Marianne, a symbol of France
Through diligent perusal of the Government website Chris saw last week that we were on the list of new French citizens. Hopefully we will have confirmation by letter with an invitation to a ceremony in Mâcon. This will involve speeches, shaking hands with dignitaries and singing the Marseillaise. I must start tout de suite to master the first verse and the chorus.
I can’t deny that it was a long and often disheartening journey. We started three years ago by getting together a multitude of documents relating to our origins, tax history, police record or lack thereof, and proof of residency. We sent off for birth, divorce and marriage certificates for us and our parents. All documents in English had to be translated by a Court approved translator and were valid for only three months. I am yet to learn how your birth certificate can change in three months.
Tax documents had to be up to date so as the process went into two and then three years we had to send in fresh bordereaux de situation fiscal, making sure they were signed and stamped. Our completed dossiers de naturalisation were sent in by June 2015 but weren’t complete enough and they landed back in our letter box after the summer holiday. Chris, being at that time under 60, had to go and have a French language test. Zut alors! The other candidates were native French speakers from North Africa, and even they complained it was tough.
In early summer 2016 we came home after a day out and found the gendarmes had been round to talk to the neighbours. (Thank you Georges and Gérard). Next day we were summoned to the local gendarmerie to be interviewed by the commissaire who was quite genial and sympa, quite unlike the ladies of the Apparatchik in Dijon who interviewed us in August 2016.
We had to study for this final interview using a little booklet, Le Livret du Citoyen. Bits of it were easy, rivers and departments, history, origins of the EU, la laïcité (the national ideal of secularism). But other parts were more difficult. I am still not au fait with the Les Droits de l’Homme and how they differ from Les Droits des Citoyens. Interspersed were minute examinations of last year’s tax forms and proofs of income. The British passport was deemed unacceptable because it wasn’t stamped. This validated my suspicion that the interview was usually directed towards the North African candidate. My brain finally gave up when I was asked to name ten members of the French government and as for famous French people, I could only think of Johnny Hallyday which clearly wasn’t a good answer. But the trauma of it all has faded with time!
Celebrating with our mayor Pierre-Jean
Today France has a public holiday to celebrate VE Day. After the service by the memorial we went into the Mairie for a glass of wine and pizza. Celebrations all round as Jean-Pierre the mayor announced to members of the commune that we had gained our French citizenship. As an added bonus we were feted by singing the Burgundy song, which then made us true Burgundians.
We must thank our friends and neighbours for all their help and support in negotiating French bureaucracy. And Pierre-Jean who wrote a lovely letter supporting our application.
I would recommend going for citizenship to any British person who wants to stay in France. Who knows what may happen after Brexit? It’s good to have a secure future as a European citizen.