5 Absolute, Surefire Ways to Get Rich in France


1. Sell Classeurs

The most prevalent fixture in every French home isn’t the gleaming shelf of copper cookware, the bottles of medicaments crammed into every nook in the john, or their collection of books, which the French hold in the same reverence as Americans do their flat-screen televisions and their iPhones.

No, it’s the shelf of classeurs, the sturdy, colorful cardboard folders to hold the massive, sprawling, spiraling out-of-control amount of paperwork your accumulate here, in the form of les dossiers, which are the two most important words in the French language.

You quickly learn to never, ever, ever, throw away even the tiniest, most insignificant piece of paper or receipt in France because invariably, six years later, someone will ask you to produce it. So it’s imperative to save each and every scrap of paper and because of that, soon you’ll find you’ve accumulated your very own stack or dossiers.

I know, because I have at least fifty. Or more filed away somewhere.

When I arrived, I shipped a container of furniture over, which required payment at the port of entry. I paid by check, brought the paperwork home, and had my chairs and couch delivered. Two years later, I got a bill demanding payment. I couldn’t find the receipt anywhere, and since French banks don’t…and won’t…give you copies of your cancelled checks, I spent endless weeks calling back-and-forth. And while the woman at the company definitely agreed with me that they wouldn’t have released my belongings without my payment, they needed a copy of the piece of paper attesting to the fact that I paid.

Six years later, we’re almost finished battling it out. (“Soon…” I keep saying to myself, as I file another stack of papers away, “Soon…”)

So all those little bits of paper need to be sorted and classified. And anyone who wants to make a fortune should go in the business of manufacturing them. Imagine a country of 64,000,00 people who have lived here ten times longer than I have—and that’s adds up to a heckuva lot of classeurs, folks.

2. Run a Photocopy Business Racket

Coming up soon is my visa renewal, which most of us foreigners have to take care of annually. For some reason, they can’t tell me how long one has to live in France to get a Residency Card. Last year, the woman at immigration said, “I don’t know. We don’t have that kind of information!”

I wanted to point out that since she works in immigration, perhaps she might privy to immigration information, but that’s just me being silly.

To renew one’s visa, each year, you’re sent a long list of documents that you’re required to produce. It’s an ever-changing kaleidoscope of paperwork, some of it seems obvious, while the others, not so much. (Like a copy of each of my phone bills for the past year. Do they really need confirmation that I have a telephone?) And each sheet of paperwork needs to be photocopied—in triplicate.

But before you gloat about your perfectly-assembled and photocopied dossier, when you sit down for your appointment, they’ll push it back in your direction, and spring a new one on you that’s completely out of left field—like, where’s your father’s army discharge papers? Or didn’t you bring a DNA sample from your circumcision, with a signed pediatric physician’s note attesting to the fact that, yes, indeed, it is from your…? um...whatever. And where is that attestation from your sixth grade teacher attesting to the fact that you did, for sure, properly make it through fifth grade?

And—yes, each needs to be notarized in America on a date that’s within ten days of your appointment of your visa hearing.

And then photocopied. Thrice.

So you arrive with every piece of paper in your possession, although I’ve gotten smarter now; I simply wheel along every dossier I have, since they’re bound to ask for something from one of them. But I’ve gotten especially savvy and arrive with a bulging pouch full of coins, too, since invariably there’s some document or piece of paper in one of my folders that they’re going to require which of course needs to be photocopied—yes, in triplicate.

You head to the lobby, which is a parking jam of humming Xerox machines.

Of course, the change machine is broken, and there’s scores of immigrants in tears, madly rifling through their pockets for any bit of coinage.

(I should bring extra and sell it to them, which is a slower way to make my fortune, but I don’t have very good business sense. But that’s not to say you can’t…)

Whoever owns those machines is making more money that Steve Wynn in Vegas, where the odds are better, since dropping coins in one of the photocopiers often results in nothing coming out either. And there’s no address or anything to get a refund, so it’s like getting free money!

What are you waiting for?

3. Start a Pack & Ship Business

Paris is the most visited city in the world. And lots of those visitors actually shop and end up buying something. I know, I know. Go figure.

But more often than not, some of those visitors buy too much and have to haul it home. Except few stores will ship anything, probably because they’ve had the some experiences that most of us have had getting anything delivered.

(A French friend advised me if I’m expecting delivery to write my name on my forehead and stand in my doorway, with the door open, all day, until it arrives.)

