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Don’t Let It Bring You Down

February 2023 

First, I would like to wish you all once again a very happy and prosperous 2023! There is a point at which we need to fill ourselves with optimism, regardless of what is happening around us.

Happy New Year!

I believe many of us, and probably all of us, think that 2023 must find a way to be better than 2022. For most of us, this will require more faith and less time following the news.

French custom dictates that New Year’s wishes can be expressed until the end of January, so I have managed it a few hours before the deadline.

Don’t Let It Bring You Down 
Old man lying by the side of the road
With the lorries rolling by
Blue moon sinking from the weight of the load
And the buildings scrape the sky
Cold wind ripping down the alley at dawn
And the morning paper flies
Dead man lying by the side of the road
With the daylight in his eyes
Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning
Find someone who’s turning
And you will come around
Blind man running through the light of the night
With an answer in his hand
Come on down to the river of sight
And you can really understand
Red lights flashing through the window in the rain
Can you hear the sirens moan? 
White cane lying in a gutter in the lane
If you’re walking home alone
Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning
Find someone who’s turning
And you will come around
Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning
Just find someone who’s turning
And you will come around
Don’t let it bring you down
It’s only castles burning
Just find someone who’s turning
And you will come around

“Don’t Let It Bring You Down” is the seventh track on Neil Young’s 1970 studio album, After the Gold Rush. It also appeared the following year as the ninth track on 4 Way Street, the third album by Crosby, Stills & Nash, their second as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and their first live album – which is the version I know. That album shipped as a gold record and reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

I have always been intrigued, amused and impressed that my two children listened non-stop to this album for about a year when they were young teenagers. At the very least, they were raised with good music and lyrics.

After David Crosby’s death last month I had hoped to find a song by him that I knew and liked and whose title I could use. This was as close as I could get. I trust my readers will consider it to be close enough.

Sadly, a long list of things in France and the USA could be linked to this song. I see no point in mentioning them, however. We need a ton of faith to think that 2023 will bring great things and that many things will get fixed. At the same time, I know that with my own faith and determination, this year is going to bring a lot of good things, even though there will be several challenging projects.

The world and our countries would be very different if we never let anything bring us down. As far as I am concerned it is a matter of faith first and then using wise business sense – always in that order. So whenever you need it, remember: “Don’t let it bring you down”!

“When stupidity is considered patriotism, it is unsafe to be intelligent.” – Isaac Asimov.

When I read this quote, it made me reflect on several instances where some elected officials and members of the executive branch have shown significant flaws in the positions they held. This in turn recalled a topic I mentioned a long time ago, in the November 2018 issue.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, was heavily criticized by both Democrats and numerous Republicans for speaking fluent French. I have no interest in discussing his political views or his career in general. As a Frenchman in France, I consider the ability to speak several languages as a plus for politicians at any level of responsibility. Here, according to Wikipedia, is how Romney became fluent in French.

“In July 1966, he began a 30-month stint in France as a Mormon missionary, a traditional rite of passage in his family. He arrived in Le Havre, where he shared cramped quarters under meager conditions. …

Romney soon gained recognition within the mission for the many homes he called on and the repeat visits he was granted. He became a zone leader in Bordeaux in early 1968, and soon thereafter became an assistant to the mission president in Paris. …

When the French expressed opposition to the U.S. role in the Vietnam War, Romney debated them. Those who yelled at him and slammed their doors in his face merely reinforced his resolve.

In June 1968, while in southern France and driving an automobile that was hit by another vehicle, Romney was seriously injured. The crash killed one of his passengers, the wife of the mission president.

Romney then became co-president of a mission that had become demoralized and disorganized after the May 1968 general strike and student uprisings and the car accident. With Romney rallying the others, the mission met its goal of 200 baptisms for the year, the most in a decade. By the end of his stint in December 1968, he was overseeing the work of 175 others. As a result of his experience there, Romney developed a lifelong affection for France and its people and has remained fluent in French.”

This reminded me of the expression “Pardon my French,” which of course I never use. I feel odd every time I hear it. Again from Wikipedia.

“‘Pardon my French’ or ‘Excuse my French’ is a common English language phrase ostensibly disguising profanity as words from the French language. The phrase is uttered in an attempt to excuse the user of profanity, swearing, or curses in the presence of those offended by it, under the pretense of the words being part of a foreign language. Also derived from the attempt to disguise the French term for ‘the seal’ – ’le phoque.’

