Today I had what I call a “Welcome To France” day.

That expression came about a couple of years ago, when a friend who lives in Switzerland came to run in the Paris marathon.

Except when he went to register, they told him he wasn’t registered even though he had a letter from them saying that he had indeed registered. And he wasn’t alone; there was a roomful of other people with letters being told they weren’t registered either. Luckily, he was there with a friend who was a doctor.

It wasn’t because people were fainting from having traveled halfway around the world and being told they couldn’t run in a marathon they’d spent the last 6 months training for. The French friend intervened (the French are much better at yelling at bureaucrats that we Americans, who crumble surprisingly easy) everyone was told they could re-register. But everyone would need to magically produce a note from their doctor attesting to their fitness.

So even though our friend specializes in breast augmentations and botox injections, he sat down and signed everyone’s paperwork.

When I went to meet my friend after the marathon, he was shaking uncontrollably; very, very cold and tired.

I took off my coat and wrapped it around him, seriously afraid he was about to collapse.

With tears of exhaustion and shock rolling down his cheeks, he said, “Just after the finish line, it was so crowded and no one was there to move people forward. Runners were cramping up and collapsing all over the place, writhing around in pain.”

He continued…”There was no hot soup or anything to feed us”, which I presume is highly unusual after a marathon.

“Why was no one taking care of the runners?” he said, looking at me.

Then he looked away, and said – “Welcome to France…”

Since then, whenever something odd or stupefying happens, it’s now called a Welcome to France moment”. Or a WTF moment.

They come at you all the time around here. There’s lots of WTF moments. Times when I cock my head to the side, squint one eye, and jerk my head back in disbelief. Like when the bank teller insists they’re out of change, (although that wouldn’t seem so far-fetched now).

Or when you’ve got a busted drainpipe and water’s gushing out, and the plumber finally shows up, but without any tools—”I am just here to look right now.”


Or when you’re at a café and they tell you they don’t have any mineral water…when there’s an army of bottles lined up behind the bar in plain view. You just tend to nod in agreement and accept these odd incongruities around here. It becomes très normale.


But just when I think I’m getting used to it, another WTF moment happens. Like today.

Last week the handle on my oven broke off. Then the glass panel on the front fell off too, making the door virtually impossible to open and close. Now my oven is just a façade of screws, nuts, bolts, and springs. It looks like R2D2 crossed with Robo-cop.

Aside from it’s foreboding, albeit cute, appearance, even worse is the door doesn’t stay open by itself without the heft of the glass to keep it down. So if I have to put something in the oven, I need to hold it open with my knee and hope I it doesn’t fly loose and spring upward, slamming me in the ‘nads.

In lieu of spending a wad of euros to call the company’s 08 number, I sent them an email asking for service centers in Paris where I could get a replacement handle. They replied with two numbers to call.

The first was an ’08’ number, which is similar to an ‘800’ or ‘860’ numbers in the US, except they’re not toll-free. In fact, they’re super-turbo toll calls.

In France, you pay for each and every local call. But because knowledge and service are valuable commodities in France, you pay much, much more to call customer service: usually 35 centimes (about 50 cents) per minute—including hold time. So if you’re on hold for twenty minutes, that’s a 10 spot. And if you get cut off? WTF. You have to call back and now you’re out 20 bucks.

So I dialed the number of a place just outside of Paris, a local call, a place named Interservice. The fellow on the phone asked what the model number of my stove was. I looked and looked and looked, but couldn’t find one anywhere. No metal tag, no serial number. Nothing. What kind of appliance doesn’t have a serial number or model number on it? And I won’t even get into what I found behind the oven when I pulled it out and inspected all four sides as well. Let’s just say that small bundle of asparagus I dropped in ’04, just out of reach that I just said “WTF” and forgot about, didn’t age very well.

Well, he couldn’t help me unless I could find a model number, so I told him I’d just come in with the handle. So on a bright, gorgeous Tuesday morning, perhaps the most gorgeous day in Paris since August…of 2005…there I was on a bus driving through some dreary grey suburb, handle in my hand, looking for chez Interservice. When I found it, I handed him the object du jour and he went in the back and came out with my replacement.

Of course, it was about 8-inches longer than my handle. When I pointed that out to him, he said it was fine.

WTF was he thinking?

Well if you want to know, here was his explaination:
“Just take a saw and cut off some of it, bend the edges with a metal vise, and drill two new holes in it. You’ll need to get new screws and metal washers. But then it will fit okay.”

I guess he didn’t understand that my two-room apartment didn’t have a toolshop and it might look kinda funny to have a sawed-off handle on my oven that had a couple of holes drilled into it, then bolted on like Franken-oven.