You’ve probably been there too, and most harried travelers are willing to simply slap down their credit cards and have their items whisked away and shipped right to their door, easily and assuredly. Sure it’s a bit more expensive, but when you’re frantic, and with the airlines recent luggage restrictions, someone should open a pack & ship place in Paris. I would imagine a zillion people would be more than happy to drop them off, have their purchases wrapped up and sent to them.

And there’s be less people walking around with their names emblazened on their foreheads.

(Useful tip: If you’re going to write your name on your forehead, don’t use a permanent Sharpie.)

4. Inaugurate a Fourth Mobile Phone Company

When I moved to France in 2002, I was literally stunned by how expensive mobile phone service was in France. In America, my last plan was $30 for 3000 minutes, or something crazy like that, so I could yack all I wanted. Although prices have softened ever-so-little here since I arrived, with my current mobile phone plan, I’m paying 20€ ($32) for 60 minutes of outgoing calls. That means I’m paying about 30 centimes a minute to chat. Which explains why, if I call you, I’m talking at lightning-fast speed.

There are three companies in France, and each one charges the exact same price. I’ve asked why one company doesn’t say to themselves, “Hmm. Perhaps if we lowered our prices, so we’re less than the other companies, we’d get more customers. Aha!

But no one seems to know, and everyone just shrugs it off, saying “C’est un monopole.”

(I’m not sure how three makes a monopoly. But apparently it does. I’ve learned to stop questioning certain things.)

But if there’s three companies, who are all in collusion with each other, why doesn’t someone start a forth network, charge less, and rake it in? I would switch in a second. And so might 64,000,000 other people.

(UPDATE: It happened! And sure enough, all the other companies lowered their rates to affordable levels.)

5. Invent a Reusable Plastic Bag

I try to be a good citizen of the planet.

I carefully walk across my apartment to dump lettuce washing water over to my little pot of dried up herbs, withered and near death, in the pot on my roof. I’m still using the same sheet of foil that I that I ripped off the roll during my first week in Paris, which I’ve used continuously for reheating leftovers ever since.

And just last week, I went through all my twist-ties and separated them by age, color, length, and usability. The ones that didn’t make it, I stripped off the paper, recycled it in the paper bin, then took the wire filaments, which I put into the separate bin for metal objects. It took me about three hours, but I can sleep better knowing how many twist-ties I’ve saved.

In spite of the fact j’embrasse des arbes (hug trees, which doesn’t especially translate, but I thought I’d give it a shot…), I do amass a certain amount of plastic bags. It’s inevitable. I have cloth shopping bags I take shopping with me, but sometimes I just stop in somewhere and need a bag, and there you have it.

After realizing I had an overabundance of les sacs plastiques, I decided a few months ago that I should make a serious, concerted effort to reuse them as much as possible. A problem that’s become especially acute since I got a notice to stop putting plastic bags in the recycling bins in my building because the city doesn’t recycle them.

So I bring mine to the market, to re-use.

Unfortunately, when I hand over my slightly-crinkled, but thoroughly food-worthy plastic bag, often the merchant waves it away and rips a fresh bag from their shiny stack. And begins using that one.

When I protest, I’ve been told; “Non, non, monsieur!…à cause de bactérie!” or “C’est pour l’hygiène!”, as they begin to fill a brand-new, sterilized, sparkling clean bag with onions for me. I never realized that my used bags were teeming with hazardous bacteria and I must be protected from all the dangerous pathogens lurking in them.

Oddly, there’s no mention of any germs on the fingers that he uses to select my apricots, the same finger that I’ve seen plucking a cigarette out of his mouth or jammed up his nose.

On the plus side, larger supermarkets have started charging a couple of cents for plastic bags, and the city of Paris has mandated that all plastic bags be biodegradable as of 2010.

In the meantime, maybe I should learn how to transform them into something useful, instead of tossing my hazardous waste into the trash. I’m going to try to come up with some ideas.

In fact, I think I’ll start a dossier for each of them.


  • August 5, 2008 11:13am

    Oh my word, I’m crying now this is so funny. I have never lived in a country so obsessed with paper work like France. I keep everything. It took me 6 times going back and forth to the Prefecture to Police to get my last work visa.

  • August 5, 2008 11:21am

    Really funny!

    I vaguely remember from high-school economics that a small number of large companies controlling the market, like those phone companies, is called an oligopoly.

