Waiting in France

“Waiting time is not wasting time. Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life.” Henri J.M. Nouwen

If Nouwen is correct then France is a good place to develop your spiritual life for this culture has waiting woven into its very fiber. At times I welcome the lessons waiting teaches, other times lack of patience and uncertainty rear their unspiritual heads.

The ubiquitous drive-up service in the US is pretty much non-existant here in France. Starbucks has drive-through and of course you can order on your phone so as to not be inconvenienced by waiting in a line to place your order then waiting again while your order is prepared – no chance of prompting Nouwen’s spiritual life here.

In France you sit in a delightful café and wait patiently for the server, which will most always take much longer than any place you go in the US. Yet you don’t see people looking around trying to catch the eye of the server or overtly flagging them down as would be common back in Seattle. Or compare Japan where many restaurants have a button on the table for the sole purpose of summoning someone, nothing like that here.

Knowing how important un café is, it is usually brought out relatively quickly. However if you are sitting down to lunch minutes will go by between being seated and someone coming to take your aperitif order, and more minutes until it comes – so it goes all through the meal. Wait times between courses would earn even the best establishment poor reviews outside of France.

Yet the French take it in stride, just as they do waiting in a line at the supermarche. Just this morning we waited for a few minutes while the couple in front of us carefully bagged and stacked their groceries into their cart, then engaged with the also patient checker to pay, which was slow as the shopper methodically entered numbers into a keypad. There were at least three more folks with carts behind us, no one was impatiently glaring, they, like us, chatted, knowing their turn was coming.

One does learn to flow with the waiting pace as it applies to shop hours. Yes, many shops close at about noon only to re-open at 2.00pm. Many are closed on both Sunday and Monday. And it is not uncommon to find a place you were intent on going to, which you expected to be open, be closed with little explanation. The only explanation of course is C’est la France!

The most challenging waiting comes from anything associated with the government. France is famous for their bureaucracy and its associated paperwork, something that even my best pre-moving mind preparation did not grasp. No matter what it is you want to do there is a dossier involved and it is impossible to get all of the documents correct the first time.

In June of 2022 we submitted a 1.5cm thick packet of documents to get our Carte Vitale, healthcare card. So far it has been returned, yes the whole packet, four or five times requesting additional information. We last returned it with a letter two months ago, our relocation consultant says that since we have heard nothing from them that is good news, yet we check the mail daily.

Car insurance requires more than just a call with the VIN number and your drivers licence number as it does in the US. All of that for sure, but copies of your visa and all the accompanying docs get sent in. I am enrolled in a French Driving school to get my French licence, the paperwork for that was about the same as getting our visa. You submit it all and days or weeks go by until you hear.

We renewed our visas, starting in January, and of course received multiple requests for more info. We are all set, we have our provisional visa renewal yet are still waiting for the final card, or actually the notification that we can make an appointment with the prefecture to go an pick up our card.

The aspect of waiting that Nouwen does not mention is the uncertainty that waiting can produce. Since he is a man of God he would probably advise that uncertainty is an opportunity to express faith, and I am sure he is correct. BUT when you are waiting for a visa to see if you can stay in the country, car insurance to allow you to drive, etc. it can be a bit stressful as well.

Yet we are getting pretty good at it, or at least used to it. As I finish this blog I realize I get to face the uncertainty of what will happen when I attempt to uploaded it since we have painfully slow internet service out in rural France. So I will hit publish, refill my d’eau minérale gazeuse and hope you get to read it. In the end my goal is to be more like Neville, he has this down perfectly.

6 thoughts on “Waiting in France

  1. The go-go-go/hyper productivity notion of how to live is unhealthy and leads to a lot of illness, but waiting for visas and driver’s licenses is definitely stressful too. Overall, I prefer the slower paced, French way of doing things. We’re supposed to enjoy life, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right, we fit right in with all the day to day rythme. Must admis the paperwork and wait adds some stress at times, when you don’t know the process and are communicating in different language it gets tiresome, but we are enjoying the process and glad to be here.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. elissbaker

    Well, I guess the relentless document gathering and submission is keeping your brain sharp? Improving your French? Increasing your spirituality? But not so good for the blood pressure.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s