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What’s on my mind today

Demonstrators poured out in the hundreds of thousands demanding fair treatment of immigrants. It worked!

Senate Panel has approved the Immigration Bill.

Feinstein won approval for the five-year program to permit as many as 1.5 million agriculture workers into the country. “It will provide the agriculture industry with a legal work force and offer agriculture workers a path to citizenship,” she said. The vote was 11-5, with Republicans casting all the votes in opposition. Kennedy prevailed on a proposal to allow an additional 400,000 green cards for future immigrants, regardless of the industry where they find jobs.

I think it is great that these people were able to influence the government. Something good happened because several people were not willing to just sit around complaining to one another. They got up and made their voices heard. Way to go!


On another interesting note…the EU has approved a stardard European driving licence which will begin to be issued during the years 2012-2032. Read more about it on the BBC news website. Maybe, by that time I will have saved the money to get one? In France, it is expensive. Plus, I would be considered a new driver even if I have driven a car since I was 17. This means higher insurance.

When we made the move to France we were in for a surprise at the insurance agents office. We wanted to get car insurance. However, since my husband had lived outside of France for over 1 year, he was considered a new driver. It didn’t matter that he had driven for over 5 years in France with insurance and no accidents before he moved to the States. So, that meant we had to pay a little over 140 Euro each month for a year. It recently went to normal at around 70 Euro a month. It is still much higher than what I paid for one driver in the States.

I didn’t understand the little “rule”. It was explained that because there was no way to know if he had an accident while living in America that he must be considered a new driver and a higher risk. My question to them (which did not go over well) was why did they care if it didn’t affect France’s insurance costs but America’s? What risk? It just didn’t make sense. But, what can you do?

We had to have a car even with the wonderful tram and bus system in Strasbourg. Three kids and grocery shopping with no car was done for several months on foot. I kinda miss it on warm days. Winter? My husband did the shopping by himself after working all day. He had to walk to the grocery in rain, snow or if he was lucky sunshine pulling the grocery bag behind him. At least it had wheels!


It seems that Ohio is one of the states that is accepted for a simple transfer from that states driving license to a French driving license.

I was told by the préfecture that my state, Ohio, was not included. I am assuming that it was not included at the time because the employee checked in a book even showing me the states that were. Ohio was not listed. It must have since changed and I was not aware of this.

Also, my husband and I were told that we couldn’t get proof from our insurance company back in the States that he had a clean driving record while living there. It seems we were either mislead by two separate insurance companies or these insurance companies have different “rules” than others in France. Samantha who is an American expat living in France informed me that she was able to do this with her insurance company.

Here’s the information I was given at the U.S. Consulate here in Strasbourg. Ohio is not on the list. The wonderful and kind man that always helps our family with any U.S. matters told me it was an old Guide for U.S. citizens residing in France (January 2001) and that information inside may be outdated. We went to the préfecture in Strasbourg figuring that they would know. Again, that is when we were told that Ohio was not a state that an immediate transfer was allowed. *frown* *double frown because they were wrong* We had even paid the 4 something Euro for my picture that is required for the French licence. I gave it to Angel Girl to keep with her.

To say the least, I am not real happy about that. I tried to check when Ohio was added as one of the states that have an agreement with France and couldn’t find anything. However, in 2001 there were only 10 states and now in 2006 there are 14.

Current online Guide for U.S. citizens residingin France

Embassy of the United States website

Click on image to see it bigger.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Wendy March 28, 2006, 7:39 am

    I was able to swop my SA licence for a French one last year – it cost 20 euros. And The Ex let me register with the insurance as his wife, which meant I got all his no-claim bonus, so I only pay 42 euros a month (for a ‘business use’ licence)- otherwise I too would have been classed as a new driver (even though I’ve been driving for 22 years!)and would have paid 180 euros a month. It’s so stupid. But my premium will go up as I had that little accident in January and claimed for it (1320 euros for a smashed light and dented wing).

  • Pumpkin March 28, 2006, 7:56 am

    Ouch, Wendy!
    For Americans, it depends on the state you live in whether or not they have a “deal” for swapping the French licence without testing. Basically, the states that play nice get played nice with. Ohio makes everyone (including other States) take their test with to transfering allowed. If I had lived in Kentucky (one of the nice states)I would have just done like you and transfered my licence. Lucky me had one year to take the French driving test in order to transfer my Ohio licence to a French licence without going through a driving school. Big problem for me is that I can’t drive a stick and to take the test it has to be in a driving schools car with two steering wheels in case the tester needs to act fast and avoid an accident. It can’t be done in your own car. So, either way I would have to go to a driving school and pay the big money. In Ohio, it is in your car and all very much a joke. The test is so easy. I was impresed that when my husband took the Ohio exam to get his temporarily licence he was able to study from a book written in French. They had several languages. He didn’t have to go to driving school like most new drivers but still had to take the test. Now, that I have passed my year of living in France I must start from the beginning like any other new driver in France. It may be better because of not being able to drive a stick and the different road rules like the priority to the right which in my opinion is very unsafe. It scares me all the time riding in the car let alone driving the car :)

  • samantha March 28, 2006, 9:22 am

    Pumpkin – If you’re from Ohio, you wouldn’t have had to take the test – you only would’ve needed to go to the préfecture and exchange it (gratos) for a French one. I know two people from Ohio that have already done this, one just recently, and neither had to take the French test.

