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Into The Fire

September 2023

Into The Fire

Take the trouble to decide the things you do
Will not be the things that don’t appeal to you
See the mess you’re makin’ can’t you see you’re fakin’
Gonna make it hard for you, you’re gonna–into the fire

Turn on the mandrake that was given to you
See if you can make it like the others do
Feel the blood a knockin’ when you’re finger poppin’
Gonna make it hard for you, you’re gonna–into the fire

Stop your bleeding mind before it’s over and done
Listen very closely to the message I’ve sung
Feel the blood a knockin’ when you’re finger poppin’
Gonna get a message through, you’re gonna–into the fire

Deep Purple in Rock is the fourth studio album by the English rock band Deep Purple, released on 5 June 1970. “Into the Fire” is the second song on the album. I still listen to some of this band’s albums, which I have on my hard disk.

When choosing the title, I was thinking of the massive devastation in Hawaii and the huge wildfires continuing in Canada, California and parts of southern Europe, including France. Such fires are increasingly dangerous, killing a lot of people. Many of the survivors lose everything, all the belongings of a lifetime. It may be reaching a point where it will be difficult to rebuild what was lost and get people to move back. Some of the photographs from Hawaii show devastation that looks more like bombing than fire damage.

September is back-to-school time. In France, la rentrée also means back to work. I hope you all had a nice summer. As I write, France is going through one of several summer heat waves. Some of them have broken records. I am lucky that my office stays cooler than the outside temperature even at the worst time of day.

France used to completely shut down for the entire month of August. This was called “Sleeping Beauty syndrome.” Although long-term residents may notice that each year it is increasingly business as usual in August, a nonchalant ambiance still reigns in Paris during the month.

I have not yet heard any discussion of a rentrée sociale, i.e., whatever actions the unions and the government plan to take in the fall. The COVID crisis changed this pattern, as it did so much else, to the point that many talk about a new normal.

A few things indicate to me that there could be a rentrée sociale this year as a reaction to some government decisions made this summer. There may be strikes and large demonstrations this fall, giving the impression that France is falling back into the fire.

The lyrics of the song could be describing what is going to happen, and maybe not just in France; there is reason to believe some court procedures may ignite some unrest in the USA.

At the end of the summer vacation, we should feel rested and enthusiastic for getting back to work. This year it feels gloomy. I hope I am wrong in my analysis.

Proposed legislation to reduce fraudulent sick leave illustrates the power struggle between employee and employer, which is mainly about working conditions. French unions have lost a lot of representation in small and midsize corporations. Their presence in multinationals has also dwindled significantly, so employees are now often alone in an uneven power struggle. Remember that being an employee in France is by definition to be a subordinate, following le lien de subordination. This leaves little room for disagreement and confrontation. It is true that French employee status is heavily protected, but mostly this covers only causes and procedures for dismissal. Thus there is a fine line between passive job security and the risk of being dismissed for challenging an employer’s authority.

To balance this uneven relationship, employees often have recourse to sick leave. It may be the only way to disrupt the employer’s organization enough to force changes that benefit the employee. It is a way, in fact, to limit employers’ strength. An employee on sick leave cannot be fired for that reason and must be replaced with a temp. Temporary employment costs more and disrupts the organization. If the employee gets the sick leave certification renewed by the doctor several times, it aggravates the employer’s situation.

Calling such sick leave fraudulent is a serious accusation against the medical profession. In fact, the way I have described such leave above could be read as lying about an illness and making a medical doctor an accomplice to a fraud. But doctors exist to treat medical conditions. While completely fake sick leave may sometimes happen, and crooks are now operating criminal schemes, I believe the French government is slandering the French medical profession by proposing this legislation. Deplorable working conditions can lead to burnout, which is a medical condition. Here is what is at stake: Employers claim that employees get sick leave too easily when their conditions do not warrant it. Employees argue that what employers consider “normal working conditions” these days are in fact toxic environments in which it does not take long to reach burnout.

The reason the government is putting forward budget measures on this issue is that an employee on sick leave no longer gets a salary but instead is paid by Assurance Maladie as part of the French social safety net. Therefore, being put on sick leave costs the administration money. But it is clear that the measures now proposed are motivated by employers’ desire to make it much harder to take sick leave. The most likely way is to force doctors to detail the grounds for issuing sick leave (which would pose a risk of violating the medical obligation to protect a patient’s privacy) and increase scrutiny by the in-house doctors of Assurance Maladie, making it easier for them to contest the validity of such leave.