At least one source suggests that the phrase ‘derives from a literal usage of the exclamation. In the 19th century, when English people used French expressions in conversation they often apologized for it – presumably because many of their listeners (then as now) wouldn’t be familiar with the language’. The definition cites an example from The Lady’s Magazine, 1830.

Bless me, how fat you are grown! – absolutely as round as a ball: – you will soon be as embonpoint (excuse my French) as your poor dear father, the major.”

But back to Mitt Romney, there is now a similar trend in France and several other European countries in the sense that to be elected or nominated for a government position, it is a big advantage to seem close to the people, to look and sound like them. In my view, this goes against the fundamental mission of leadership. I believe it requires impressive knowledge and experience in managing complex situations, as well as being a skilled negotiator. To me, having international experience and a worldview on issues is a must, but I understand why this might not be the case in the USA.

The National Assembly voted on December 2nd, 2022, to approve a law increasing penalties and other consequences of squatting in a property, whether it is someone’s primary or secondary residence. It is now awaiting discussion in the Senate. This is a significant breakthrough, as the bill reduces non-paying tenants’ rights.

Since 1954, the rights of tenants and, more generally, of people occupying a home have increased over the years, building on the concept that all French residents have a legal right to a home. Once someone has established their primary residence one way or another, the law protects this residence. Both the court and administrative procedures, especially combined, are very much against owners. In recent years there had been attempts to regulate these rights but they were marginal and did not help.

Recently the French media has reported situations where people break into someone’s secondary residence. It takes about three years to get them out, on average, and the inside of the house is usually destroyed by then. Another scam that appeared a few years ago and is now quite common involves a crook organizing a break-in at an apartment or a house and getting paid a cash commission, most often by a family who sign a lease that at first glance looks legal. The family then puts the utilities in their name, using the lease. The French courts and police have a very hard time getting such families evicted.

For those who are interested, you review the details of the new legislation here:

The first tenant moved in on January 3rd. As she is a friend of my wife, she got preferential financial treatment in exchange for being the first renter and testing everything for a month. This led to some minor adjustments. The story I like the most is that when I was asked if the kitchen was fully equipped, I said yes. After a trip to IKEA and a receipt totaling 303€ for all that was missing, now the kitchen really is fully equipped! I had a SHIP logo made, so I should soon have the website ready, with pictures and presentation. So far, we already have the studio rented through August 2023.

In December a client went through an appointment for nationalization at the Nanterre prefecture. Afterward he shared with me the questions asked. Applicants often have a lot of anxiety about these interviews, fearing that they have to know everything about France – especially the culture, literature and history – back to Roman times. This report shows what is being asked.

The topics may differ from interview to interview. The goal of this meeting is less to check the applicant’s knowledge of France than to evaluate their ability to explain and describe a variety of unrelated topics in French, jumping from one to the next. Being able to do this demands a good level of French as well as feeling at ease speaking it. In short, the French administration is not checking the level of French grammar so much as the fluidity and ability to converse the French way.

Here is my client’s report:
“She went over my file and all my documents and confirmed everything, asked some questions about my family and where they live, how long my contract will last if I had a CDI.

Why do you want to be French? 
Do you see yourself in France in 10 years? 
Are you part of any associations? 
Do you own property in France or abroad? 
What are the nationalities of your entourage in France? 
How often do you visit your home country? 
Do you still have close ties to your home country? 
What cities in France have you visited? 
What river goes through Paris? 
What river goes through Lyon? 
What is democracy and what do you think about it? 
Is voting important to you? 
Serving on a jury? 
What is France’s currency? Describe each value. 
What are the rights and duties of a French citizen? 
What are the colors of the French flag? 
What is the symbol of France that is a woman? 
Describe the events of July 14th and why it’s an important day in French history
Describe laïcité and give your opinion of it. 
What is your opinion of freedom of expression? Does it have a limit? 
Who is the current prime minister? 
What is the French healthcare system called? When was it started? 
Name an important French person in history and why they are remarkable to you
Do you think men and women are equal in France?
How many countries are in the EU and which country just left?”

A reader writes, referring to the December issue:
“I just had to write you following this month’s column.

To jog your memory, a few years ago I introduced you to the owners of XXX where you helped my American former colleague R. with her status.

You and I met when I first arrived here around 2005 at a talk you gave at the American Church if I recall – and I’ve read every one of your columns since then. I applied for and got my French nationality, with ALL the usual administrative hiccups and after a multi-year process, a few years ago. I can honestly say that without being a reader of your columns, I would have gone mad! However, you armed me very well – and I was able to laugh at some of the administrative inconsistencies and insane requests and soldier on! So, thank you for that. I doubt you often receive such feedback, but you should!

