Friday, May 20, 2011

May Fever

France drought

The drought conditions in France have caused water restrictions to be placed on many departments, including the Gers (#32: the lowermost orange-shaded area). Rain clouds have formed nearby us and then dispersed or marched away without shedding their load onto our parched fields. With nothing to wash out the air, the pollen-count is up again, so I’m back indoors most of the day. I took Munson out for a fifteen minute run and rabbit-sniff this morning, and it took about 90 minutes for my eyes to clear again !

On other fronts I’ve had very mixed news. My car seems to be out for the count indefinitely with a faulty diesel injection pump. Repair options and expertise are widely dispersed around the region, so haulage costs to transfer to a new garage have to be factored in. There are no good options for my wallet. Brent has been super helpful sorting out some of the mechanical options with several garagistes as I’m not great with those matters even in English.

The best news for the week was that I successfully exchanged my Australian driver’s license for a French permis de conduire. Any non-EU person residing in France must complete this exchange (if from an approved country) in their first 12 months of residency. Without an EU-issued driving license you can’t be insured in France after that time and would have to take a full French theory and practical driving exam.

Jean drove me into Auch on Wednesday so I could hand my documents in at the prefecture. When I tried submitting them by post a few months ago, they were sent back after several weeks with a long letter explaining the deficiencies in my application. I didn’t want to risk another long turnaround, so figured that a personal visit would strip at least two weeks off the process. I was very fortunate in a) not having any queue, and b) having all my papers approved immediately at the desk. To my surprise I was told that my license would be available for pickup within the hour. French licenses are flimsy part-laminated cardboard affairs – just one design amongst 110 different versions throughout the EU. A standard license format will begin to be deployed over the next twenty(!) years. It was very pleasing to leave Auch, permis in hand - would that I had a functioning car to celebrate in!
peasNow that I’m in the final two months of my first year in France, I can apply to renew my visa. I’ll be off to the mayor’s office within the week to start that process. If I’m not mistaken, I’ll then get a proper carte de séjour (residency card) rather than using the stickers in my passport as proof of residency.
Till then, I’m home, enjoying the peas and quiet.


  1. Rainstorm followed 1 hour after this post...

  2. Glad you are all legal now! Also glad you finally got some rain. Many places int he US are having droughts too. But, then there are places along the Mississippi River that are dealing with massive flooding. Mother nature is quite moody these days. Hope you are getting some allergy relief!


  3. No rain for us, yet. Our department (41) is not in the restriction area, yet, but they're all around us.

    Funny about the license. Each US state has its own agreement with France. Some allow exchanges, others do not. When I moved from California, I was dismayed to find out that my license was not exchangeable. So I went through the whole French process (theory classes, written test and practical test). I did learn a lot and passed with not problem. But it took months and many euros. But, the French license doesn't expire, so there is that.

  4. I've had friends in Australia express distress over trying to swap their California licenses. Because the state is so broke, it's often impossible to get supporting paperwork as California isn't paying anyone to look after that issue.

  5. The problem with driving licenses and California is that California requires anybody coming in from any other state or country to take at least a written test to get a California license. So France "reciprocates" in the sense that anybody coming from California also has to take the test to get a French license. Only 12 U.S. states don't require new residents, American or foreign, to take a test for the license, so only those states' licenses are exchangeable in France.

    As Walt said, we are not in a drought-affected department officially, but we live within 3 or 4 miles of the 36, which is officially under drought conditions.

    Good for your permis de conduire and good luck with your carte de séjour. Sorry again about the car.

  6. I'm very relieved not to have to do a driving test a third time. I had to do a written and practical exam for Washington state back in the 90s.


Flickr slideshow