The government’s plans may give the opposition and the unions an opportunity to address the real problems: poor working conditions, stagnation of salaries and the possibility of abuse when employees work remotely. Given the feisty tone of the French parliament and the unions’ current ability to mobilize people to strike and demonstrate in the streets, France may well experience another round of massive unrest lasting for quite a while. The government’s proposals have all the ingredients to make this happen.

While waiting for legislation law to be passed, Assurance Maladie is already reviewing the records of general practitioners and issuing summons to those it believes are issuing sick leave too often or for what the authorities think is too long. Doctors reply that even if, medically speaking, an absence did not need to be so long, the delay comes from laboratories and other technical places, which are overbooked. In any case, the fight has started and should make headlines before long.

I received the message below from a Filipina when she was living in France, at a time when she had secured a good job and her own place.

A young mother being a nanny far from home
1 – Hong Kong
 What was I doing, me a Filipina, in this maid’s room in Honk Kong, crying all the tears of my body and of my soul? In my country, in my generation, a girl dreamed of getting married, having children, and raising a family, everybody under the same roof. So I was a newlywed, I was also the mother of a newborn son, and I was stranded in this foreign country, being the maid, the nanny, in short, the servant, taking care of someone else’s newborn. What went wrong in my life? No need to explain that there are millions of women throughout the world who have experienced this hardship; we rarely have the chance of living our dreams even when they are reasonable. Loneliness is just a word; it does not describe this feeling of a hole growing inside, freezing everything, making life numb, which the young mother feels when the newborn is torn away from her. Loneliness is just a word; the newlywed misses her husband, and it hurts everywhere, the body and the soul feel shredded. Double loneliness, I was not the first one, but the first cut is the deepest, and it felt like it was the end of my life. I had just turned 20! I ended up getting to this new life with a heavy heart. Saw my family once a year and made a life in Hong Kong. It lasted 16 years. By the time I left I had created a Filipino fellowship with my employer’s help, which was in effect a church of its own. I felt like a phoenix when I looked back at all those years spent there.

2 – Paris
My last employer in Hong Kong had been assigned to a job in Paris so I traveled with them, with a three-month tourist visa. I trusted them. I had always trusted my employers and it did me good. Sitting in that plane, this new experience excited me more than it scared me. I thought I knew what I was getting into.

My comment
This statement touches on an issue that is rarely addressed. Nannies are often young women, almost always mothers themselves. They earn money by taking care of other people’s children, which means they cannot take care of their own.

Two situations can be identified:
1 – In the one described above, the children grow up barely knowing their mother. They live so far away that they only see her a few times during their entire schooling. The mother’s feeling of guilt goes deep and the pain is immeasurable.

2 – In some cases, nannies go to work and their children are waiting for them at home. After the workday, they revive the bond with their children. But they can be with them only a few minutes, either at the beginning or the end of the day, but seldom both.

Both situations are painful. The first and most destructive pain, which such women live with for the rest of their lives, is that they consider themselves bad mothers who have abandoned their children. It does not matter who is taking care of their children (usually their own mother or another close relative). At least when the mother and children live altogether, the bond linked to a personal presence is still there when they go home after work.

In both cases, the women wrestle with this dilemma: “Why am I taking care of someone else’s children when I should be taking care of my own?”

There is a glimpse of such situations in the movie The Help. Personal issues of maids and nannies with similar stories come up repeatedly.

The Help is a 2011 period drama film written and directed by Tate Taylor and based on Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel of the same name. The film features an ensemble cast, including Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney and Sissy Spacek. The film and novel recount the story of a young white woman and aspiring journalist Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan. The story focuses on her relationship with two black maids, Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson, during the Civil Rights Movement in 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi. In an attempt to become a legitimate journalist and writer, Skeeter decides to write a book from the point of view of the maids, exposing the racism they face as they work for white families. Black domestic workers in 1960s America were referred to as “the help”, hence the title of the journalistic exposé, the novel and the film. The Help brings to light the challenges and discrimination that African American people faced.

Filipinas have become the maids and nannies of the western world. Each one tries to support the rest of her family and pay for a good education for their children. This situation has become so commonplace that its scope has caused a global outcry.

It is vividly clear that the media lives on sensationalism when French unrest makes the news in the USA. Everybody showed the same scary images of cars and buildings on fire, implying that there was civil war in France. I would like to ask a basic question: “When has France not been rioting or demonstrating since 1900?”

