January 28, 2015

Pole Emploi

The reason most people sign up with pole emploi, the unemployment office, is because they are getting chomage, or unemployment benefits, which are only accessible via this government body. Sadly, having a stage (internship) doesn’t qualify one for chomage, and so I didn’t immediately sign up. However recent graduates frequently do register despite the lack of monetary benefits.

While they do have a service that helps one search for jobs, the types of jobs that I’m interested in weren't usually advertised on pole emploi and so I’d been using other services.

Luckily, a friend of mine told me that if I’d sign up at pole emploi to declare myself à la recherche d’emploi (looking for work), I would receive an unemployment card that would give me free access to most of Paris’ lovely museums.

Suddenly dealing with French bureaucracy seemed worth it.

After signing up online, I received an appointment for about two weeks later to go to the pole emploi offices closet to me.

Knowing how these things go thanks to all my trips to the Prefecture, I brought the documents that pole emploi asked for (ID, pay stubs, CV), plus every other sort of document they could possibly need from me (copy of my birth certificate, proof of having graduated from a French institution, etc.).

I also brought along reading material to keep me busy for at least an entire afternoon, and I showed up to my appointment about ten minutes early.

There was a very, very long line for the accueil (welcome desk) for people without an appointment, and a relatively short line for people with one. Arriving at the front of the line right when my appointment was supposed to start, I signed in without a hitch.

I found an empty chair, sat down, and was starting to pull a magazine out of my tote bag, when my name was called to go back and meet my counselor!

Not only were they super prompt, but my counselor was super friendly, didn’t need random documents that weren’t listed on the official documents list, spent time looking over my general CV and cover letter, and despite confirming that they don’t receive many job offers for the work I’m interested in, gave me a lovely packet full of tips for people in my field.

My crumpled up pass that I keep in my wallet for emergency museum visits

She also gave me my get-into-museums-free pass, and I have been using it up a storm.

January 16, 2015

PDFs and the Prefecture

The process for obtaining the APS visa begins 4 months before the expiration of one’s student visa. After compiling, printing, photocopying, and organizing the various documents required and writing a lettre de motiviation (cover letter), I made my way to the prefecture de police.

After placing the various documents on the counter and saying that I was there to drop off my application for the APS visa, the French man behind the counter said, “On ne prend plus les documents du format papier,” (We no longer accept documents in paper form).

Not being sure I understood correctly, I said, “mais votre site web dit de venir avec tous ces papiers et les déposer à votre bureau” (but your website says to come here with these papers and drop them off at your office).

Ah oui, mais le site web n’est plus à jour,” (Ah yes, well, the website is no longer up-to-date).

Starting to feel a slight panic, I asked the man what I was supposed to do.

He handed me a printed out regular piece of paper (no fancy French flag header or anything) with instructions telling one to send all the various documents I had just spent good money printing and copying as a PDF to an email address that, I kid you not, was a gmail address. Not @gouv.fr, not @prefecturedepolice.fr, not @france.fr, but @gmail.com!

Trusting the process very little, I still did what I was told.

Fast forward 4 months to the day when my student visa expired and I had my scheduled interview with the prefecture de police to hopefully obtain the APS visa. For this particular meeting, I was supposed to have received a document in the mail from my school, but of course I hadn’t.

I called the school and they told me not to worry, that they’d simply email me a PDF copy of the document that I could then print out and take to the prefecture.

Once at the prefecture, I presented them with my documents where it was immediately remarked upon that the school document was not the “original” copy. After explaining that I hadn’t yet received the school’s document in the mail but that they sent me this PDF version by e-mail, I was told, “on n’accepte plus les formats PDFs,” (we no longer accept pdf versions).

Despite the prefecture de police's policy on PDFs doing a 180 in just four months, I was eventually able to get my APS visa.

November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving: year six.

Six years of being away from family and other Americans on this very American holiday has made it seem almost the norm. I am once again hosting a Thanksgiving potluck with my French friends (using my tried and true French thanksgiving recipes), and I am once again using this as an opportunity to reflect on all that I am thankful for in my French life.

This year, I am thankful for:

1. The French boyfriend
My constant proofreader, who helps me navigate French bureaucracy, I am so thankful to get to cuddle up next to him on a daily basis. I’m especially thankful this year that he drove my parents to Switzerland and spent an entire day with them sans moi because I had left my passport in Paris… Thank you so much!

