I am spending some time in France, with my two daughters and my (dysfunctional) family. My parents are divorced and haven’t talked for the best part of 20 years, which means that I have to spend some time with each of them separately. Having a driving license is obviously a must to make the shuttle and also to hear each of them badmouthing about the other (in a subtle way, they are clever). Lovely. But something deeper is happening to me. I think that I have just fallen out of love with France.
In France, you see, we have good state schools (entirely free, even the pens and the books…). If you decide to go private, you are not going to pay for the teachers, just the additional management/discipline. But everybody thinks that it is REALLY expensive (we are talking about €100 a month here). So what do French do? They complain. Too many children in a class, you see. Private schools are so expensive that it is unfair (I think that I understood the meaning of expensive when I moved to London).
Healthcare is fantastic. When you see the local equivalent of your GP, you will have a full examination (blood pressure, weight, height, chit chat to check that you are not depressed…), and your GP will usually give you a long prescription for each symptom. You will have to pay 23 € for the privilege and you will get reimbursed something like 21€ (which means that it will cost you the cost of a cappuccino if you don’t have a private health insurance). And French have the right medication for everything. My grandfather was suffering from a heavy shoulder (I think that he must go to his GP at least once a week just for the company. Or maybe he fancies the secretary, he has always liked beautiful women). His GP gave him something that, apparently, worked. Everything courtesy of the French healthcare system. My father thought that I was a bit tired and wanted to take me to the doctor (maybe for some blood analysis). I thanked him for the advice and am feeling perfectly fine after a good night of sleep. He was shocked. It must be tough to see that I am a big girl now, but here we are.
These are only a couple of examples. The list is long. Childcare is a lot cheaper than the UK. Universities cost less than €300 a year…and so on, and so forth.
But despite all this, the French are not happy. They are moaning all the time. Life is tough, you see. When I asked why the extreme right was so popular over here, I really got some aggressive responses: where the hell have you been (in London, actually)? Can’t you see that it is really going downhill (no I can’t)? In short, I have come to the conclusion that the French have MORE than the British, but for some unknown reason they are LESS happy (my thinking seems to be corroborated by the fact that the prescriptions for anti-depressants have rocketed this side of the Channel). How weird!
And now, I have a confession. I have received my UK Permanent Residence. This means that, provided that I pass my Citizenship exam, I can have a British passport in a year. Will I take it? Am I British enough? I honestly don’t know. But watch this space…
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London