    I think it’s in the best interests of the oligopolistic firms to keep their prices the same as each other, because if one firm lowers their price, the other firms will follow… resulting in a price war, ending up in most of the profits being eroded.

    xox Sarah

  • AlexC
    August 5, 2008 11:26am

    I have an idea for a new European-based reality show. It will pit French bureaucrats against their only true competition, the Italians; sort of like a Euro Cup of bureaucracy to determine world domination. It will include events in immigration, real estate, healthcare, finance and consumer relations. And there will be blood.

  • August 5, 2008 11:30am

    Thank you for starting my day off with a good laugh.

  • August 5, 2008 11:48am

    I would suggest you recycle the plastic bags in dispensers for dog-walkers to pick up Fifi’s waste … but no, I can hear you laughing from here ….

  • August 5, 2008 12:01pm

    Ms. Glaze: That’s what you get for smiling!

    Sarah: Well, “oligopolistic” isn’t in my French dictionary (although curiously, “one-armed bandit” and “home-brew” are), but I still can’t understand how people here can talk on their cell phones as much as they do.

    Their bills must be astronomique!

    AlexC: A friend of mine went for his visa interview and after he sneezed, he was certain the woman behind the desk said to him, “à vos souhaits.”

    When he thanked her, she replied, “I didn’t say anything to you!” Although from what I hear, Italy is chaos..

  • ceebee
    August 5, 2008 12:28pm

    Save all plastic bags and use them to crochet or braid rugs, placements, baskets… endless possibilities!

  • August 5, 2008 12:36pm


    Please tell me this is just a preview of more to come. This is truly hysterical. Italy definitely gets a worse rap, but I just re-newed my papers in Rome, and it took me 20 minutes — and no triplicates! (full disclosure: I brought the baby, skipped the line, and won over the signora).


  • famdoz
    August 5, 2008 12:37pm

    Don’t get me started on French bureaucracy! I thought renewing my carte de sejour was bad when I lived intra muros in Paris – since I moved to Seine-Saint-Denis (93) I can confrm it qualifies as hell on earth. One must line up by 4am at the latest for the first of three appointments (if all goes well!) and then line up again at ungodly hours each time after, as each ‘appointment time’ is given to a hundred people that day. I was so shocked my first time – i ended up in tears and almost in ‘garde a vue’ for insulting a policeman. When you mention it to the guichiers, they shrug and say ‘Nothing we can do. Write a letter.’ It is like a third world country – really shocking.

    Last time I went back to Australia to visit family, I renewed my drivers’ permit in 30 mins chrono. It was like the happiest day of my life! I think I’ve been in France too long!

  • August 5, 2008 12:43pm

    You can use an iron to fuse them together into … a bigger plastic bag! I can’t find where I first saw this, but there’s a tutorial on it here: http://etsylabs.blogspot.com/2007/05/long-overdue-fusing-plastic-bag.html

    One might could argue that the heat from the iron will sterilize them, too. :-)

  • August 5, 2008 12:49pm

    This was hilarious. I need to buy those folders for all my paperwork.

    I just went through Italian red tape to get my residency and carta d’identita.

    It was a very traumatic experience. I’m still recovering.

    I love an idea of there being a European Cup for bureaucracy. Not sure who would win.

  • Gael
    August 5, 2008 12:52pm

    Telephone service in France isn’t the same as the US either. Incoming calls cost you nothing. I don’t think receiving text messages cost you money like it does here which seems fair. Paying for spam texts is totally bogus.

  • August 5, 2008 12:55pm

    david this was so funny I have share it my blog.

  • Mona
    August 5, 2008 1:26pm

    I LOVE the “whining” posts. My absolute favorites.


  • August 5, 2008 1:34pm

    OH. MY. WORD. that whole thing about dossiers and dealing with all the classic french nonsense at the prefecture was my life for 2 years! i’m still laughing to myself–so funny to read about that again….thanks for the funny post, david

  • August 5, 2008 1:45pm

    Have you considered skipping the paperwork and just staying there as an illegal alien? It would certainly help with your taxes.

  • Elisa
    August 5, 2008 2:06pm

    I’m happy to say that one major retail chain in Estonia is using biodegradable plastic bags (one which I frequent). I do take my three fabric bags to the market and shop every time and use them until they rip but sometimes there is no way around those plastic bags (like buying fruit in a big shop, they insist on putting them in plastic) and then I can rest easier knowing that these are biodegradable!

  • August 5, 2008 2:40pm


    You could take up papier-mache! Use the wires from the twist ties to build an armature, use the plastic bags to pad the armature and give it shape, use the paper from the twist ties mixed with flour paste to make the papier-mache shell. Voila!