2. Amis
As always, I also can’t imagine my French life without all the wonderful people I’ve met out here, from the amazing people I just graduated with to the new friends I’ve made in Paris. From commiserating about the daunting visa process to helping deal with the stress of office life as well as, now, the job-hunting process, I’m so grateful for you all.

3. Graduation
After two years of hard work in the classroom and in the office, I am officially a Master! I am so grateful for the opportunity to have gotten this degree in France with such lovely, wonderful people, and I am also grateful for the fact that my university just happened to be in Champagne as that led to celebrating this milestone with the delicious beverage that shares the region’s name at very reasonable prices.

4. APS
I am so grateful for the visa that allows foreign bearers of a French master’s degree stay in France for one year in order to look for employment in their field of expertise. It’s given me the opportunity to stay here for one more year, hopefully soon find a job, and continue this great adventure.

5. Paris
Living in Paris has led to a plethora of reasons to be grateful. Not only is the city beautiful and full of wonderful museums that I can visit for free on the first Sunday of the month, but it’s also a big tourist destination, which has meant getting to spend time with friends who didn’t think Troyes was worth visiting.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

October 31, 2014

Aller au ciné

The price of going to the movies has always been a factor in why I hardly ever go to the movies. Plus, since moving to Paris and no longer being under 26 (the age when Europe no longer considers you jeune), the price I have to pay to go to the movies has exponentially increased, exponentially decreasing my frequency of attendance.

If I do go, however, it’s because I want to see something that is going to be freaking awesome on the big screen. I want explosions. I want magnificent scenery. I want larger than life everything.

Unfortunately in Paris, bigger prices do not equal bigger screens.

On our first trip to the movies, after paying an absurd amount of money for a ticket, the boyfriend and I headed down an endless amount of stairs, and just as I was beginning to suspect we were heading to the center of the earth, when finally we arrived at our salle (room).

The room itself was small. There must have been no more than 50 places, and as such, one would expect the screen to be smaller than say a 200-person room. However, the screen wasn’t even proportional to the room size. It was tiny.

The screen in question. I made sure to include that guy's head for scale.

Suspecting that the problem might have been the fact that we were seeing the movie a while after its release date, I gave Paris the benefit of the doubt and went to the movies again. And again, the screen was miniscule. So much for ever going to the movies!

However, luckily for those of you who wish to see your Hollywood blockbuster on an American sized screen, I do not give up so easily. After visiting several different theaters, I have finally found one that is up to snuff. 

The screen towered high above our heads and was wider than most Parisian buildings. It was even curved, giving the viewer the experience of really being in the movie. The actors were at least three times as big as me. This theater definitely met the criteria for larger than life. 

Check it out:
UGC Ciné Cité La Défense
Le Dôme - Centre commercial Les 4 Temps

October 19, 2014


While most of this blogs chronicles “how weird I think everything French is,” it’s becoming harder and harder to do, as I’ve become steadily more accustomed to life here (five years might do that to a person).

Last weekend, I felt especially comfortable in my little French life. I felt especially Parisian, and it all started off with tacos.

I had given up on ever tasting Mexican food worth eating in France, but then I moved to Paris and had a colleague who was equally desperate for good Mexican food.

After some quick internet research, we decided to go try a little hole-in-the-wall place over by the Canal St. Martin called El Nopal. It was maybe the best decision of my life. The tacos were heavenly, and it wasn’t just my lowered expectations talking.

El Nopal.

Since there is no seating at the restaurant, I (and many others) have made a habit of taking my tacos and beer over to the banks of the Canal St. Martin to bask in the sun’s rays and enjoy the nice view.

Delicious vegetarian tacos.

On this particular visit, after savoring the tacos while engaging in nice conversation, my friends and I walked along the canal and even got to witness a péniche (barge) leveling out the water to make its way up the canal. We stumbled upon a few vide dressing (sort of like pop up second hand stores), and once we made it to the Marais we visited several art galleries.

As evening settled in, we found ourselves on the terrace of a small Parisan café, enjoying glasses of varying varities of French wine.

Before having lived here for so long, I would think eating non-French food would probably be the least Frenchy thing I could do. Even though I already knew that the French eat Mexican food too (the lines outside of El Nopal are a testament to such), it didn't fit into my definition of "French." Now I know better.

I can have my Frenchness, and eat (delicious) tacos too.

Check it out:
El Nopal
3 Rue Eugène Varlin, 75010 Paris
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