He kept saying, “Tenez, monsieur…c’est bon…”, obviously wanting to get rid of me, “Take it, it’s okay…”, trying to hand me the new oven handle.

So I had the unenviable task of trying to explain to him why this wasn’t such a capital idea.

“Mais, pourquoi pas? C’est parfait!”&mdash”Why not? It’s perfect!”


I mean…hello?

Earth to you, dude.

Like, I really want to buy an oven handle that I’m going to have to cobbler together from spare parts? I’m better off rubbing two sticks together and starting a fire on the ledge outside the window and baking a cake over feu de bois. If there was an oven door around, I would’ve whacked him in the noix with it.

When I got home, I did some digging and unearthed the owner’s manual.

“Aha!” I thought, I’d finally get the model number.

But….WTF?…the owner’s manual had lots of diagrams and pictures of this particular model of oven and information in an international encyclopedia of languages. But no model number.

WTF. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an owner’s manual that didn’t list the model number on it. I think I’ll write a book about France, but I’m not going to give it a title or put any indication of what’s inside on it either. Then you can have your own WTF moment too.

I called the company to ask why they didn’t put the model number on the owner’s manual and was told, “We don’t need to, since it’s marked on the oven.”

So I responded, “Well, I’ve just spent the last several days yanking and turning and poking around my oven. And I still can’t find it. Where would it be?”

“Usually it’s just inside the door. Somewhere….” she said, her voice becoming disinterested as I looked up at the clock and realized that, time-wise, I’d already gone through a nice bottle of Sancerre and was quickly closing in on a couple of dozen oysters to go along with it.

“Wait a minute,” I reasoned, “You work for the company. I scanned a picture of the oven and sent it to you. But you can’t tell me what model it is?”

If one of you out there scanned a picture from one of my books, I’d be able to identify it right away. And I’ve got a couple of hundred pictures desserts floating around out there. So WTF?

Come to think of it, in my next book, in addition to the blank cover, I guess I’m not going to bother with an index or table of contents either. So when people ask, “Where’s the recipe for Chocolate Cake?” I’ll just shrug, as if it makes perfect sense, and reply, “It’s somewhere in there…”

And you might think, “WTF?”
Then you can have your own WTF moment, too.

I guess it doesn’t look like I’m getting a new handle on my oven anytime soon. So if you don’t hear from me for a while, that might mean I was checking a cake or something and had a little oven door accident, one that smacked me squarely in les bijoux de famille.

If I do, I’ll probably double-over and scream, “WTF!?”

But this time, don’t think it’s gonna be an expression welcoming anyone to France.


  • February 12, 2008 1:42pm

    This post cracked me up. I know when I was in Paris, just as a tourist, we had at least one WTF moments.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • February 12, 2008 1:45pm

    Oh, WTF is such a perfect expression. I have those moments every day.

    I loved how you wrote this. Your voice rang out clearly… I hope your oven doesn’t get ya in your goods, better wear a cup next time you bake. :)

  • February 12, 2008 1:48pm

    David! This is funny but so frustrating and I’m so sorry! I hope you get a “handle” on things.

    Sorry again.

  • February 12, 2008 2:08pm

    Well, at least when the inevitable happens, you will have good medical attention. :D

  • February 12, 2008 2:28pm

    Too funny, in a ‘I feel for you’ sort of way. Hope you get your oven fixed quick like, and without any unfortunate accidents. Yikes!

  • KCatGU
    February 12, 2008 2:39pm

    stifling my laughter at work


  • February 12, 2008 2:45pm

    Hahaha. “WTF was he thinking?”…Welcome to France was he thinking doesn’t make sense dude :)

    Loved this post. Sorry about your oven door/handle!

  • Steve G
    February 12, 2008 2:49pm

    WTF… I assume this oven of yours is a French make, and therefore the company does not have a web site where you could look at different pictures to identify your oven? I’m a big fan of do it yourself when it comes to researching parts and compatibility, since the goombas in customer service will just tell you what you want to hear and waste your time to boot.

  • Steve G
    February 12, 2008 2:51pm

    Why not post a picture here? Maybe one of us in the US can figure it out; my oven repair shop orders me replacement knobs when the cheapo plastic things stop grasping the metal pegs that allow me to actually cook food.

  • February 12, 2008 2:53pm

    This is so funny, but I’m sure it’s not if it’s happening to you. I live in Budapest, and I have these moment aaaalll the time. Milk here comes in plastic bags!?!

  • February 12, 2008 2:55pm

    This post is hilarious! My sister used to say a similar thing to me when I visited her in Africa and it took an hour to get a cup of coffee.