    I love your posts – humorous or serious. I miss the days when you don’t post.

  • Eva
    August 5, 2008 2:43pm

    What? The ” Je ne suis pas un sac plastique” designer canvas bags havent hit Paris yet? Actually, I have a chic black one that rolls up…. The parents will be heading your way in Sept. – let me know if you want one!

  • Susan
    August 5, 2008 2:49pm

    The funniest rant I’ve ever heard. At least you can find humor in the ridiculous. Third world countries are so much easier to maneuver around..as long as you have plenty of cash to grease the wheels!

  • haha! So it’s not because I am a pack rat that I keep all those worthless pieces of paper, it’s because I was brought up in France. Whew, what a relief! But I did not pick up the “classeur” habit though… what a shame.

    And I thought that US immigration bureaucracy was pretty bad… but I never had to copy things in triplicates – at least I don’t remember. I certainly remember standing in lines at 5:00 am for at an office that opens at 8:30 but would only see the first 30 people in line (or 25 – or whatever). So there is always a worse bureacracy somewhere else… sigh…

    A book that was very useful to me in understanding the French better (and in contrast the Americans too) was “French or Foe?” by Polly Platt. Highly recommended if you have not read it. Based on that book, I would suggest you say to your vendor who insists on giving you a fresh plastic bag: “Excusez-moi Monsieur mais pouvez vous uiliser mon sachet pour mon achat? J’ai un petit probleme parce qu’ il n’est pas possible de les recycler et ils s’accumulent dans mon appartment. Merci. C’est tres gentil.” Or something like that. Don’t smile.

    I, too, miss the days when you don’t post.

  • Nabeela
    August 5, 2008 4:30pm

    I’m surprised that people find this post funny. All it does to me is remind me of my life in India where the beauracrats(sp?) are obsessed with paperwork too…and you never get it right the first time, or the second, or the third….or…you know.
    I just wanna rip something up whenever I read about things like these….I mean seriously, the government in these countries should make an effort to hire people with IQs more than 50, don’t you think?

  • August 5, 2008 4:44pm

    Nabeela: It’s infuriating, but that’s the way it is. It helps to remind myself that about one-third of the people in France are employed by the government and much of the bureaucracy is intended to keep people working…not necessarily to make things more efficient. It drives a lot of French people crazy, too. They’re just better-equipped to handle it than some of the rest of us are.

    Sylvie: Actually, I usually say, “Je suis Californien”, which explains pretty much everything. Well, some of it.

    Eva: Yes the chic designer shopping bags have hit. But for individual purchases, and for hygiene, a plastic bag is de rigeur.

    Susan: At least in third-world countries the offices have fans so you don’t die of heatstroke waiting for your turn. The other day I had to spend 1 1/2 hrs in a little office and I almost passed out. I don’t know how the people can stand to work in there all day without any ventilation.

    No wonder they’re so unhappy!

  • Kristina
    August 5, 2008 7:16pm

    I am storing all your notes on France in the back of my head should I someday move there. Or visit for an extended period. America does have a king–his name is Common Sense.

    I was speaking with an Englishman the other day and asked if he’d ever been to France. He said of course, and I began comparing notes with my own visit there. I was going to describe how the French were curious, among other things, and he caught on.

    I said, “France is really great, except…”

    He answered, “Except it’s full of French people?” Uh huh.

  • August 5, 2008 7:26pm

    I live outside of Chicago and regularly go to my French olive vendor from Marseilles who regularly rails against French red tape. I love, however, that at least it’s organized with flair and style: a palette of crisp colored folders!

  • Cris
    August 5, 2008 10:59pm

    Hmmmm. I read this post (hilarious, by the way) and thought of it in combination with the post regarding the supremacy of the French healthcare system. Not yet convinced.

  • August 6, 2008 12:37am

    I wouldn’t survive in Paris then. I’m very bad with papers and I just put all my papers in one file until it bulges and I am forced to organize it. That is usually the darkest days of the year.

    Though the business ideas you put forth are really good…but then to do those you have to go through bureaucratic French and that’s a turn off there!

