Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Paper Chase Proves a Test of French Culture the Red Tape Encountered on a Quest for a National Identity Card Makes Storming the Bastille Sound Easy

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Paper Chase Proves a Test of French Culture the Red Tape Encountered on a Quest for a National Identity Card Makes Storming the Bastille Sound Easy

Article excerpt

It wasn't as if I actually needed to be French.

As a British subject, I am allowed to live and work in France with the same rights and obligations as a Frenchman, thanks to the European Union.

But when I married a Frenchwoman 13 years ago, I decided to take French nationality pour la beaut du geste, as they say, a noble gesture of respect for my new wife's culture. And anyway, I didn't have to give up my British citizenship.

Now, this gesture has drawn me deep into the bowels of French bureaucracy, in a paper chase that says a lot about this country and the complexities facing a foreigner trying to turn himself into a certified Frenchman. And as a white European, I often remind myself, I have had it easy compared to my African and Arab counterparts.

First, I have discovered that the French passport I sometimes carry is not proof of French nationality. "It is nothing more than a travel document," sniffed a clerk at the mayor's office.

I had shown it to her because now that we live in France, after many years abroad, we thought it would be a good idea to get each member of the family fixed up with a Carte Nationale d'Identit, the basic ID that every French person carries as a matter of course.

Since our second son, Simon, was born outside France, the woman at the mayor's office told me, and since his father - me - had also been born outside France, I had to show proof of French nationality before my son could get a French ID.

Hence I showed her my passport, and she sniffed.

It is true that I had not been subjected to the most rigorous of tests when I was first granted the passport. The law at the time gave any foreigner the right to apply for French citizenship after six months of marriage to a French person. In those days, my wife and I were living in Nicaragua, so I filled in all the forms at the French Embassy there, waited several months for them to work their way through the system, and then went round to the ambassador's home for the final hurdle.

I was obliged to prove that I was "adapted to French culture." The ambassador, a friend of ours, designed the test: He gave me the choice of enjoying a glass or two of Burgundy and then singing the Marseillaise, or singing the French national anthem first and then having a drink. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.