The French take this skill to heights most of us have never experienced before, after all, bureaucrats or ‘functionaires’ make up over 22% of the workforce. For example, my husband recently mislaid his driving licence. He looked on the French government website which said that he must go to the local Mayor’s office. The lady there said that she didn’t deal with such things, but he needed a form from the police to say that he had lost the licence. He went to the police station, where he was told that they had not dealt with such things for 5 years and that he should to go to the Sous-préfecture. Meanwhile he had gathered all the necessary paperwork. He had bought 2 tax stamps, that are only sold at tobacconists; 2 passport photos, from a machine at the supermarket; a photo copy of his passport; official form ‘A’ in duplicate; official form ‘B’- single copy and of course a copy of our gas bill. As it was August, the office was only open every other day of the week because of the holidays, and people were queuing outside the doors. When he got to the counter, the man looked at all the papers and said everything was OK. The official took most of them, but gave two back. He said that my husband would receive the new licence through the post within 14 days. A few days later, we received a letter from the Sous-préfectureto say that they couldn’t send it, as his dossier was not complete. Please could he send a copy of our gas bill and a copy of his passport – papers he had taken, the official had seen, and then had handed back! All of this keeps many people in employment! When we relate stories like this to our French friends, they shrug their shoulders. C’est la vie! C’est la France!

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