Cauliflower Soup with Gruyère; Bless the Bureaucrats; the Weekly Menu

Rule Number 1 if you are dealing with the French Bureaucracy:  Never have all of the required papers.


Rule Number 1 if you are a French Bureaucrat: Always ask for one more document.

Regardless of how complete the dossier presented, one more ‘something’ could make it perfect… regardless of how unnecessary, superfluous or redundant.

Bonus points are awarded if it’s particularly challenging.

If one has no photos, 2 passport-size color photos are needed.

If one presents 2 photos, 3 are now required.

If one doesn’t present last year’s tax return, it’s needed.

If one does present last year’s tax return, the underlying documentation is now required.

The trick is to present an apparently, well-organized, complete folder while at the same time leaving out something that is easy to produce.

Never volunteer anything just because you think it might be helpful.  You could be giving up the very document that was going to be requested…. greatly inconveniencing the bureaucrat who must now think of something else.

And do not, whatever you do, produce the requested document on the spot.  Again, this will merely cause something else to be required.

You absolutely must leave and come back another day.

And do try to look properly put-upon – whilst smiling wanly and wishing the person a ‘nice day’.

Anyone like to venture a guess as to what I did today?

I have to add: none of this is meant to be taken personally, or, even too seriously.  It’s just the way things are done… the way the game is played.

It’s also why, if you are caught without proper documentation, say the wrong car papers during a spot inspection, all you have to do is say it’s ‘en cours’ – in process.  You will immediately receive an understanding nod.  (You had better be right, though; the nice Gendarme will understand, but he may also verify)

Now that we have our Carte de Séjour, and are legal residents of this department, we can get the rest of the little bits out of the way.

We went to the Sous Prefecture to change the address on our driving licenses and get new license plates for our car. We were sent away with 2 lists for the required documents (copies of papers, photos, etc.).

We went to the health insurance office to change our address – which also involves changing departments. This was our second visit.  We had already received the list of required documents, so we had our dossier prepared.  Now we just have to get the new papers organized.  My mistake in making it too complete….  I know better….

Remember that we already have a properly registered car, current driving licenses and are covered under the health system.

This is just because we moved from the Vendée to the Lot et Garonne.

Apparently, like some of the expats we knew in Andorra, they don’t speak….

The bright spot in the day?  We went into the Mairie to ask where we needed to go to get all this accomplished.  As the receptionist starting giving me directions, a man interrupted and said, as he was going in that direction, he’d just walk with us. 10 minutes later we were dropped off at the door of the Sous Prefecture, with the other offices pointed out along the way.

The dichotomy always fascinates me: the challenge of getting something done with the person behind the desk, and how incredibly helpful the same person can be when they step out from behind it.

After all that walking in the cold, windy sunshine I thought a bit of comfort food might be in order.

The recipe, Cauliflower Soup with Gruyère, has been updated, nutrition information added, and re-posted here: Cauliflower Soup, with Gruyère.

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14 thoughts on “Cauliflower Soup with Gruyère; Bless the Bureaucrats; the Weekly Menu”

  1. It’s so fun reading this and remembering I heard the “Who’s on first” routine. At least I get the feeling you are getting closer and closer . . . but I’m not sure it’s a good thing to actually get there.
    Putting cauliflower on the shopping list.

  2. This is hilarious, Katie. Course not so much when you’re going through it. I love the way you find humor in even the most vexing situations. Hope you’re doing well!
    And I LOVE this soup. Gotta try it.

  3. Ooooo, this sounds good! And I can actually eat it (so hard with a metabolic condition)!
    Glad you had a nice, windy walk today, even if it had to be to yet another bureaucrat’s office.

  4. Bureaucracy in a foreign country can be so hard to deal with. When we lived in Italy, I was so frustrated by the amount of time it took to get things done. But after coming back to the U.S., I found that customer service here left a lot to be desired too. Comfort food is the only remedy. The cauliflower soup hits the right spot. Love the addition of cheese too.

  5. Lovely soup and humorous story!
    (No, you are not too late to join the festa Italiana. You have until Monday, sweety!)

  6. Don’t I know it, Katie and Ciaochowlinda. In Brussels, we lived in a Flemish-speaking “commune,” but the bureaucracy was French. I had to go WITH OUR LANDLORD to pay the final utility bills and close our accounts (each one in a ridiculously distant part of the city). In southern Italy, my landlord scheduled electricity turn-on for me, as I spoke no Italian. I took off at some expense from work to await the man to switch it on: 0800 on a Monday. The truck came up the street and stopped at an apartment about 40 meters from mine. The man went in. OK, I thought, he’s working there first. By 1200, I was getting worried. By 1600, I was drinking wine. The truck was still there, and it stayed there until Thursday, when the man came back to it, started it up and drove the 40 meters to my place. My landlord let him in to switch on the power.
    I do agree that customer service in the US is quite variable. And the worst offenders seem to be the telecoms that offer the most advanced service. Those guys don’t seem to realize that they offer advanced services that people could actually live quite well without. You think they’d be more customer-friendly.

  7. What a great description of the joy of bureaucracy. The Italian version has its own characteristics as well. Great soup: I put it in my “to do” list.

  8. I don’t know why, but it has never occurred to me to make cauliflower soup. This sounds lovely! And just the thing after a long day with bureaucrats. (Having said that, I have a sneaking suspicion that if I buy cauliflower and gruyere, I’ll end up making cauliflower au gratin. I just can’t help myself….)

  9. Although all our own experiences actually ended up working fairly well (if you don’t count the endless hours waiting for your number to come up)at the French prefectures (our ten year renewal is up this fall –fingers crossed), we’ve certainly heard the nightmare stories from others. Civil servants have a lot of power, and they know it. And supervisors don’t appreciate your going over the head of anybody. Glad you got through it all unscathed.
    However, when I had to deal with a government office while back in the States, I discovered the US equivalents aren’t any better. We just never usually have to deal with some of them so don’t know any better. I think civil servants are the same all over the world.
    Your soup sounds lovely. Can’t wait to get the cauliflower. Frustrating, as I have everything else!

  10. I’m glad you are keeping to the rules so as not to inconvenience your local bureaucrats. I just hope they don’t find your blog, or you’ll be in really hot water!

  11. Living in New Zealand seems a piece of cake compared to France but we are a million miles away. AS much as I am loving our long hot summer, that cauliflower soup had me wanting a slightly colder day so that I could make some soup. Hope this doesn’t come back to bite me on the Posterior!!!
    Looks yummy Katie

  12. Tanna, I love that routine!!!!
    Susan, we have to laugh… or else!
    tacebooks, glad it works for you!
    Ciaochowlinda, it is a challenge, and different in every country.
    Maryann, I’ll be there.
    Tikipundit – that is hilarious!!! Poor you!
    Simona, yeah, the joys….
    Elizabeth, hmmm, cauliflower gratin….
    Azurienne, 10 years… Lucky you!
    Zoomie, wouldn’t that be awful!
    Gilli, glad you are having a nice summer – ours is coming… soon, I hope!

    Loulou – yeah, you, who just got her 10 year!
    Thanks, Ashley

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