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Je Ne Sais Pas (I Don't Know)

Je Ne Sais Pas (I Don't Know)

My filled out forms for my long-stay visa to be turned into the Prefecture in Paris.

We've been here for almost two months. And while most days are good, filled with exploring, relaxing and eating, there are other days where I feel so out of my element. Today was one of those days. It started out like any normal Monday. I had plans to meet Steve for lunch followed by turning in the paperwork needed to get me to "legal resident of France".

My current situation is a little funky; my visa is valid for three months only. Within the first two months, I am required to report to the prefecture declaring I am here in France. But I can only head to the prefecture once Steve has a successful visit to the OFII (immigration) office.. After an appointment (to be scheduled), I should get a residence card (carte de sejour) that will enable me stay for one year.

My deadline for reporting to the prefecture is coming up on October 29th and Steve's OFII appointment was on October 16th - just this past Friday. His appointment was a success and he received his long-stay visa stamp. Today, Monday, gives me 10 days until my reporting deadline.

From the start, Steve's employer, ENS. had said they would help submit our papers. We obviously planned to entrust this job to them given their knowledge of the bureaucracy, the French language and international employees.

This afternoon we brought all of my paperwork over: passport, forms filled out, translated birth and marriage certificates, proof of our new address PLUS his stamped visa. The woman started talking to us, but as usual, I couldn't understand most of what she was trying to say. She seemed quite helpful, showing us other people's documents, speaking a little more slowly, answering our questions and, thankfully, she wasn't phased by my dumb mistakes.

An example: she said "Vous ne travaillez pas?" meaning "you are not working?" I incorrectly stated "Vous ne travaillez pas" right back and immediately knew it was wrong. The correct answer was "Je ne travaille pas." - "I am not working." Like I said, dumb...

In the end, we figured out a few keys points based on her careful speaking and telling hand gestures. Here is what we think she was trying to communicate...

  • I will submit this today.
  • You can work until November 29th (She pointed to the date + said travailler, so this one is a big maybe?)
  • It will take 1-2 months to get an appointment (or something else? I wasn't quite sure)
  • It will take three months to get your resident card.

I left there with the feeling of what the hell just happened? but I was also calm, like I knew that everything was being taken care of. I am not in control of this process at all which is a very difficult thing for me! I am used to being able to research, ask questions, know exactly what the steps are and everything in between. I just need to leave it to the people hired to help international employees and their spouses. They are there to help us!

A shorter story about my lack of language skills. I went to the pharmacy this afternoon and tried to fill my BC prescription. I attempted to speak in French, but after a couple of seconds of silence with me trying to think of what to say next, the pharmacist says "would you rather speak english?" ... ugh.

It's frustrating to be at a loss for words when I'm so used to communicating with ease, especially working in a communications industry. My French is definitely improving, but it's interesting that I find myself practicing and pumping myself up for even the tiniest of interactions.

Patience is a virtue, in language learning and immigration processes. I'm confident it will all work out in the end. Until then, I'll be filling up my time with vocab lists and cooking projects.


Vocab for the day

  • travailler - to work
  • parler - to speak
  • aller - to go
  • attendre - to wait
  • dejeuner - to have lunch
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