  • Philip
    February 12, 2008 2:59pm

    OK, that was hilarious. It also really makes me think of one of the other sites I regularly read…

    They’re often code-heavy, but also regularly cover physical oddities and documentation…your story definitely sounds like a great anecdote since there’s multiple levels involved, not to mention just being a fun WTF?!?.


  • February 12, 2008 3:31pm

    David – I am very good at yelling at people, especially clueless customer service reps. You want me to call her? Btw, do you think you could have paid for a new oven with all the money spent on phone calls and bus fare?

  • Terrie
    February 12, 2008 3:36pm

    Oh my, poor baby!! Saw it off to fit then drill new holes?!WTF is right.

  • February 12, 2008 3:51pm

    Anyone who spends time in France experiences this. We have two expressions for the situation: “C’est Paris” and “C’est France”.

    As for Hillary not getting “WTF was he thinking?”…you missed it completely, dudette.


  • February 12, 2008 3:58pm

    Man, I can completely sympathize in a Canadian in America sort of way, not the in France sort of way. What the heck was with that repair guy??? Was he for real? All you need to do is drill new holes in the oven door to make the bigger handle fit, then you need a can of oven spackle to fill the old holes and voila, new handle! Some people huh?

  • February 12, 2008 4:02pm

    Should we send you a good, old-fashioned, American strength protective cup?? I think Sports Basement in Protrero Hill is having a sale….. hmmmm….

  • bibi
    February 12, 2008 4:06pm

    HILARIOUS POST! i read it choking with laughter until my boyfriend in the back said “are you ok?!”

  • February 12, 2008 4:11pm

    You should definitly switch to “” and all your calls in France and in most countries (except cell phones) will be … free :-) Also there out there on internet some web sites giving away regular numbers (not “surtaxés”) for those obnoxiously overtaxed 08… numbers.
    WTF :-)

  • February 12, 2008 4:38pm

    We use Freebox for TV, computer and phone and said adios to the old French system. Such a nice feeling. Wish I had some advice about the stove. It did provide us all with a good laugh today.

  • Torie
    February 12, 2008 4:56pm

    I love it!

    My best WTF moment was when I went to the bank to make a deposit and the teller told me that they didn’t accept cash. Next please!


  • Lesley
    February 12, 2008 5:36pm

    This was HILARIOUS. I love it. You must find a twig or something to use as a handle, because your delights must be made!
    Living in France I had weekly WTF moments…I decided they were building my character.

  • February 12, 2008 6:14pm

    As pilots say: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot??!”

  • February 12, 2008 6:32pm

    OMG. This post was amaaaaaazing!

  • Linda H
    February 12, 2008 7:30pm

    Was the owner’s manual also roughly translated from the Chinese/Korean/Japanese like ours in the US?

  • Steve
    February 12, 2008 8:27pm

    My sides hurt. Your pain, our gain. Now, if this happened in the U.S. wouldn’t you call your landlord? Maybe you’re not a renter. Or are the responsibilities of the Parisian locataire separate grounds for a WTF moment?

  • Estelle
    February 12, 2008 9:30pm

    Dear David,
    Until I read this post I had a really WTF day in America. This did it for me. I am in my apartment laughing out loud and even Le Chat thinks that I’ve lost it. I’m so sorry about your stove handle. You MUST cultivate a friendship with a very handy person. Barter with cakes or cookies if you have to. Can’t wait to read the “denouement”.

  • Henriette
    February 12, 2008 10:21pm


    this post really made my day! After 5 years in France I’ve had my fair share of WTF moments-belive me… ;-)

    I just moved to Shanghai and have already had my WTF moments here. And I keep saying- wow, this is just so….FRENCH! Good luck dude!

  • dtmt
    February 12, 2008 11:34pm

    omg! that was hilarious! WTF is so wonderfully expressed in your post here. haha. hope you find the model number soon! maybe…….it’s at the bottom of the oven??

  • Rowena
    February 12, 2008 11:45pm

    I can’t stop laughing.

  • February 13, 2008 12:43am

    Thanks for the story. It brightened my day at least.
    For your next book, I suggest you do away with the page numbers as well.

  • Miyu
    February 13, 2008 1:04am

    Shame on you David, you made me laugh so hard, I spewed coffee all over my monitor!!!

    Oh well, that’s what I get for laughing at someone else’s bad day. Great post! You made my day. Now please help me clean my screen?

  • February 13, 2008 2:33am

    Lol!! That was hilarious! I’m from India and can very well empathise. Things here are worse! When you call customer care, you have to wait for ages for the call to get through and have to pray to God on your knees (during the long wait before the call is answered) that of all the languages spoken here in India, the man on the other end should understand the language that you speak! Maybe, you can call it WTI, but it wouldn’t deliver the power-packed punch in the nose like WTF. :)

    By the way, your blog is simply wonderful, David. I absolutely enjoy reading it.