    Unfortunately I don’t come from one of the lucky states, so I just started studying for the French test this week. I’m planning on taking the test for the permis voiture automatique – many schools offer this option, you should check it out (though maybe you’re happy enough not driving). I’ll get around to doing the manual test eventually, but don’t have the time (or the patience) to do it now.

    Since we already have a licence, we don’t need to do the mandatory 20 hours with the driving school, so it’s really not that expensive. The whole thing will cost me less than 300€, instead of the 1000€+ people pay normally.

    Also, when Fab came back from the US, he just had his American insurance company send a letter showing his insurance history (and lack of accidents), and that was enough proof for our current company to not put him at the newbie rate.

  • Pumpkin Pie March 28, 2006, 9:46 am

    We asked if we could get proof that he had not had accidents and they told us no. Now, I am mad!!! See it is just like in the States someone telling you one thing one place and another…another place. We actually asked two different insurance companies if we could do that and they both said no. *sad face*
    About Ohio…I checked at the préfecture and she looked in her little book and said Ohio was a no go. I think I read it in the US embassy “help book” too. I read it somewhere but not sure if there or somewhere else. At first, the woman at the préfecture was going to do it and had my licence and was going to get the paperwork…she then, looked in her book and Ohio was one of the “bad” states. I am curious how your friends got theirs unless it has since changed. It was a little over a year when we checked.
    I am happy to know that it is not as expensive since we have driven to go to the school. We won’t buy an automatic because it is more expensive and hard to find…I will have to learn to drive a stick which I have a fear of. So, that is why I don’t drive. It doesn’t bother me much but I would like to within the next two years. Plus, we will be moving out of Strasbourg and I won’t have the tram. *another sad face*

  • Pumpkin Pie March 28, 2006, 10:02 am

    It looks like Ohio is now included. It wasn’t before. I swear it is always like that for me!
    Now, I have been here for over a year and can’t do it anyway. Plus, my licence has expired as of last July. We tried to do it around October of 2004 and that is when we were told it was not possible at the préfecture. *grumpy*
    Maybe, God is looking out for me…because I really suck at driving a stick and this way I have to learn. However, I feel like it is unfair! *even more grumpy*

  • samantha March 28, 2006, 12:00 pm

    That is really odd though…I would like to know when Ohio was added, because the one of the men from Ohio that I know has been here for a few years, and he was able to change his licence. Maybe your préfecture’s book was outdated?

  • Pumpkin March 28, 2006, 12:43 pm

    I’d say! I am sure that if I went and asked about it now they’d tell me too bad.
    Well, not a good day for me…I found out that we spent HUNDREDS of Euros extra on car insurance because we were told we couldn’t show them proof that my husband had not had an accident and on top of that I probably could have just transfered my Ohio licences to a French. Of course, we didn’t have a computer at the time so I couldn’t check. So, now we have to spend money to get me a French licence even if it is cheeper than I thought it would be from what you have said….it is still money I shouldn’t have had to pay.
    I am one of those people that don’t have luck in these matters…you know how some people get things done just like that…I have ALWAYS had to go the hard way either here in France or even back in America. I think I need to purchase a rabbits foot for better luck. I am going to go to the préfecture and ask and complain because that just was not fair or right if I could have transfered it. It was them that told me the wrong thing and they should know. That’s their job after all. Even if nothing comes of it I will feel better that I checked to make sure no one else gets stiffed.
    Geez, I am not happy because I would love to drive and we really don’t have money to waste…at all. The money we spent on the insurance and will have to spend on my driving licence is going to total over 1000 Euro easy…can imagine what we could do with that?

  • Alison March 28, 2006, 1:49 pm

    When I got my French license five years after moving there, neither Ohio nor Pennsylvania — I’d had licenses from both — were on the exchange list. So? I went to driving school. I negotiated with the owner and only had to do about ten hours of driving instead of the usual 20. And I had to pass the “code de la route” test, of course. At the time I think I paid about 1500 francs total, but it was well worth the money. I had much more confidence on the road than I would have had.

    Of course later I was pretty steamed to know that the states I’d lived in had joined the exchange with France.

    Here is some info from the embassy about it:
    US Embassy’s Guide for Drivers in France
    , but it seems like you have got it all sussed out.

  • Pumpkin Pie March 28, 2006, 1:57 pm

    I think in the long run it is better that I go through the training. I am a little afraid to drive a stick and in France on top of it with the different road rules.

    But, it sure would have been nice to save the bucks..ummm…Euros. We would have just done the transfer and I would have learned to drive the stick from my husband if it were possible. :)

  • samantha March 28, 2006, 2:49 pm

    I have the Guidebook from June 2004, and it lists 13 states (including Ohio). So if you were there in Oct 2004, you would’ve been able to exchange, had the préfecture had been up to date. That really sucks (for lack of a better word), I can understand why you’d be upset. I can scan the page and send it to you if you’d like.