  • Natacha
    August 6, 2008 1:46am

    I’m sure all this bad “paperasse” problem happened to you but being a french women who has been living in the US for the past 8 years, I can surely tell you renewing visas or your green card isn’t that simple in the US either….you also need copies of gas bills with both names of you and your partner, telephone bills, paid stubs, taxes returns, car insurance, medical tests, shots, drugs tests,etc etc…and at the immigration building be sure to wait at least an hour …Those who asked for papers in italy were lucky it went that quick!!! anyway I agree 100% that french people have a real problem with their system, you will always be missing a copy of something or a pink or green sheet you were supposed to know about…and all this will be asked to you with a condescending voice like you’re the most stupid person for not knowing that detail!!!
    Regarding your tips on how to make money I kinda disagree with most of them…selling classeur well…clarefontaine or most of the main supermarket already sell some and I don’t think you coming up with a new brand of classeur will make you more popular than any of these mega sellers…unless you dossier have something really special!!
    the photocopy biz might work, though, I went to college in france and was an adept of these copy machines and honestly Xerox does its job pretty well..it will always work for me…especially if you had one of these copy cards…
    the cell phone company i disagree..cause Bouygues, SFR, Orange are maybe the monopole there but they don’t cost as much as in the US…you don’t pay for the incoming calls nor SMS and the service is 10 times better than in the US…I don’t have any service living in the hollywood hills, how great is that??? Can you hear me now? NO I CAN”T!!!!!! Back in 99 when I was still living in france I was calling from a tiny ski resort lost in the southern alpes and had better voice reception then in laurel canyon in los angeles!!!
    the pack and ship I will have to disagree as well, knowing that the POSTE is the most reliable shipping service I’ve experience around the world….I shipped things from many countries and the french poste is the best from far!!!! why go to Fedex or Ups and pay twice as much!!! ohhh I know many you’ll skip a 10 min wait at the post office…though if you go during lunch time you” be the only one…french people don’t mess around with thei r2 hours lunch break!!!
    and the reusable plastic bag…i don’t really get that, knowing that all grocery stores (Leclerc, Geant, Carrefour…) actually ask you to bring your own plastic bags and reuse them dirty or not…maybe you had a weirdo in some small store in Paris than didn’t like your old sac plastic….who knows…
    anyway…as much as I love my country I must admit they are the best at making things complicated when they’re simple and I don’t miss that!

  • bobo
    August 6, 2008 2:34am

    tout a fait dans le mille!
    David you are absolutely right france is the mother of bureaucracy and paperasse and I think they contaminated all their former colonies, I am from Morocco and we are trying to get rid of those old frenchy bad habits that lead to nowhere.
    At the end of the day America is the best place on earth in all aspects( wont go into details very long and complex subject), but grosso modo L amerique est superbe et pratique.
    Please continue your “commitement pour une planete saine” and ignore le retard francais.
    keep reusing your plastic bags and buy a keffa its a moroccan basket known in France as a panier en paille its fun.
    Catch your bus and watch out for your cell phone bill, and i hope very soon you can get rid of that pile of unecessary paperwork that keeps feeding bureaucracy and leads public employees to laziness and laxism.

  • August 6, 2008 3:38am

    Hmmm, I’m not sure what the best country is.

    But if someone finds out, please let me know…because I want to live there!
    ; )

  • August 6, 2008 5:03am

    Oh my goodness, I had no idea! I am staying with my partners parents in their house in France in a couple of weeks time and I must ask them about all this. A copy of your phone bills for the past year!? I certaibly could not produce them if you asked me too. I am rather embarrassed to say that I shove all my paperwork in a cupboard, this involves opening it a tiny crack, putting the letter in unopened and then shutting the dorr very quickly before it all falls out. My bad!

  • Sandra
    August 6, 2008 6:45am

    Funny how Parisian retailers seem to want to encourage use of les sacs plastiques…I see more and more American retailers going for cloth bags…even paper is encouraged as is re-usage of whatever you can bring back and even some stores ( depending on the type, naturally) aren’t concerned if you use a bag at all. Some American cities might even go so far as to ban plastic bags… ie in NYC or gulp, the oil processing east coast capital–NJ statewide!! And I always thought that the French and Italian usage of cloth bags was an improvement over things here.

    I just had a rant yesterday from my neighbor who came home from 2 months this summer in Rome and talked about the bureacracy and how looooong things take in Rome–even in the courts–15 years for a small claims issue. She even has a friend visiting her here who is a magistrate from Rome and says things are vastly better stateside.

