Monday, 30 December 2013

Blogging about Blogging

A couple of months ago, a blogger that I really like announced that she was going to stop posting and somebody else wrote in the comments box, "Blogging is dead."

That made me sad.

I first started reading blogs about six years ago. I was back in my home town after my second year in France and I'm sure that reading the blogs that I found mainly through the now defunct Assistants in France site influenced my decision to move to Italy and start blogging myself a year later. At the time, most of the blogs I read were written by people like me: former assistants and study-abroad students who had settled in France or Italy and were sharing their experiences. While my reading list has expanded to include other countries and people who took the expat route from a different starting point, this is still the kind of blog I like best - the ones where writers mix the stories of their everyday lives with cultural observations and anecdotes their adopted country. What motivates me to write my own blog is the pleasure of contributing to the mix and knowing that people with the same interests might enjoy reading what I post.

It seems, however, that bloggers like us are a diminishing breed. Of the blogs on my reading list, many are no longer updated at all, while others have morphed into a different genre as the writers' situations and interests change. In Paris, in particular, many of the new blogs I read are highly professional in style and more like travel magazines than personal diaries. Don't get me wrong - I love those blogs too, but I don't have the time, the contacts or the experiences to produce something like that and I wonder my little blog, with the others like it, will gradually fade away as other styles take over. There's less incentive to share your life online when nobody else is doing the same.

Another thing that sometimes inhibits me from posting everything I could is privacy. I don't think anyone could track me down via my blog, but someone who stumbled across it could quite easily recognise me, and I'm shy about what they might think. While on the surface it might seem illogical, I'd rather complete strangers knew the details of my personal life than people I might actually meet in another context ... especially as I might never know they'd been reading. (This is different from meeting up with other bloggers, as that's generally a fair exchange of information!) I suspect my blog might attract more readers and commenters if I was more open about who I am and what I do, but I'm not quite prepared to make the sacrifice of putting everything out in public.

Finally, like many foreigners who've been abroad for a long time, the more I integrate into life in France, the less I notice little everyday details which might be interesting to people who don't know the country, or who do and are in the process of integrating themselves. My experiences are more personal, and that brings up the issue of privacy once again.

I don't want to stop blogging. In fact, if anything, I would like to write more, so if you're a regular reader or you've been browsing the archives, it would really help me out if you could post a little in the comments box to say what brings you here and what kind of posts interest you the most. And for those of you who are bloggers yourself, how would you answer the big existential question: is blogging dying, or just changing? I'd love to know what you think!

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Merry Christmas from l'Administration Française!

I almost hesitated to post what I wrote last week about my experience registering to vote in next year's elections, and when I received a phone call from the mairie on Friday telling me that my application as it stood was likely to be rejected, I was cursing my act of hubris.

Because, you see, an attestation from EDF, normally the French gold standard of proof of address, was not acceptable, and what I needed was the actual bill. But unfortunately, as we only added my name to the account at the beginning of December in order to get the attestation, we had no bill.

However, the very nice man who took the trouble to phone me and tell me this was also able to give me some other suggestions, one of which was a recent pay slip, which in France has your address at the top. When I confirmed that I could scan one and send it within the hour, he gave me his personal email address and promised to process the application by the end of the afternoon. And sure enough, by 5pm I had received confirmation that my application was going through, and, assuming it's given the final stamp of approval, I should get my card in March.

I like to think (and have a few examples like this one to prove it) that while French bureaucracy is still complicated and frustrating at times, the people who administer it are becoming more and more helpful, and also more willing to use technology to increase their efficiency. Let's hope it continues.

In other news, on my way to the airport with a large suitcase at rush hour last night, not one but two people helped me through the gates to the metro, and smiled at me as well. In the end, France gave me a nice send off for my trip home for Christmas!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Why I'm Excited About Filling in Paperwork

It's been a while since I had a close encounter with l'administration française. Admittedly, moving house last July involved some serious chasing up of the papers to terminate my phone and internet contract and a fiery exchange of recorded delivery letters to the appallingly inefficient Natio Assurances to explain to them why they couldn't collect an advance direct debit payment for the insurance contract that they had themselves just cancelled on my old flat, but I haven't had to deal with the big guns of public sector bureaucracy for about four years now.

And now here I am, compiling a good old dossier to send to the mairie in the hope that, in 2014, I will get to vote in not one, but two French elections.

I was pretty sad to be sitting on the sidelines at the last presidential election. I'm even more upset about not being allowed to vote in the Scottish independence referendum next year. But, as an EU citizen, I'm entitled to vote in both the European and the local elections which are taking place next year.

Registering is a fairly simple process, in theory at least. You download the forms here and send them, along with ID and proof of address, to your local mairie by the 31st December (although they recommend before the 15th to ensure everything is processed on time)  and that should be all. My problem has been the proof of address because everything in the new flat is in Understanding Frenchman's name, but it turns out its pretty easy to add anyone to an EDF contract - you don't even have to be the person concerned. In fact, making someone else liable for your electricity bill seems to be a whole lot easier than getting on to the electoral register... but I digress.

I don't want to say it was easy until I actually have the card in my sticky paw, but up until now it hasn't been too difficult. Now I just need them to process my application on time - what do you reckon the chances are?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A New Yorker in Paris

"What, just one?" you might say on reading the title of this post. But while there might be many folks from the Grosse Pomme here ( including some of my favourite bloggers - hi guys!) Sebastian Marx stands out because he has his own very funny comedy show. Currently running at the So Gymnase theatre at Bonne Nouvelle in a tiny theatre where an audience of around 50 can lounge around on squishy sofas and buy drinks and snacks at the bar without racking up a lifetime of debt, the show reminded me of some of the best standup  I've seen at the Edinburgh Fringe - charming and chuckle-worthy but with some sharp cultural insights nevertheless.

Sebastian's routine started off a little slowly, with a lot of chat about where people were from and what they were doing in Paris. I was psyching myself up to be a little bit underwhelmed, which made it even better as the humour level gradually rose and I realised that a well as being extremely likeable, this guy also had some witty and original things to say. The concept was similar to How to a Become Parisian in. One Hour, which I also enjoyed, but I have to say that I thought  Marx was more insightful and didn't come across as trying too hard. (The punctuation error in the actual title of the other show also bothers me, but that's probably just because I'm a sad geek.)

You can buy tickets for A New Yorker in Paris here . I would highly recommend it!