  • debinsf
    February 13, 2008 2:37am

    oh my! How kind of you to let us laugh through your frustration. un-freakin’-believable. you must really love it there…

  • February 13, 2008 3:42am

    Oh my dear, I am so sorry for you!!! Thanks for the very funny (and sadly accurate) description of life in France, but my goodness I wish it weren’t so!

    Have you tried looking on the Darty site to see if your stove is there? They have really good service apres vente in my opinion – and will order any small part regardless of whether they sold you the oven. Good luck!!

  • mb
    February 13, 2008 4:22am

    Yeah, you should just call Darty. They repair appliances even if you didn’t buy it there.

  • lauren
    February 13, 2008 5:26am

    Ha! Your WTF moments are like my WTP moments in Poland. Sadly, WTP does not have the same ring.

  • February 13, 2008 6:37am

    Feeling your pain in Toulouse… Electrician “working” in house. What was originally supposed to be four days work is into its second WEEK. Arrives 1 hour late every day, takes a 3 hour lunch break and has just asked me if I can set his Mac up for him…

    Another WTF moment a few weeks ago. A brand new Natural History museum opened in Toulouse. In the opening weeks it has proved VERY popular. We’re talking queues out the door and down the road popular. How many people do you think were at the desk issuing tickets? I mean, actually taking money, pressing a button and issuing tickets while hundreds of people waited in line with screaming kids and frail old women? Go on, have a guess?


  • February 13, 2008 6:54am

    Poor David. Although I feel sorry for you and for the escalation of WTF problem I still think that this post was hilarious!!!

    You’re great as always

  • Sandra
    February 13, 2008 7:18am

    I know there are no Home Depots or Lowes in Paris, but what about the small friendly neighborhood hardware store to get tools? No, they probably don’t exist either, without traveling all over the city to find screwdrivers and other common place tools. Duct tape probably isn’t readily available there either. And it seems to be able to hold and fix stuff one never thinks about fixing with it. Maybe it’s time for a new oven!!

  • February 13, 2008 7:19am

    David, if this makes you feel more comfortable: A have a fujitsu a.c. in my apartment in rome, and it broke down(after 1 month!) and I can’t find any dealership for it and: The manual is 35 pages long but there is no model number on it!

  • February 13, 2008 7:57am

    Steve G: Good idea! I linked in the post to the brochure. Bonne chance!

    Meg + mb: I hate Darty. I bought a fan from them last summer, which broke after 3 days. When I brought it back, they told me they couldn’t replace it. But they could send it in for repair and couldn’t tell me how long it would take.

    The last thing I brought in for repair, a heater from Castorama, they kept putting me off for months and months. After insisting they just give it back to me—after waiting for over an hour, they confessed they lost it.

    They didn’t even want to give me a refund. Just ‘store credit’. WTF?

    Steve L: Yes, I’m a tenant. And a pretty good one, if I say so myself!

    Torie: My bank actually does take deposits, but only in sealed envelopes. When I asked, “Aren’t you going to verify it to make sure it’s the right amount?”, the teller looked at me like I was from another planet.

    They should’ve listened to me and Société Générale not have been so cavalier…since they just ‘lost’ $7 BILLION dollars…

  • Murasaki Shikibu
    February 13, 2008 10:06am

    My goodness this sounds just like my life in Spain!!! lol

  • Dana
    February 13, 2008 10:16am

    May I just say “THANK YOU” for your hilarity?! Sorry to hear that things aren’t going so well with the oven, but it sure makes for a funny start to my morning!

  • Val
    February 13, 2008 11:38am

    Poor you!

    I am totally ready to donate to the “get David a new oven” fund.

  • February 13, 2008 11:53am

    Val: While I appreciate the gesture, last time I took up a collection it was for something truly important—a spa visit! Except I got a message from someone suggesting I was tacky and should do something to help “…children in need.”

    I reminded her that I participated in Menu For Hope auctions annually and told her it was never too late to donate to our fund if she wanted to help children.

    So far, no response…if you can believe it. But since I’m a happy, optimistic kinda guy, I’m just gonna assume that she did. Still, I’m a bit wary of starting an ‘oven-fund’.

    Perhaps you can up a collection and send me some gift certificates to a few restaurants in Paris, since I’m wary of my oven right now (and being called ‘tacky’ again)…I’d be happy to accept!

    : )

  • February 13, 2008 12:42pm

    David, this did make me laugh! We have WTF moments almost every week. My husband, who is retired and has been living on a French Carte de Séjour as “retired” for five years now, still has to provide an attestation every year at the carte de séjour renewal that he won’t work without ‘proper authorization’. why? For the love of god, WHY? WTF seems the perfect answer.