  • Sandra
    August 6, 2008 6:53am

    I guess shredders don’t sell in Paris. Not if you have to save that many scraps of paper, receipts, etc. After my move a couple of years ago, I had boxes of paper work and filing cabinets filled with crap that I had no use for. About 33 years worth of garbage. I realized I actually had to go through all the files, etc and buy a shredder–one that could handle a lot or hire a professional. I eneded up getting rid of close to what seemed like a truckload.
    I’m surprised that with all the paper saving that goes on in Paris, organizing stores haven’t taken off — selling boxes, chic filing systems, etc aren’t big time there. Wow, The Container Store, Staples, Office Max and Office Depot could make an absolute killing. Even having one’s own personal copier would help versus having to fumble around for change. I guess I can’t complain about what I had in paper here.

  • August 6, 2008 8:19am

    Haha, I was just complaining today on my blog about the fact that we have the same problems, here, in Canada, and I was saying that it is “just like in France but at least in France I expected it” (in particular the monopoly thing). I had to give up the idea of having a cell phone, here, because it’s so insanely expensive! I laugh when people in the US call Canada “the 51st state”…

  • August 6, 2008 8:38am

    Sandra: There are Office Max stores in Paris, but they didn’t get the memo about the items being low-priced.

    It’s funny, because last time I was in the states, I noticed at all the malls, they were selling all sorts of stuff. Then there was also a Container Store—for people to buy even more stuff to put it all in!

    Kitt: The problem with wrapping doggy doo in plastic bags, is that once you do, it never decomposes. So I guess it’s better that we step in it and spread it around to speed up the process.

    Natacha: I did a quick check of rates at Sprint vs France Telecom versus AT & T, and found that AT & T was $40 for 450 minutes + 5000 off-peak minutes (incoming & outgoing) and my plan at France Telecom was 20€ for 60 anytime minutes (outgoing).

    Although the cell phone coverage is better in France, I do think it’s un peu cher.

  • Eileen
    August 6, 2008 10:18am

    I can’t believe I’m thinking this, but…. maybe it’s too difficult to live in France and maybe I should just give up my dream (oh… not to mention that I just can’t afford it).

  • August 6, 2008 12:18pm

    my friends have been lobbying for me to move to france for a while now and maybe i should consider these business ventures…. sure seem more profitable than trying to be a postdoc in a lab somewhere… ;)

  • August 6, 2008 3:29pm


    I LOVE you! Yes, I really do……..in the kitchen, and lying in bed at night wondering how one of my sudden culinary “inventions” will blend with one of your incredible creations. I know…..I’m not the first to gush all over you, but heck…….I had to vent since your “Chocolate Idiot Cake” reminded me that without you it wouldn’t get the rave reviews I so enjoy……LOL AND…….that “damn” bacon ice cream……….whoa! I think I’ll notify the French Department of Excessive and Needless Paperwork and Clutter that you should be exempt from keeping all of those ridiculous “les dossiers”, since you are just too busy keeping “foodies” like me entertained and enlightened on both continents. Surely they would understand if we organized some type of Bastille based revolt to make our point. In the meantime, and until they come to their senses, your collection of “classeurs” are tres magnifique!

  • cheryl
    August 6, 2008 4:17pm

    So, when do you think the second French Revolution will be???

  • August 6, 2008 6:16pm

    LOVE this post!! I must say though, I’m a bit jealous that your classeurs are much more photogenic than mine!

  • Amy
    August 6, 2008 6:39pm


    I too have many many stories about French administration. My favorite is when they told my French husband that he would have to go before a judge to prove he was French so we could get my daughter’s French passport. I have found that if you tell them you really don’t need said document it deflates their little fonctionnaire egos and you’ll always get your stuff in the end.

    As for the classeurs..you are too right!! When my same French hubby moved to the US 8 years ago he drug along all of our classeurs and nearly died 2 years ago when I insisted we toss them out pour l’amour de Dieu!!!

    Thanks for your blog it brings back good memories!!

  • Beth in Seattle
    August 6, 2008 7:02pm

    Here you go – one way to reuse plastic bags. Get crafty.


  • Stephanie
    August 7, 2008 4:33am


    I literally laugh out loud reading your posts. I am an American living in Paris and can totally relate to every word you have written!! I am married to a French man and he is forever pulling papers out of the trash and putting them in folders…receipts, paid bills, doctor’s reports,etc. It drives me nuts and I was laughing so hard just now. But I have to say that the funniest thing of all on this page is Natacha’s August 6th comment to this article. France is wonderful and I never want to leave….but the French have no humor and that’s a perfect example of how they cannot just laugh and enjoy an over the top tirade about a ridiculous situation. They just don’t get it. The French have rich history, amazing architecture, heavenly food, culture, beauty….but they are severely lacking in the humor department. Thank goodness for you and your website. I would be lost without it.

