Voltage Transformer

One of the most important things I’ve learned about living in France over the past 4 weeks is that you need to have patience- lots of patience. The key to being happy (or not going crazy) is forgetting the American way and instead adjusting to how the French do things. Anytime you try to accomplish a task quickly or expect that something will work correctly the first time, you have fallen back into an American way of thinking and frustration is sure to follow. I’m being serious.

One source of frustration has been the lack of reliable delivery of items purchased online that we cannot buy locally or can’t find in France. A good example is the voltage transformers that I ordered from Amazon.UK our first week here. According to Amazon they should have arrived at our house between February 13th and 22nd. After not receiving the transformers by the 22nd, I decided to check the status of the package online. To my surprise the tracking information showed that the package had been delivered and signed for on February 14th, more than a week ago.  I looked around our property to see if I could find a package, but nothing was to be found.

So, I called and emailed Amazon and after days of emailing back and forth they provided me with a phone number to call the shipping company, Interlink, which I had never heard of. I had work colleagues who spoke French call the number over a period of days, with no answer, but they did determine that the number we were calling was the Chateauneuf La Poste, the equivalent of a local US post office. After not being able to communicate with anyone by telephone I decided to go by La Poste on a Friday afternoon. I checked their hours of operation online and arrived at the location 40 minutes before closing (4pm). When I arrived (3:20pm), a small note was taped to the door saying that they had closed at 3:15, which means I had missed them by 5 minutes, even though they weren’t supposed to close until 4pm. I left La Poste frustrated, still not knowing where my voltage transformers were- almost three weeks after had I ordered them.

On Saturday morning I got up and went to La Poste first thing in the morning to attempt to locate the package. Before heading out I researched some phrases in French that I might need to communicate- basic words and phrases that I might need to understand or use to ask about my package. My preparation paid off. After waiting in line for about 20 minutes, I was able to communicate with a woman in La Poste just enough for her to locate my packages. Merci! Merci! Merci! Merci!!! Finding the voltage transformers were a huge relief. Any anger I had quickly disappeared when the lady emerged from a back room with the packages I had been expecting for weeks.

Unfortunately this is only one of the many examples to demonstrate how things work a little differently here and why patience is a necessity. Some other examples include:

• The movers would not ship our printer ink by air or sea, so we were forced to buy printer cartridges in France. After looking for them locally I discovered that the version of printer cartridges that we needed were not sold in France. So, I ordered printer cartridges from Amazon International Shipping that were supposedly shipped, signed for, and delivered, yet never to be found. After doing a 30 minute live chat with Amazon, they had them reshipped, and luckily this time we found a box sitting inside our gate. Ordering printer cartridges ended up taking almost three weeks instead of the hour it would have taken to pick up in America or the week it should have taken to receive by reliable mail or UPS/Fedex.

• Last week we made plans with a local dealer to pick up our new car on Friday. On Tuesday, I had a work colleague call the dealership to confirm a time that we could pick up the car on Friday and he instead said they would need until Monday of the next week to finalize the preparation of the car. This is almost two weeks after we wanted to buy the car (and drive if off the lot) and as of typing this, we still don’t have the car. I am hopeful that on Monday everything will go as planned and we will drive home the car with no issues. In America, you can barely get a used car dealer to let you leave the lot, much less drag out the purchase process by two weeks.

• I made an appointment nearly a week in advance with our bank in France to pick up a certified check for the purchase of our car. A few minutes before the appointment the banker emailed me to say that he could still meet with me, but that he could not prepare the check as his assistant was out of the office. I questioned why we would meet at all since he could not have the check ready and then agreed to wait until Monday to meet and pick up the check.

• I ordered SIM cards from Free several weeks ago. We finally got them, activated them online, but the lines haven’t been activated by Free yet.

• We stopped at two different McDonalds in Fréjus to get some snacks after a day of exploring and playing at the beach. After waiting for 10 minutes in the first McDonalds without even ordering we decided to stop at another.  At the next location, we ordered within five minutes of arriving, but waited another 20 to receive three cokes, three fries, and a double cheeseburger. I don’t McDonalds uses the term “fast food” to describe their restaurants here, as they are anything but fast.

There are many other examples, but I think you get the idea. If you are an American reading this, have patience. Not everything about living in France is fun and easy, but so far the good out weighs the bad. My next blog post will be all positive (I promise), but you are going to have to wait awhile for it.

Here are some teaser photos for the Week 4 post, coming in an estimated, one business day. Again, be patient.