  • February 13, 2008 3:21pm

    Hey, I had no idea that our plumber, Monsieur O.Putain Maurin, also worked in Paris! Did yours tell you not to flush until he came back with the right tools sometime in the possibly distant future, like ours did?

    I mean, I love living in France, but the WTF quotient could be reduced considerably and it wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all.

    Bon courage!

  • Steve G
    February 13, 2008 3:44pm

    Oof. This is a tough one. I can tell you that Aniballi Grafiche is a publisher and probably printed the manual in 1996. You can call the Italian customer support, but that will cost you. Their web site does not list past models or any information but that for their latest products.

    Have you tried just using bigger screws to put the handle back on? I’m thinking that and some concrete boots attached to the door will solve your problem ;)

  • Megan
    February 13, 2008 3:53pm

    I have these all the time – we call them ‘freakin’ France moments’, though I like the WTF.

    Our most recent WTF moment was last weekend, coming back to Paris from Nice. When we arrived at the airport, they said we couldn’t check in yet. “Why?, I asked – “Because your flight isn’t checking in yet; please wait.” 20 minutes later, we went back to check in. This time they said, “There was a strike in Paris, so some flights were canceled. You are too late checking in, so we gave away your seat.”

    Of course if you explain the injustice, you get, “It’s not our fault – it is not Air France on strike – it’s the air traffic controllers.”

    Turns out it was a handful of air traffic controllers unhappy that their headquarters was moving from Orly to CDG, and their commute would lengthen. But it’s perfectly acceptable to disrupt air traffic in the Paris airports for such a gripe – so unfair these bosses of air traffic controllers! WTF

    Anyway, we bailed on the less helpful and completely unhelpful Air France people and rented a car – 7 hours back to Paris. At least I had some more QT with the husband.

    Thanks for listening! Yours is a great post!

  • February 13, 2008 4:30pm

    Megan: Why on earth are you flying Air France?
    I flew them.


    Steve G: Ha! Yes, it begs the question—”Why not put the model number on the owner’s manual?”

    Welcome to..oh…WTF!

    Abra: I had the plumbers working on the renovation downstairs turn off my water by accident a few weekends ago. And there was no one available to call until the following Monday morning.

    I was hauling water up from the spigot on the street to flush. I felt so much like I was back in the Middle Ages that I was ready to bring my laundry down to the Seine and beat it with a stick!

  • Christina
    February 13, 2008 6:34pm

    Such trials and tribulations. Hope something comes along to make you feel better–this goes for your poor friend as well!

  • Therese Priest
    February 13, 2008 8:15pm
    Aller au BHV avec photo de la gaziniere …
    Bonne chance
    En France, on sait se debrouiller, cela s appelle ” le systeme D”.


  • therese Priest
    February 13, 2008 8:34pm

    Te laisse aussi numero de telephone, prix d un appel local
    09 60 11 91 84

    Tu peux aussi leur envoyer un mel avec une photo en piece attachee, at

    Voia aussi avec ebay, craigslist, les forums de bricoleur, les SOS sur les blogs.
    Entre cyberpieces et la visite au BHV, tu devrais trouver ton bonheur…Il te resteratoujours la solution d acheter une gaziniere neuve!!!
    Bonne chance!!!


  • February 13, 2008 9:28pm

    oh, Oh, OH! I just received notice that you will be at Central Market Austin, TX… I requested a reservation for your class, I hope it isn’t already full!! Please cross your fingers for me!

  • Connie
    February 13, 2008 9:41pm

    Title of next book
    How to bake in a WTF oven!

  • February 14, 2008 12:41am

    An alternative suggestion to Therese Priest’s…
    Can you raise a flag/banner from your roof with a large scan of your oven door
    And the words AU SECORS
    Laughing myself silly here but I feel your paint…I mean your pain..


  • francesca
    February 14, 2008 5:42am

    ok, i never comment on blogs, but I NEED TO COMMENT THIS POST, i’m training for the marathon, paris, april, 6th. argh. as soon as i stop laughing i’ll start worrying…

  • mb
    February 14, 2008 6:09am

    Hey! I thought america was all about consumerism! We live in a consumerist society, so why not just buy a new oven? lol!!! If your oven is more than 5-10 years old, of course no one can replace the handle which probably isn’t made anymore.

    P.S. You are aware that Société Générale’s losses are related to the sub-prime crises and you know of the colossal losses of some of your own financial institutions?