  • August 7, 2008 5:12am

    damn, I really miss this RSS feed of yours :/…

    about the cell phone, there’s some alternatives now, which are cheaper, even if they’re not as cheap as what you had in US. I recently switched to “Leclerc Mobile”, which is the cheapest : you buy minutes and you have one year to use them, if you did not use them in time, you just make one reload (5€ for example) and the minutes left gets one more year to be used. you can reload some credit with any credit card, by phone or by internet.

    the price goes down with the amount of minutes you use every month (not the amount of minute you take in one batch) : its starts from 36cts per minute (plus every month, a small fee of 1,50€ is taken on the credit you have), and it’s going as low as 10cts/mn with some hours every month used. (source : http://www.leclercmobile.fr/compte/tarifs/)

    The fact is their worst price is one of Rance-télécom’ best ones :D, but what i love most with them is that you don’t have to pay every month, and you’re not linked to them either. they even take care of the cancellation of your actual phone contract, if you want them to keep your actual phone number. that’s pretty convenient.

    Good news! There’s a new RSS feed in place, and you (and everyone else) can simply pop that into your reader. The old feed should be leading you to the new one, but I’m going to post about it shortly. merci! – dl

  • bobo
    August 7, 2008 5:24am

    I must stay with my theory David I know you are american and you see it differently but again at the the end of the day you look at it in a bulky way and yes America is such a great place.
    People keep complaining about the Usa and its positions bla bla but everybody wants to come and live here.
    Have you ever seen an Iraqi or guatemalan teen singing Ophelie winter or Diams songs? but you certainly see them singing 50cent.
    Anyways I am getting silly with my examples and pardon me for going “hors-sujet” on your precious blog.
    Vive la France !! Liberte Egalite Fraternite!!

  • MS
    August 7, 2008 1:34pm

    Thank you for this entry! It was brilliant! It made me cry from laughing so hard, and it also brought back so many memories from living in France. Thank you again.

  • August 7, 2008 7:26pm

    Ah la bureaucracie francaise… The one thing that even the french love to hate! I don’t miss that.

  • August 8, 2008 11:57pm

    I laughed til my belly hurt and tears seeped from my eyes. My sister wanted to know what was so funny. I told her she had to read it. Same thing happened to her. If that ain’t confirmation of how funny this post was, I don’t know what is.

  • August 9, 2008 1:16pm

    I am crying from laughter…I miss my binders…all thousands of them! I recently had to drive to Atlanta to the French Consulate to sign a legal document and get te Consul’s seal. Can’t be done through the mail, no no no…that was 10 hours of driving for 3 stinking pages that cost me $300 in copying and signing fees….Yeah, we can be pretty stuch in stubborn mud when we want to!

  • August 9, 2008 4:32pm

    Boy, you were on a roll! But, thank you for causing me to give thanks for where I live.

  • EricaAnn
    August 10, 2008 12:33pm

    My sister takes her plastic bags and cuts them into strips short ways. She then uses the strips to make a yarn and crochets them into…reusable shopping bags. She tells me she researched it on the internet. I think the bags are great but I would never have the patients to do it myself. I hope that helps.

  • August 10, 2008 12:45pm

    You cheeky thing…
    Very funny post!!

  • August 10, 2008 2:02pm

    Really funny post. And, as irritating as it all sounds, it totally makes me miss Paris (I’m just a tourist though)! Are you planning to stay there permanently?

    Do you have a dog? We use our bags for doggie poo pickup. Oh, wait, I forgot — in Paris, you don’t pick up the poop. You leave it there. It’s all coming back to me.

  • August 11, 2008 8:56am

    helen: Yikes, 10 hours? Just be glad they didn’t send you back 6 times, like Ms. Glaze. It’s funny how those binders do kind of grow I you. The good thing is that whenever I look at my bulging bookshelf, I finally feel French : )

  • Janet
    August 15, 2008 7:37pm

    The answer to the residency card is 10 years or 2 years of marriage to a French person, but even that only gives you a 10 year card, which, in my opinion, is too often to have to deal with it. Eventually you can become a French citizen. That’s through the mayor’s office. Go there and ask them how long (unless married to a French person — that’s 3 years). They are generally nice and charming and it is much easier to become French than to get a one year carte de sejour, at least that was my experience.

  • August 17, 2008 9:45am


    This is hilarious. Apparently I would do quite well in Paris. It sounds just like Rhode Island. They keep records of nothing and everything’s impossible!

