Monday, July 11, 2011

Papers chased, papers caught, gender discrimination

The two final pieces of my residency jigsaw puzzle were fixed into place today.

Firstly my carte vitale arrived so I’ve now got health insurance. I knew that had been approved some weeks back, but now I have the fantastic plastic which I can present to doctors and pharmacists whenever I’m stressed from too much paperwork.

Secondly, my carte de séjour , the visa for a second year of residence arrived at the Auch prefecture office on Friday. I’ve just been in to collect it. Like my driving license, it’s far too big to put in a wallet, but it will slide nicely into my passport.

Anyway, after 357 days of the paper chase, it’s over for now. On y va!


I was a bit nonplussed that the carte de séjour recorded me as Australienne (feminine), rather than Australien (masculine). Then I realised that it’s referring to my nationality rather than to me as an individual. By the arcane rules of gendering, Australia is the feminine l’Australie so my nationality is also feminine.

Australian map


I am an Australian –> Je suis un Australien.

I am Australian –> Je suis australienne.

It’s the –e ending (e.g. l’Australie) that indicates feminine gender in most cases; there being a half-dozen exceptions from le Belize and le Mexique to le Zimbabwe.

States and cities also follow gender rules (the USA has 9 feminine states, typically older ones which had Frenchified names ending in –e ), and there are further rules for which preposition en or dans is used to indicate that one is in that place. Once you narrow that down further, one needs to take care that one is in a street (dans la rue) but on a boulevard or avenue (sur le boulevard ou l’avenue).

Sydney, NSW, Australia is feminine all the way: la Sidney/Sydney, la Nouvelle-Galles du Sud, l’Australie. I don’t know why Queensland doesn’t merit becoming Pays de la reine, and I’m not even going to touch l’Outback or la Tasmanie.


  1. Well, strange as all the languages are, at least you are legal!


  2. It's the word nationalité that's feminine. Je suis de la nationalité américaine. Je suis un américain.

    But I'm always New Yorkais.

  3. @Walt: ah I knew there was a catch somewhere. I've read pages and pages of material about gendering of places and people but never seen the word nationalité implicated. It makes sense in hindsight of course, as much as any of it can!


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