  • Adelaide
    February 14, 2008 9:03am

    Oh, dear god. I feel it necessary to summarize my most loathsome WTF moment, albeit in a DOM.
    I was teaching in Martinique last year (okay, not exactly a rough deal.) Upon arrival, my colleagues and I spent the first several days in the blistering heat, being regaled with the minutia of bureaucracy. The upshot was we were promised that if we filled out such and such forms and went to such and such meetings and offices at a later date, part of our rent, wherever we ended up, would be subsidized as we were making a PITTANCE.

    I did all that was required of me and more. I spent at least 150 euro on gas getting to these meetings, offices, etc. And when I was finally told definitively, eight months down the line, that my rent would not, in fact, be subsidized, I played my trump card: two (out of my forty) colleagues had been given some dough, so why not me, and the rest of us, for that matter?

    Turns out these two claimed they started paying rent before they were employed, and had never changed their status. Zing! Well done, ladies. Apparently the rest of us made too much to be given the 230 euro a month that the girls were receiving. And how much was too much? We made 1188,35 a month. The cutoff: 1185. 3,35 between me and a world of anxiety.


    Needless to say, I feel you, David.

  • February 14, 2008 9:17am

    mb: While I’m in agreement that the US is responsible for many of the problems in the world, but that still does explain who’s responsible for French fries sans odeur and information manuals for ovens that don’t contain information about the oven…

    : )

  • Michelle
    February 14, 2008 12:55pm

    David, you’ve done it again. Another fabulously funny post. Thank you!

    I’m not living in France but I regularly experience WTF moments in my kitchen. The people who originally owned and built my lovely faux French farmhouse (not as tacky as it sounds)decided to get authentic in the kitchen and put in a REAL French range. It’s pretty, but what a piece of ….. Gas burners that have to be manually lit and won’t stay lit until the sensor gets hot enough – keep on holding that knob in, it’ll stay on eventually.

    The miniature gas oven that should have a low temp of 160C (320F) but the lowest temp I’ve read in there is about 250C. Even if it managed to hold a reliable temp it would still be hit or miss with the 1 to 10 settings rather than actual temperature settings! Which, come to think of it wouldn’t help much either since the knobs are so wobbly. I managed to bake a chocolate hockey puck cake before I figured out the idosyncracies of that oven. Oh, and it has to be manually lit and relit and relit until it stays on. And finally, the miniature electric oven with the top element that comes on all the time and makes everything nice and brown on top.

    At least it actually has somewhat reliable temperature settings! At first I thought my biggest problems would be pulling out that celsius to farenheit conversion chart all the time and replacing my baking sheets and roasting pan with something to fit in those TINY ovens. Ha Ha Ha! WTF!

    So, David. Have I got a deal just for you – a real French range – for you it’s free – you just have to come to California and haul it away! Please!

  • Michelle
    February 14, 2008 12:58pm

    I forgot to tell you – the oven doors work properly!

  • Barbara
    February 14, 2008 5:21pm

    The term my husbands uses is “C’est comme ca.” How fustrating!! I like your WTF meaning but WTF means something else to me, “what the f***”.

  • Brian
    February 14, 2008 5:25pm

    What a great site and great post!

    I live in Mexico where WTF (or WTM?) moments are frequent. The bank is always out of at least one denomination of notes. Want to cash a check for thousands of pesos (totally normal since there’s already one too many zeros here), ok hows about in 50 pesos notes? Need gas? Sorry, no regular available, just premium.

    Or the best- I’m sorry I can’t sell you that one, it’s the last one we have. If we sell it to you, then we won’t have any more. I swear.

  • Sherry H
    February 14, 2008 7:49pm

    We have WTF moments here in beautiful Walnut Creek, California too. I recently called a well-known ISP provider to complain that I wasn’t getting my email. It was a high tech version of “Who’s on first?”

    Me: I’m not getting my email. Them: We would be happy to help you with that. What seems to be the problem? Me: Um, I’m not getting my email. Them: Yes, you said that before. Why aren’t you getting your email? Me: I don’t know. That’s why I’m calling you. Them: Please calm down. I’m trying to help you but I can’t do so if you won’t tell me what’s wrong. Me: I’M NOT GETTING MY FREAKIN’ EMAIL!

    Talk about a WTF moment. By the way, I eventually solved my email problem on my own; I switched to a different ISP.

    Good look with your oven door handle!

  • February 14, 2008 11:10pm

    WTF? Hilarious! My Francophile friend gave up swearing for lent, I’m going to suggest this to her as a healthy alternative to WTF!

  • Belle
    February 15, 2008 12:19am

    Have you tried looking *inside* the oven (top,bottom,etc.)with a flashlight? Sometimes numbers are so small,so lightly engraved or in such a wtf place that they can be very difficult to spot. Also,try posting a photo on Craigslist in France and U.S. – Hope this helps!