  • Brent
    September 3, 2008 2:11pm

    Do the bureaucrats want to see the paper document “originals”?

    These days I scan almost all paper I have (and recycle once scanned). Unless the original is, in fact, something that needs keeping (e.g., a signed will or trust), I find that most paper isn’t worth the storage space, as the scan does just as well. I can locate documents quickly when I need something, carry them easily on a laptop or thumb drive, and print copies on demand. To date no one — and no bureaucracy — has ever had a problem with the system.

    Then again, I’m not dealing with the infamous French fonctionnaires.

  • Jane
    September 14, 2008 9:49am

    Hi David

    Je suis morte de rire, mais aux States chez Office Depot, tout le monde achète des schredders !!!

    Take care !

  • September 14, 2008 2:27pm

    Oh my gosh… This was hysterical…
    It reminded me of my first online shopping experience here. After finishing my purchase and paying, the supermarket sent me an e-mail asking me to FAX (yes, fax!) them a hand written (yes! hand written!) letter attesting that I lived on the address I gave them.
    I couldn’t believe it!

    By the way, I won’t be able to make t to the market on Sunday. I bumped into you the one Saturday I went there, but was shy to introduce myself as a reader of your blog. Specially because I was with my daughters (the 3 y-o was bored to death…).

    I’m waiting for a one-day (or more) chocolate tour here in Paris. I hope you schedule one soon.


  • Danny Peacock
    September 18, 2008 8:59pm

    Apparently, one can knit ripped plastic bags into a new, sturdy, re-usable plastic-bag-shopping-bag. Sounds like a good time to me.

  • October 30, 2008 12:24pm

    I know that this is an old post, but I was reading through your archives, and I have to say that you are HILARIOUS. I literally started laughing so much that my roommate had to come out and ask what was wrong. It’s so spot on… I can’t stand it! Great writing!

  • Anna
    November 20, 2008 6:03am

    I love your humour, I would have needed you with me today at the tax office in Milan. I actually started crying today, it was the third morning this week that I had to spend 2 hours waiting! Still after 12 years abroad I’m not prepared, I’ll just never get used to it! Here a family needs one person just to get everyone through bureaucracy…and that’s me. Usually I get my “Si” in the end, but it’s tough.

  • Nina
    June 4, 2009 3:27pm

    Oh David,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Your blogs, your books, your website….they all give me so much joy on so many levels and in so many ways!!!! You do write well, but, this post gave me so much joy and laughter and flashbacks of experiences…..so superb!
    I wonder if you realize ( I mean really realize…) how many people you touch with your thoughts and creations! You have the gift of creating Joy!….thank you for sharing it!

  • Sickitten
    June 10, 2009 2:21am

    I double those plastic bags and use them for scooping the litter box. See? There’s a good use for them. Forget the grocery store and remember the crazy cat lady.

  • Victoria Patience
    June 19, 2009 11:25am

    David, I adore your blog (and the interviews with you I occasionally stumble across on podcasts) and never thought my first comment here WOULDN’T be about chocolate but then I saw the classeur photo and couldn’t not. I only lived in Paris for 6 months before university but those classeurs became an addiction, along with candy coloured ink in thick glass bottles (I clearly had visions of writing violet, green and pink letters then classifying them into matching folders…). Anyway. After 10 years living in Argentina, who definitely rival the French on the paperwork side (eg triplicate photocopy of a sample of your late grandmother’s blood presented as a rorschach blot authenticated by the British home office in London) I should add to your get-rich-quick list ‘exporting classeurs to Argentina’ because they don’t have them here. The sorrow of it… Especially not the ones with those little fabric strappy things and metal buckles for closing them… Thank you for all your fab posts, recipes, torturous pictures of Valrhona for those who live in countries where it doesn’t exist (that’s it! each exported classeur could come with free Valrhona! the perfect business model…)

  • November 14, 2009 7:51pm

    i love your sense of humour. i just discovered your blog (forgive me for my tardiness!) and am sitting here laughing my head off (and saving the pages to try out your delicious recipes!) thanks.

  • Jen
    February 7, 2010 9:44pm

    I just discovered this rant, if you will, by my google search for “get me to france”. (Yes, I know, well, I’m at the impatient desperate stage…wanting to move to france, no seemingly legal way to get there.)
    This is a delightfully written article! Causing me to laugh out loud and shake my head. Ah the endearing qualities of the French neuroses that hardly discourage us from Francophil-ing. Wonderful. Truly look forward to reading more from David, and living vicariously through him.

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