The préfecture incident has caused me much reflection over the past few days. I will admit my first reaction was anger at the fact that a préfecture would inform me in 2004 that Ohio was not a reciprocal state for exchanging driving licence with France two years after Ohio was included in this exchange. The civil servant helping us reluctantly admitted that Ohio was included in 2002. After much reflection I realize that the fact that I am being allowed to do it now is a way of making it right. My Ohio drivers licence is no longer valid which makes it impossible for the moment. However, we were told that once I renew it or get a new one I can get the French driving licence.
Through my reflecting, I see that even though my licence was valid at the time I first went to do the transfer, it is not now. So, it is just not possible to give me a French licence from an expired Ohio licence. It is for legal reasons. If I were given a French licence based on an expired Ohio licence and I had an accident or something there could be some problems.
When I was a banking center manager, I had to deal with similar incidents several times. The customer was a ‘victim’ of the bank in their eyes and I, as a manager, had to fix the problem. Sometimes the best I could do was not unlike what was offered to me by the préfecture. So, I am happy that I am allowed to get the French licence as soon as I get a new Ohio licence. That is all the préfecture can do to fix the situation for me at this point.
I think it is fair to say that France is not perfect. What country is?
I miss America right now. I am very homesick. The driving licence incident became a way for me to separate myself as the little American against the big, bad French bureaucracy. I was wrong. Then, I started thinking about all the other things that ticked me off when I first came to France. For instance, when you call a company in France you, the customer, pays for the call. Air France costs me 12 cents a minute to call. And, there are other examples of things that I miss from America that are not here like all night grocery stores. However, do I function in France just fine without all the things I enjoyed in America? Yes. Is my level of living less than the one I enjoyed in America? No.
If I left France and went back to America to live I am sure there are things that would drive me equally as crazy. An example? College tuition and health care are outrageously expensive. I will happily pay Air France 12 cents a minute rather than pay hundreds and thousands of dollars on health care and college tuition. I didn’t even mention the high cost of childcare. All of the reasons we decided to move to France in the first place. I must keep it in perspective with four kids.
When my French husband came to live in America, I saw a piece of my country I didn’t even know about. Memories of sitting in the INS in Cincinnati for five or six hours at a time with my husband came back to me. I had never seen the America that foreigners see. It is not so organized or friendly. Those civil servants don’t smile and are not helpful or friendly in the least. I think this behavior is a job requirement around the world for civil servants. Well, unless the civil servant works for the U.S. postal system where it is a daily fight to make a profit. They smile behind clenched teeth! I don’t blame them for going “postal” when you see the crap these workers have to deal with and SMILE.
My situation is that I am in love with two countries. If America and France were to ever go to war, I would be at war with myself. I don’t know what I would do. Luckily, the only current problem is a bad game of culture bashing ping pong.
My mother has offered to pay my way back to America for a visit instead of her coming to France. It would be more expensive because of the babies. However, we could stay with her for at least 5 weeks instead of her visiting in France for only two. We could see my father, step-mother, brother and some of my extended family. It is something I am considering taking her up on. She has been telling me for several months to come but I just never wanted to. I wasn’t ready to go back. Now, I feel like I am.
I really am homesick and it would be interesting to see my own country through “new eyes”. My children will get to spend several days getting to know their American family. The other benefit is that I can once again drive in America and begin to drive in France by getting my Ohio driving licence. It is a pretty package with beautiful ribbons. It is too good to pass up.