  • Belle
    February 15, 2008 12:25am

    Have you tried taking a photo and emailing retailers that carry the brand?

  • February 15, 2008 3:12am

    David, Have you considered finding a model or serial number of your oven at its very bottom….?? It might be there, actually. I know that it literally means you would have to turn your oven upside down…But please do not blame if if it’s not there…Anyway I’m not sure if finding a model number in this particular case would change anything…

  • February 15, 2008 3:53am

    Belle: I did take a photo and scanned the owner’s manual drawing & sent it to the company.

    They replied: “We need a model number.”

    When I asked, “On this oven, which you make, where would it be?”

    They said, “We don’t know.”


    Joanna et al: I did look underneath and searched eBay looking for a similar oven and didn’t find one.)

    Brian: I remember the first time I went to Mexico, all the guidebooks said, “Give yourself a half-day to change money at the bank.”

    And I laughed, thinking, “How can that be!”

    Then I went to a bank in Mexico…

  • February 15, 2008 9:14am

    You must revise this and submit it to the New York Times Magazine, as per their word count. This is better than most of the essays I’ve read there and would be a perfect fit.



  • Alec
    February 15, 2008 9:17am

    Ah, but you are just anozer spoiled American who sinks zat everysing should be fixed for you because you are American. Incroyable.

    Here’s one of my 32 million WTF moments when I lived in Nice. I was having lunch at the cafeteria in middle school, and I found a bee in my salad. So I took it to the kitchen to show the cook, and he said “Et alors, vous n’aimez pas la viande?” – “So what, you don’t like meat?”. WTF.

  • Adele
    February 15, 2008 10:11am

    Our shorthand here at work: Wow, That’s Fantastic!

  • dizz
    February 17, 2008 2:27pm

    I don’t know if you’ve found your model # yet, David. I however have found a page that has diagrams of various cookers that shows where these numbers may lurk.

    Bonne chance, mon ami.


  • February 17, 2008 6:43pm

    dizz: I think that’s the best site ever! Will take (yet another) look around.

    Bonne chance indeed…xx

  • Bo
    February 18, 2008 11:42am

    Ha! Great. When I ran the Paris Marathon in 2006 they had run out of warming sheets and medals by the time I finished (at about 4 hrs 30 minutes). Runners were standing around shivering with nothing to show for our accomplishments. I got both a warming sheet and my medal in the mail…8 months later. But they never did send me the pictures I’d order.

  • Judith inUmbria
    February 22, 2008 2:59pm

    Do write the book. Just write this post over and over about all the many splendored expat insights and voila! Maybe you will be able to buy a new oven.

    I admit to smirking, squeaking and sniggering throughout.

  • March 1, 2008 12:21am

    My sister forwarded me the link to this entry, and I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this! I’ve been studying French my entire life, have spent time studying in France and collecting my own WTF moments, and have a number of friends who have done the same. The six weeks I spent in Avignon over the summer were pretty much one long WTF moment. Lots of people don’t understand when I tell them that, but I am now happy to discover that I am in very good company! Do you mind if I link to this post on my blog?

  • March 8, 2008 9:41am

    *laugh* this had me laughing SO hard. my sister and i both left france (she for switzerland, i for berlin) in the last few years because we just couldn’t take it anymore. i really don’t miss much at all! ok ok maybe i miss the red tape craziness a little bit? nope. the irony in all this is that both she and i have french citizenship and speak fluent french. somehow growing up in california ruined france for us forever. thanks for the reminder, and i adore your blog.

  • March 10, 2008 8:29pm

    OMG David, “What the f***!” indeed! Had to laugh with you as memories of my 3 years of living in Paris zoomed into my frontal lobes hahaha

    That guy with his laissez-faire attitude is a classic – and very common occurrence – in France, one I’d forgotten about.

    Wiping tears from my eyes as we speak, especially at the ‘double entendre’ of WTF being an acronym for TWO phrases hahaha

    Love your blog – will be spending all of June in Paris 2008 and I can’t wait to get there and visit some of your recommendations and taste the others :D

    Teena in Australia!


  • March 19, 2008 5:51pm

    Haha, sounds a lot like one of my London rants!

    It’s just as bad in England, so when my friends get tired of me complaining and say, “Why don’t you try Italy or France?”, I refuse because I know it would be worse!

    Of course, I am spoiled because I lived for a number of years in the US, and am so worn down here that I am packing it in and going back soon.

  • March 28, 2008 2:42am

    This is such a brilliant post, David.


  • Heather
    April 13, 2008 11:21pm

    That was freakin’ HILARIOUS!