So why this [letter]? “Wind of Change” and the alleged CIA connection. Of course, I have no idea of the truth or not of such things, but I highly encourage you to listen to this podcast series on it. You and I are about the same age and have similar musical tastes, so if nothing else this will take you on a delightful and well-produced stroll down memory lane, I am certain:

Enjoy should you choose to dive in, and no, I have no connection to crooked media but confess to being a regular listener to some of their pods.”

And here is my reply:
“Thanks for your message and your appreciation of my column. Indeed, I rarely receive such a nice comment about the help my column carries to people.

I might sound more cynical than I am. An unusual number of readers told me about the CIA creating/composing/drafting the lyrics of this song. Even if it is true, at this point I do not care; singers are not always composers.

What I do know is that the Scorpions performed behind the Iron Curtain, including in today’s Russia. They put their bodies on the line in defiance of Communist regimes.

Whoever wrote it, I care about the band because their lives were and still are affected by the existence of the Iron Curtain and what it meant. That is why I compared the song with “We Shall Overcome.” In the USA the people singing the latter song in the South, while demonstrating and risking their lives, also did not compose the lyrics, but they were living them.

I will just add that if the CIA did indeed write the lyrics, they did a darn good job, catching the spirit of that time very well.

Pretty much since we moved back to France, I have been helping refugees, usually from anglophone Africa and Asia, often through a few non-profit organizations and local churches. These people can experience serious difficulties securing their immigration at renewal time as well as having a very hard time going through the regulation program, which makes it possible for an undocumented alien to obtain a legal stay. There are also asylum seekers, who face a complex and lengthy procedure.

As soon as I read the first article linked below in the newspaper Le Monde, I decided to share it with my readership. We hear so much about immigration and asylum seekers, but rarely an accurate description of what the procedure is and who the individuals seeking this status are. I was impressed by the neutral and accurate description of what these people go through, who was accepted and who was refused, and why. That is why I share it here, hoping some of you can find a way to have it translated into English, (for example, using the free DeepL translation program,

As the second article linked below shows, the French government is working once again to pass legislation with significant political motivations. Thus it will result in further chaos concerning types of status the government considers “bad immigration” and will not help with what they deem “good immigration.”

By contrast, when the prefectures started to issue cartes de séjour valid for several years based on simple and clear guidelines, no one in the government mentioned this reform and hardly any major media outlets mentioned the changes. I believe this was the last efficient and positive reform related to immigration. The same is true of the many new online procedures. All those reforms were purely pragmatic, efficient and relatively easy to implement, all things considered.

Best regards,


You raise an interesting and pertinent legal issue. But you can easily be reassured by contacting your friends and asking about their daughter’s friend and how legitimate the situation is.
French law No. 48-1360 was signed on September 1st, 1948. It was followed by Abbé Pierre’s famous call on the radio on February 1st, 1954, after a bill on housing failed to pass during that extremely cold winter. This led to several laws regulating aspects of rental of both residential and commercial properties. The laws strongly reinforced tenants’ rights, to the point that they pretty much supersede owners’ rights. Not much has changed since then about a property owner’s ability to legally terminate a primary residence lease, no matter how it was drafted.

There are only three legal reasons for the owner to terminate a lease, which must be done by giving six months’ notice in a letter sent by registered mail or delivered by a huissier (bailiff):
1 – The owner, or an immediate family member, is going to move in. 
2 – The owner is putting the property up for sale, in which case the tenant has the right of first refusal. 
3 – Major wrongdoings are occurring on the property.

This is the legal issue you are faced with. The tenant can prove residence by showing a utility bill or statement, an internet provider bill or a tenant insurance statement dated less than three months previously.
The way to protect yourself is to make sure that neither your tenant nor her friend declares their worldwide income in France, as that would pretty much seal the status of primary residence for them.
Thus, everything boils down to the reassurance you get from your friends, i.e., her parents, and your tenant herself regarding the length of her stay. Remember that the duration mentioned in the lease might not be enforceable as such.
Most likely everything is fine. The explanation could be that the paperwork required for the lease included proof of insurance; if your tenant was not there to purchase the tenant insurance policy, the friend could have signed in her place. In that case, the insurance agent would have met only the friend and thus considered him to be the client since he paid for the premium, which means his name would have to appear on the policy. Ask the friend for the address of his primary residence in France. As long as he has one, the situation is fine, although his name must be removed from the policy, either right away or on the anniversary of the policy if the lease lasts more than a year. This should be easy for your tenant to do once she has moved into the apartment.
In sum, my advice is to assume that these people are acting in good faith.


