The lead-up to Christmas has not been particularly festive for me.
This is mostly due to our renovation works overrunning and trying to work up some sense of urgency in, and juggling timings of, various builders, deliveries, phone and internet services, utilities suppliers and gas certifications. The snagging list has been long. Little has gone smoothly. Many appointments have been missed by companies. Everyone has needed chasing several times at each step of the process.
This can happen anywhere, but for a major European country, it is particularly bad here.
I don’t like it when people moan about their new home foreign countries (and equally get irritated when people go overboard lauding their new home country and slamming how things are done back where they came from) – a lot of the same things can happen or not happen anywhere you live. I try to complain about something specific, not how it compares.
However…(come on, you knew it was coming)…
I’ll allow myself one moan about France right now and it is that it’s where the UK was about 20 years ago in terms of service. Many of the companies I’ve had to contact are regulators or former state owned institutions. Although they are now private, much of the staff and certainly the mentality remains that they are not there to help the client. It is the client who must put, shut up and listen only to what they have to say, you most certainly mustn’t question them why because that is the way it is even if it doesn’t make sense, and, of course, it is always the customer’s fault.
I’m not saying this doesn’t still happen in the UK, but until you’ve tried some of the customer services here you just don’t know how good you have it.
Particular mention to this Rogues Hall of Fame is Orange.
It’s too depressing to go into detail, but suffice to say that they cut off my phone and internet without notice nor good reason (even the attending technician didn’t know why) for 10 days, plus other complications, and this during the middle of my works and deliveries. Their client service was the rudest, most intransigent and ill-informed that I’ve ever contacted and didn’t care if someone was unhappy with their service.
Even the French complain about Orange.
The staff in their boutiques tend to be good, but their phone staff (which you have to contact for certain matters) are a different breed.
There is also the not so small matter of building workmen treating women differently, speaking condescendingly as if we’re stupid. Younger workmen tend to treat you more normally though.
I’ve also had attending workmen complain to me for 20 minutes about how it’s going to take them hours to do a job they’ve been specifically sent to do instead of just getting on with it or even complaining to their boss instead of me. I tell them it’s not my problem and they somehow find they can get the job done in a third of the time they complained it would take. Maybe they’re trying to get some extra cash out of me.
Of course, in the interests of balance, I should state that other workmen are available and some are even good.
But the upshot is that I’m still camping out, with no renovated, centrally-heated home that was promised to be completed months ago.
One possible branch to cling to from this mire of renovation problems is that although everything slows down here, it doesn’t shut down between Christmas and the new year in the same way as it does in the UK. So maybe I’ll be able to move in shortly after Christmas.
It’s been a continued build up of stress and as I’ve been unable to get out to offset it, it’s required testing out all manner of calming techniques and finally resorting to booze (hey, it’s Christmas and I live in France – although you may be wondering why I haven’t turned to it sooner).
On top of that, H doesn’t like Christmas (bad memories of something, somewhere that even he doesn’t really remember how or when it started), and when he was visiting here, there were no local Christmas markets or other festive warmers on the same dates to perk us up (I was going to take him out on the theory that he’d enjoy it when he was there).
Perhaps I’ll get into the festive spirit after Christmas. At least in France we have all of January to wish people a happy new year.
So it’s Bah Humbug from me and I’ll leave you with a rather more happy festive link to a collated blog post by Phoebe at Lou Messugo where she has listed different expat bloggers’ takes on what’s to like about Christmas in France (including a short para from yours truly).
Read it and enjoy… although, just to confirm my scrooge credentials this year, as a supporter of Compassion in World Farming, I’m going to have to say that I don’t like seeing all the ‘festive’ Foie Gras in shops and supermarkets. It is possible to produce a foie gras without gavage but unless a product specifically states that it hasn’t, it will not only definitely mean gavage but usually bad living conditions for the ducks or geese too. Learn more from www.ciwf.org.uk or www.ciwf.com or www.ciwf.fr
And on that merry note, I wish you all Happy Holidays!!