Saturday, January 14, 2012

La vie so far in America

Since arriving in the US life has been very busy.  And I also gotta say that the US has been scoring a lot of points against France!  So what have we accomplished so far?
  • I bought a car...a beautiful little 2012 Ford Fiesta 4-door sedan with manual transmission.  Exactly what I wanted - a nice, small, relatively inexpensive car that gets good gas mileage.  And we got car insurance...which was the only little headache we've encountered so far because they wanted Lionel's driving record from France, which has proven more complicated than expected.  But we should receive the translation sometime this week so the insurance company can have it on file.
This is what my beautiful new car looks like...I absolutely love it!
  • We got fancy smartphones.  Yes, we have entered the 21st century finally...a bigger change for me than for Lionel who never even really had a cell phone before!  Plus we found a great deal with T-mobile and were able to get unlimited international calls and texts on Lionel's line for only $15 extra per month!  So no need to have a house phone (once we finally have our own house).
  • We have both been working for my father...nothing fancy, just delivering pizza, but it's ideal because we mostly work at night which leaves our days open for the job search, and hopefully soon (fingers crossed), job interviews.  It also allows us to earn a little cash and not completely empty out our savings accounts.  Also, 1 point for the US that Lionel had the right to work the second he entered the US and didn't have to wait 4 months like I did in France!
  • We opened 2 bank accounts for Lionel...a savings and a checking at my little hometown bank.  And that's another point for the US because it only took us about 30 minutes to get his accounts open (and it would have been less if it hadn't been such a small bank that had never opened an account for a foreigner before, which is actually shocking considering all the Mexican immigrants who live in this area), compared to the 2 months that my best enemy, La Poste, in France took to open my bank account (which I talk about here, here and here).
  • We finally got our caution back from our apartment in France.  They waited the ENTIRE two months they have by French law to send it, but thankfully we got it and we don't have to fight with them about anything.
  • We FINALLY got our money transfered to the US.  Though, as usual, La Poste made me want to kill them.  We all know that they can't be bothered to do their job, but it's just getting ridiculous.  My father ended up calling us on our cruise ($8/minute phone call!) because my beau père had been contacted by La Poste a week and a half after we mailed in our request to have our money transfered to my small bank and they wanted to verify the amounts we wanted to transfer.  Really?  Really?  I couldn't believe it considering that on the form we actually had to write the amount to be transfered both in figures AND in words, so it was quite clear.  But I guess it was their way of delaying the transfer so they didn't have to hand over the money.  So thank you La Poste, because of the change in exchange rates from when we asked for the transfer to when you actually bothered to do it, we lost about $1,000 total.  And ended up with a very high internet bill on the cruise (75 cents a minute!), and a lot of extra unnecessary stress and headache.
  • We FINALLY got (I think, and now that I think about it, I actually have to verify this), our joint account at La Poste closed...of course that was not without it's own headaches, stress and naturally, La Poste-related stupidity.  And I really have to check on this because I'm not 100% sure it's actually closed, but if it is it finally happend about 5-6 weeks after our request and after they continued to transfer money from our personal (and empty) accounts into the joint account even though it was supposed to be closed and we had asked them to stop those automatic deposits!
  • Lionel got his US social security card.  When we arrived they told us we would receive it in the mail 2-3 weeks after arrival, but it came only 1.5 weeks later which was great.  And there was no hassle, we didn't have to do anything but check a box on one of his visa documents and voilà!  So definitely another million points for the US compared to the 3 years of fights, paperwork and visits to La Secu that I had to suffer in France to FINALLY get the social security number and carte vitale that I had been paying for in taxes the whole time (which I talk about here, here and here).
  • Lionel got his Ohio drivers license.  And it was so easy!  Our original plan had been to have him take the test and get it that way instead of handing over the precious, expensive and difficult to replace French permis to do the license exchange.  But when we went in they insisted he only had to do a quick eye exam and he would get the Ohio license automatically, for $22 like everyone else, and that they wouldn't take his French license.  So we said OK, and a few minutes later we were walking out of the BMV with his Ohio license and French permis in hand!  Lionel  was also shocked by how quick it was at the BMV and how you walk out with your new license the same fact they manage to make it in less than 5 minutes!  So another couple hundred points for the US for not taking his French permis, for being so fast and efficient, and for not fighting with him about, and at first refusing him, his right to a license without having to pass an exam (I talk about my less than satisfactory experience in France here and here).
example of an Ohio drivers license...don't ask me why they are pink now, that change while I was in France!
  • Lionel got his 10-year green card!!!!!!!  This one is really exciting because they told us it would take about 6 months - 1 year after his arrival for it to arrive (once again, magically and hassle free) in the mail, but he got it a month and a few days after we got here.  So once again a million points to the US because not only did it come so unexpectedly quickly, and conveniently by mail, but it's also good for 10 years unlike France which makes you suffer EVERY SINGLE YEAR for the first 3 years of marriage to get your "temporary" carte de séjour even though you are married to a French person.
sample green card...that's what they really look like!  I had never seen one until Lionel's arrived!
  • We got a membership at the YMCA, because we both want to get in shape!
  • We did the holidays and did them right, which was no small feat in my opinion considering we arrived in the US just a few short weeks before Christmas and yet we managed to pull off all our moving stuff and still do all our Christmas shopping!
  • We unpacked.  EVERYTHING.  12 suitcases.  And packed most of it into boxes to wait until we have our own place.
I have to say, while from time to time I still have doubts about the decision to move to the US, especially when I think about health insurance, vacation or the upcoming misery of living through the US presidential elections, when I look at this list I can't help but think that we never, ABSOLUTELY NEVER, could have accomplished all of this in so short an amount of time.  And thinking about how easy all of these administrative tasks were here in the US compared to the constant torture of French bureaucracy makes me wonder if moving back to a place that doesn't make you suffer for months just to open a bank account can really be that bad.

So I guess I still need some time to adjust to being in the US, and while I'm sure there will always be things about France I will miss and regret, for the moment at least I am quite happy to be in America!


  1. OMG!! I can't believe how much you have been able to sort out in a short time. France is really REALLY awful for that n'est-ce que pas? n fact, France is a joke! No wonder you're feeling on top of the world!

  2. I know I'm shocked by how much we've been able to get done. I really wasn't expecting it all to happen so fast! I definitely love the US for that!

  3. That is so amazing, Michele. I'm really hopeful that one day when we do the same it'll go as smoothly. We'd be going to Ohio too (Cincy) so it's good to know that they don't make you surrender your French license!

    Good luck with the job hunt. What kind of job are you looking for?

  4. Amber I'm sure it will go just as well for you! The process is just so clear and organized and its quite refreshing after years of French bureaucracy.

    For the job search right now I am staying away from teaching and looking more for an administrative position with a university or work with non profits. Since we are in a relatively comfortable situation right now I really want to take the time to find something I can actually enjoy.

  5. Woo hoo!!! You arrived! And what a fantastic post to read, too. :)

    Wow. It was kind of incredible reading just how easy everything was to accomplish in the US. Sobering, really. I mean, while it may be hard for foreigners to find a legitimate way to get into the US, once they are there it sounds pretty easy to negotiate.

    I'm so happy for you!! It seems from this post and the other ones I read since you arrived that things are going so well for you. I'm sure that just solidifies your decision to be in the US all the more. Yay!!

    Continued good luck to you and Lionel, Michele!