The reason for the latest unrest can be compared (with a French twist) to the American protests over George Floyd’s death in 2020 in that a man with a criminal record is killed by a police officer using extreme force: in this case, shooting a young man who was in a car.

Many people sought to identify the origins of the disconnect between the police and the French population of second- and third-generation immigrants.

1962 marked the end of the Algerian war of independence and was a turning point in French immigration history. There was a massive wave of Algerians moving to France. Most were young men, in demand by French employers as manual labor. They had wives, and their children were born in France or came to the country at a young age. That second generation, as well as the third one, had a hard time adapting to French society, unlike previous waves of immigrants.

One early sign of this growing problem was the “Marche des Minguettes,” from October 15th to December 3rd of 1983. This national walk from Lyon/Vénissieux to Paris resulted in the creation of a non-profit called SOS Racisme. “Touche pas à mon pote” (Hands off my buddy) became the group’s official slogan in 1985.

An earlier sign occurred during the 1980 presidential election campaign. On prime-time TV, on March 19th, singer Daniel Balavoine confronted candidate François Mitterrand about the growing violence and anger this population was experiencing.

A further indication came in the movie La Haine (Hatred), for which Mathieu Kassovitz won the best director award at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. I could add many more recent events. I believe that this is enough to show that this has been coming for a very long time.

To sum up, the current situation that led to the riots is that some French citizens, often for more than a generation, do not feel that they are treated like French citizens, especially by the police. That is the main point of comparison with the demonstrations linked to George Floyd’s death.

The second tenant of the Survival Home in Paris (SHIP) is to move in on September 15th. This renter fits the profile I had in mind. There is no need to address an immigration issue. The person was one of the candidates who contacted me early April. They should rent the studio until the end of 2023 and possibly beyond. I am now welcoming enquiries for rental starting in January 2024 or later. Depending on what happens this fall (there may be another increase in electricity prices), I may have to increase the rent amount. Also, the Olympics will make rental rates shoot up in Paris. The monthly rent will increase to 1,400€ for leases starting in 2024.

Best regards,



My French boyfriend and I are buying a house in the countryside. This house is fantastic, but the seller and the real estate agency are not. I used to deal with lawyers when I bought properties in the USA, but I knew nothing about buying real-estate in France. So a friend advised me to have our own notaire and I see the difference it makes dealing with the sellers. Yesterday morning I approached the real estate agency with several questions and with a desire to streamline all exchanges concerning the setting of a date for signing.
We all agreed on having a visit of the house before signing, so we would be reassured of its good condition and cleanliness (at least a minimum). This is what the presale contract stipulated. Now there was a big difference of opinion about this visit. When we signed the presale contract, it stated that the visit should occur well in advance of the day of the closing to leave time for the owner to react and fix things that don’t fit.
The owner, through the agency, asked if it was okay with us for them to leave stuff in the workshop for a week or more, maybe the entire summer, as they are finalizing the purchase of their new place after the closing and there is a small conflict of schedule on their side. Also, the inspection of the house was scheduled in the morning just before the 2 p.m. closing, leaving no room for us to do anything if the place does not comply with the terms of the presale contract.
Do you have any advice? We feel trapped and bullied. We’ve already firmly refused their request to store their stuff in the workshop!


It does look really bad and I am very sorry you are dealing with such awful people, including the real estate agent. But you have more leverage than you think, and you should proceed with caution and determination. Let’s start with the legal contract you have already signed and the one I hope you will be signing soon. The fundamental legal concept is that there is a sale if the parties agree on the price and what is being sold. In this case the ownership of some real estate is being exchanged for some money.