I need to make several assumptions, as you give few details about your plans. The first concerns the timing: I will assume that early spring is April, so I will answer with that in mind.
You say nothing about the type of immigration status you plan to ask for, but I assume it is visiteur since, in my experience, people know exactly what status they are asking for in all other cases, as the latter require significant documents specific to a given status. Each situation is obvious depending on the applicant’s reason for wanting to be in France – as a student, an employee, an artist, a merchant, being with their spouse, and so on.
To explain coherently, I might repeat a few things to give an overall picture of the procedure from the beginning up to when you walk out of the medical facility at the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFII) with a statement of good standing. So I am dividing my answer into three parts.
1 – Detailing the file, and by extension what you need to prove and how to get the right visa
2 – Describing the procedure in the USA
3 – Describing the procedure in France.

1 – What goes in the file and why
Always remember that you must prove three things in the French way:
Your financial means
Your French address
Your “French” health coverage, i.e., a policy covering you while you are in France.

Here is what you need in the file:
Proof of address in the USA, e.g., a driver’s license (not critical)
Birth certificate, which will need to be officially translated at some point during the procedure that ends with the OFII appointment. However, with the new online procedure, the prefecture does not request a birth certificate.
Health insurance valid in France, including provisions for repatriation; to make it simple, purchase a one-year “Schengen compliant” policy.
Proof of address in France (can be a lease and rent receipt, as well as a complete affidavit of lodging)
Your last three US bank statements, from your normal checking account
A statement from any account showing that you have at least $22,000 to prove you have the means to spend a year in France without working here; can be savings/retirement, a pension/trust, or records of receipt of royalties, rental money, etc.
Your last 1040 form, which proves what kind of income you have if you rely on unearned income to qualify.

2 – The procedure in the USA
It starts by dealing with websites: first, France Visa, and then VFS Global.
a) France Visa is the French administration site where you detail everything about your plan. It is more or less in the format of the old paper form, so it might be wise to fill out the paper version if you can find it over the internet, before getting on the website, because once the web form is filled out, it cannot be changed. The key thing is not to make any errors, since in that case you have to erase the entire file once it is confirmed and redo the entire operation.
The immigration status you want is “visiteur/visitor.” This wording confuses a lot of people but just remember that at the end of the procedure you will have become a French immigrant, not a visitor, i.e., tourist, in the usual sense. So just ignore the name of the status. If anyone had ever asked my opinion, I would have called it “miscellaneous” in English. It has subcategories that have little coherence, unlike the other statuses’ subcategories, whose names are compatible with their content. This is another issue I am sure I will never have a chance to discuss with the French administration.
One critical thing in filling out this form is to state that you intend to stay more than one year in France so as to make this visa a visa de long séjour valant titre de séjour (VLS-TS), i.e., a long-stay visa granting immigration ID.
You can ask for this visa up to three months before flying to France. I advise setting the appointment to request the visa for no less than three weeks before you leave, as things can go wrong and you will need to deal directly with the consulate to fix any problems. The standard time frame is about a week, and generally no more than ten working days between the day of the appointment and when you get your passport back with the green stamp and immigration visa in it.
b) VFS Global is a subcontractor of the French administration that schedules the appointment and receives the physical paper file. On its website you will fill out roughly the same file before you get to the schedule where you pick your appointment. Unfortunately, in general you should not trust what the people at VFS Global tell you. In the old days, the applicant met with employees of the local French consulate, who were professionals and able to do the job.

3 – The procedure in France
Once you arrive in France, you need to record your visa and your arrival on the “étrangers en France”website at The website will then give you an ID number, which you will keep during your entire stay. The procedure is simple. The site asks for PDF copies of your passport’s ID page, the visa and, ideally, the page that was stamped when you entered France. The procedure currently costs 200€, which you pay with a tax stamp (timbre fiscal); there is a link to the tax office website where you can easily buy the stamp with a credit card.
At the moment, nothing else is asked for, which means you declare your French address without having to prove you live there. This triggers a physical exam done by the OFII branch of the département where you are staying. As it happens, the Paris medical OFII office is in the suburb of Malakoff, i.e., outside Paris! The medical visit will be scheduled whenever they decide. It is nearly impossible to estimate how long it will take to get the appointment.


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