighbour across the hallway. When we signed the contract for the flat the owner told us the lady across the hallway had 2 dogs and 3 cats. This is quite a feat – considering how small our flat is, and how small hers must be. The first time a bumped into her was when I was moving a washing machine into the flat. She was friendly, but spoke at a million miles an hour, which was a challenge for me to understand – especially as I squeezed a washing machine up the stairs. I could however understand it was mostly regarding her animals.

I began to notice that she was a little eccentric, as most morning I could hear her talking and singing away to her pets, through our thin walls. Every day the same song. Again, I thought it was funny – as an eccentric old French lady.

Then when me and my girlfriend came home from a few evening out, we noticed that she would leave the door of her flat open in the evening and at night to allow her Cats and Dogs to roam around freely in out little shared hallway. This is rather alarming when you are creeping around in the dark (a little worse for wear), trying desperately to feel your way around the staircase and to our front door, and you suddenly bump into an enormous dopey-eyed golden retriever. Again, with my rose tinted glasses I just put it down to her quirky ways… who am I to judge? I’m new here!

Things got a little more bizarre though on Sunday evening. We had friends over to the flat, and we were all pitching in to get the Christmas decorations. We had moved on to decorating our door, when the neighbour came staggering up the stairs. With her were the 2 dogs (looking very sorry for themselves) as well as 2 cats – who she had on leashes made of string. As our friends enquired about the cats to her, she proceeded to tell them this was perfectly normal, and that when the cats were kittens they had been brought up and breast-fed by the dogs. All a little strange. As is the smell which emanates from her flat each time she opens the door!

All in all I have now realised she is a little more than just ‘eccentric’, but possibly a few sandwiches short of a picnic!



Marseille Cathedral

I have just returned to Marseille after a few days back in the UK. I have just had all of my belongings delivered to my flat, so I’m feeling a lot more comfortable and settled now. The mistral is blowing a gale at present, so I thought I would do a short post on Marseille Cathedral, another one of my architectural highlights of the city!


Marseille Cathedral, or Cathedral Sainte-Marie-Majeure de Marseille is located to the north west of the Vieux Port next to the new museum of the Mediterranean (being built in time for MP2013). The present cathedral dates back to the 1820’s and is recognised as a national monument. However, the site has previously housed cathedral structures since Roman occupation.


The current structure was designed by the architects Henri-jacques Esperendieu and Leon Vaudoyer. Well worth a visit!