Article 1583 of the French Civil Code
Elle est parfaite entre les parties, et la propriété est acquise de droit à l’acheteur à l’égard du vendeur, dès qu’on est convenu de la chose et du prix, quoique la chose n’ait pas encore été livrée ni le prix payé. (The agreement is finalized between the parties, and ownership is transferred by right to the buyer from the seller as soon as the thing and the price have been agreed on, even though the thing has not yet been delivered or the price paid.)
The “thing” mentioned here is, in your case, the property as described in the presale contract. The one you signed may include a list of furniture and other things you have agreed to purchase. These items listed are a de facto part of the “thing” you are buying. There is also a provision that the premises must be empty of absolutely everything else.
So let’s consider what might happen during your visit a couple of hours before closing. One possibility is that the place is exactly as described in the presale contract. In that case, the sale can go through, as the “thing” is as the parties agree it should be. Or it may happen that despite all the warnings, including the definitive statements your notaire has made to his colleague representing the seller, the place is not empty. If that is the case, the transaction cannot be finalized because of the sellers, as the presale contract has several provisions dealing with the sellers defaulting on their obligations. As you can see from this, you have a lot more leverage than you think.
Now let’s look at how you can secure your rights and avoid a screaming contest with each party stating their version of the situation. I advise you to hire a huissier (bailiff) to do the final visit with you. This would have many advantages for you, and the cost of about 400€ is negligible compared to the price of the property. The French huissier acts as the eyes and ears of France; he is the official witness and his statement is as if it were written in stone. As he is a French official, the sellers cannot object to his presence. If the premises are not in compliance with the presale contract, of which the huissier will have a copy, he will write down and take pictures of everything that should not be there. He will also describe the condition of the walls, ceilings and floors – in short, a complete description of the premises.
The huissier is the chief line of defense against your sellers. Hire one ahead of time and give his professional information to your notaire and the real estate agent.
Then one of two things may happen. The sellers are up against the wall and cannot bully you anymore. I am sure they want to proceed with the sale as soon as possible. Furthermore, if they are not ready for the closing, they could be liable for fines and penalties. So they will make sure the place is perfect. If need be, they can even put their things in storage, as several companies in France offer this service.
The other possibility is that they are facing a serious situation of some kind and finally they tell you the truth about why they are having the visit the morning of the closing and why they are leaving things in the place. Once they are transparent, it is always possible to delay the closing so as to find reasonable solutions.
Keep in mind that with your notaire and a huissier on your side, you have two professionals who hold their authority from the state. They represent France. You cannot be messed with anymore.
Now, on a practical matter, stop phoning the real estate agent. Communicate exclusively in writing and provide your notaire with a copy of everything you send. Have your French partner write the emails, letters, etc. That way you limit the risk of saying the wrong thing inadvertently.


There is only one list to renew your immigration status. I have no idea what you submitted to the French consulate to get this immigration visa. Once you registered your visa and secured your immigration status, you had a legal obligation to create a French business. Instead, you acted as a French resident with no ties to France operating a foreign (i.e., American) business. The situation is all wrong, so you must quickly decide what you want to achieve while living in France.
If you want to continue what you are doing and you have no intention of operating a French business, then your immigration status should be visiteur, as you are not working in France since all your clients are in the USA.
But if your goal is to put down roots in France and build a French clientele, which you did not have an opportunity to do earlier, and if you are now serious about doing it, then you need to register your French business and open a French business bank account immediately. The next thing is to have your American clients pay into that French business account. That way you show that you can run a profitable business.
The documents you need to submit under normal circumstances are:
1) Your French billing, i.e., the receipts and invoices you have issued over a period of one year.
2) One year’s worth of statements for your professional account at a French bank.
This is to prove that you have a viable business with annual sales of at least 25,000€ so that you clear the French minimum wage, which is 16,214€. The standard deduction with micro BNC status is 34%, so 25,000 x 0.66% = 16,500€.
3) The INSEE registration of the business. The prefecture asks for the original and a duplicate that is less than three months old.
4) The statement of coverage and registration from CPAM, showing that you have public French healthcare coverage.
5) Statements from URSSAF showing your registration, the bills you have paid and the statement of good standing with them, to prove that you are operating a French business and that all the registration related to your business has been done.
Considering how little time you have to fix the situation, I advise you to register the business with CFE URSSAF as an auto-entrepreneur working as a consultant in your profession.
Once you have the INSEE statement of registration, open a French bank account. This might be easiest with an online bank specialized in business accounts.
When the account is opened, register with CPAM to secure your health coverage.
Ideally, the day before the visa expires, you go online and secure an appointment, hoping that the system is so backed up that the earliest ones are in several months. Choose the one that is farthest away.
By the time of the meeting at the prefecture, you should have made just enough to get the benefit of the doubt. Also, you need to have a strong letter explaining what happened to you, in such a way that the prefecture will accept it.
If your file is as good as it can get, the prefecture can immediately renew your immigration for one year. This way, they give you the benefit of the doubt and you have a year to clean up your act.
Or it can give you another appointment, probably about three months later, so you can show that all the registration has been completed and that your billing is at the same level or better, confirming that you are doing well.
There is no time to waste if you want to keep your current immigration status.


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