    PS. You’re not the only one, I often have extremely bad luck with things, especially since moving to France!

  • Pumpkin March 28, 2006, 3:00 pm

    No,that’s ok….I wanted to post that I was given bad info and how much it cost! So, someone else doesn’t get caught by it. I will put your info in my post and I am more than a little upset!!!!!!!!
    Money is money.
    Thanks Sam :)

  • samantha March 28, 2006, 3:05 pm

    I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news…maybe I should’ve just kept my mouth shut. But hopefully in the end, your post will have saved someone else out there a lot of time and/or trouble.

  • Pumpkin March 28, 2006, 4:36 pm

    Yes, and I am going to have my husband call the préfecture tomorrow….then, I am going to write a letter to them even if it is in English (my French is too bad)! I won’t let this go because if no one complains and stands up against it then nothing changes.
    I love France, but the administration is not always on the same page (different answer depending on who you talk to) and they need to use computers more. This should have been input in the computer for her to pull up and not in some book.

  • samantha March 28, 2006, 4:42 pm

    Who knows, maybe you could even convince them to let you exchange your licence now, since they were wrong before??? They’re probably not supposed to, but we all know how easily the rules can be bent here when the employee is in the mood to do it!

  • samantha March 28, 2006, 4:43 pm

    Oops, that didn’t come out right…of course I mean exchange your licence, not “IT” it. *S*

  • Pumpkin March 28, 2006, 5:37 pm

    That is what I was telling my husband…it is their fault and they should fix it…why would I just sit around and two and a half years later decide to get it done…I think they will know I am not making it up and considering we have three small babies and little funds, I hope they will do the right thing and I really hope I am lucky for once and get someone who will bend the rules! I will let you know tomorrow. Cross your fingers for me. ;)

  • Alison March 28, 2006, 7:44 pm

    Good luck, Pumpkin!

    I’ve run into driver’s license travails today, too.

    Things have changed since 9/11. I have to have my French license translated, and I have to take a written test, despite the reciprocal agreement between Kentucky and France! Grr.

  • Pumpkin Pie March 28, 2006, 7:53 pm

    Good luck to you too! I really would love to drive now that I see a possibility. I had just kinda let it go because I didn’t think it was possible. But, now…I want some keys and would love to hit the highway. Well, after I learn to drive a stick. But, I am not going to get my hopes up to high.
    That really isn’t fair that you have to tak the written test. I don’t see how that would deter any driving terrorist. ;)
    The INS accepted my step mother’s translation of all of his documents as long as she wrote that it was a true and factual translation or something like that and I think it had to be notarized.

  • Alison March 29, 2006, 5:46 pm

    Oh, you CAN learn to drive a stick. It is not that hard, and it’s way more fun than driving an automatic, let me tell ya!

    On a more serious note, being able drive legally in France is extremely important. C’est une question d’independance…

  • cj March 29, 2006, 7:03 pm

    :) Sounds like a lot of work to me. Its amazing all the hoops we jump through to do things. :) good luck!

  • Pumpkin March 29, 2006, 8:32 pm

    You are right that it is a question of independence….I hate having to take the tram or rely on my husband or his parents all the time. Loading babies up in a car would be easier than pushing a stroller and watching two young and mischievious girls on the tram.
    We went and explained what happened. The woman got permission to let me still transfer my Ohio licence even though I am well past the year limit (which makes me think they know I am not making it up because another American called them on it….just my opinion) but the big thing is I don’t have a valid Ohio licence because it expired last year in July. She said if I get it renewed or a new one I can do the transfer…but, I must go back to Ohio to do that and will have to take the written and driven tests again I am pretty sure. I told her in French (I was so impressed with myself) that was not fair because it is not my fault but the fault of the préfecture and my licence was valid at the time that I went originally to do the transfer. BTW, my husband asked her when Ohio became a recipical state and she reluctantly told him that it was in 2002. So, for 2 years the préfecture had the wrong information. Incredible!!!
    I personally think that if they didn’t know they were in the wrong they wouldn’t have made the exception to let me do it now. Too bad my licence is expired. We are going to call the préfet tomorrow and ask him about it because that is crazy that for two years his administion had wrong info which is costing our family (by no means rich) lots of money. Money that could go to my kids.

    Of course we can’t afford for me to just fly to America to get my Ohio licence either.  So, we are back to saving for me to go through the French school and tesing here.  I am not happy about it at all because it was their fault and now we are paying money when we did nothing wrong.  Maybe, in 2 years I will get my licence?  I would like to have it becauce we are moving to Sélestat sometime this year and there is no tram.  It will be very hard for me to get around with the kids.

  • Pumpkin Pie March 29, 2006, 8:41 pm

    CJ-I know all about hoops…I just don’t know why for some people it is so easy and for others like me so hard. I am always too early or late for something or something like this happens to me and no one else. I really need some good luck charms because I tired of it always being me!!! :) :) :)

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