  • April 21, 2008 10:44pm

    This post made me SO MAD!!!!! Not at you David(of course!) but at those stupid customer representatives. I dealt with the same kind of inefficiency back in India and it drove me CRAZY….CRAAAAAAAAZYYYYYY I tell you!
    You are a patient man to deal with this.

  • August 17, 2008 2:23pm

    This is a really funny post, it made me laugh quite a lot, luckily there was nobody behind me! It would seem like an abherration in any other country but… this is France.
    Have you ever tried to change your telephone number? This should be a another WTF moment…

  • anji
    November 26, 2008 9:20pm

    Soooo…. did you ever get your oven fixed???

  • christine
    January 20, 2009 10:00pm

    I had a similar experience trying to buy a train ticket in Spain. My friend & I wanted to buy a ticket a few days before we were supposed to leave. We asked what times the train left. They repeatedly said they didn’t know the times. I asked how I was supposed to buy a ticket without knowing when it would leave. The response was “buy the ticket and the time will be on it”. WTF?

  • Andreas
    September 16, 2009 8:29am

    OOOH dear, I cracked up all times on this post, you rock, but you must learn do-it-yourself….

    I am a crazy man, for example in the bar I would go and grab a water bottle and say “oooh thanks, I found my mineral water, thanks again…”

    if people are stupid and idiots, you can’t do anything… smile, nod and be much more crazy how much you would even dare imagining yourself.

    about the f*cking handle? hhhhhmmmmmmm

  • Stephanie
    November 9, 2009 12:40am

    I just had to share a WTF moment: while in Paris in 2004, my boyfriend and I were walking down a side street near the St. Michel underground station, heading back to his family’s apartment. Out of the blue, SPLASH. I am covered in water, or what I hoped to be water. Apparently some woman decided she didn’t want to dispose of her bucket of liquid in her sink. My boyfriend started yelling “Putain!” up at the woman, but I just had to laugh. It was a really hot day out, and like I hoped, it could have been much worse than dirty water.

  • Susan
    April 4, 2010 12:18am

    I don’t know if someone has already mentioned this or not, but in most of the US, “WTF” means what-the-f~ck?”. “Welcome to France” is appropiate for a place where the people do not believe in logic. Don’t you agree?

  • Catherine
    July 15, 2010 7:42pm

    Too funny. Franken-oven.

  • July 26, 2010 2:13pm

    Hi David,
    i laughed so much my stomach hurts LOL! :-))) … i look forward to when you compiled a collection of your funny articles and publish a book … you blog makes me miss Paris food a lot, hope to return soon …
    Thanks and best regards. lien

  • Philips
    November 23, 2010 11:51am

    What a brilliant post it made me laugh for ages! very funny! Reply

  • December 3, 2010 11:02pm

    I just had a very very long week and this just made my evening. I’ll be randomly laughing out loud about this tomorrow too. I’ve had many a WTF moment in France and it’s funny how you begin to accept them and eventually embrace them. Reply

  • Emily
    January 26, 2011 11:11am

    First time reader, had to comment.
    This post made my day. I’ve recently moved to la Suisse Romande and we have plenty of WTF moments here, too. My favorite one so far was probably at the immigration office. We thought we’d completed all the paperwork before we moved but, upon arrival, we were told we needed to produce a “caisse judiciare.” We had never heard of such a thing.

    “What is a ‘caisse judiciare,'” we asked?
    Someone eventually explained it was police records. Ok, we said, but which police? Swiss? American? They said it needed to come from our home country. Gotcha, but which municipality? City, County, State, Federal? Based on our most recent residence, or further back? Does it need to cover a specific period? They couldn’t say. Well, what kind of document do you need? A signed statement from a law enforcement official? A printout from a government bureau with a seal? A certificate with a gold star? Again, they couldn’t say.

    So, let me see if I’ve got this right: “You’re asking us for a document, and it’s absolutely imperative that we get it to you, but you can’t tell us precisely what it is that you actually want?”
    Yes, exactly! Reply

  • January 26, 2011 12:43pm
    David Lebovitz

    Ah, immigration…it’s always baffling. Sometimes they give you a list of documents to bring, and then they ask for something completely out of the blue…or you spend a year gathering everything on the list and they wave it away. And depending on who you ask at city hall, there’s quite a few different ‘lists’ of documents, all different, so you learn to bring everything you think they might ask for.

    On the upside is usually they don’t know either, so you can just wing it. And depending on their whims, you either score or have to go home (after a trip to another office to get an extension) and spend a few more months gathering more paperwork that they as for.

    Which the next person on your subsequent visit will no doubt wave away, saying “Why are you bringing me this? We don’t need it!” Reply

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