Many years ago, I visited my good friend Charmaine in Paris during the year she studied abroad. After my bus ride from the airport, I mentioned my surprise at the dilapidated, tenement-style apartment buildings I’d seen on the ride into the city. Charmaine agreed with my assessment, and said “Well, you know, Lindsay, France isn’t really a first world country.” Charmaine is known for her dramatic pronouncements, so at the time I laughed and disregarded her statement as an exaggeration and a bit of a joke. Now, though, almost 20 years later, I absolutely understand what she meant.
V and I signed up for my cell phone plan a month ago. I requested a new SIM card and paid 10 euros to get one. Two weeks passed… no SIM card. We called Free, the cell phone operator, and the Free employee promised to send another one. Another week passed… no SIM card. We called again and were assured that the card was on its way. Another week… and, you guessed it, no SIM card. Finally, on Friday, we went to the Free store to complain in person and try to find a solution. We waited in a ridiculously long line to ultimately find that you can print out the f***ing SIM card at the store. Would have been nice to have that information a few weeks ago, Free customer service.
At the same time, V had changed his wifi provider (to Free, in an ill-advised move) and they turned off his old service before initiating his new service. Therefore, I was without any connection to the outside world on Friday (as our phone and cable also depend on the internet connection), thus my failure to post a blog entry on Friday. I had to go to Ikea, no joke, to get wifi. Thank goodness we had received our new (used) car the day before. We still don’t have wifi, incidentally.
France is also more socialist than capitalist, it seems. The wage gap is much less pronounced than the US (which is largely a good thing, in my opinion). For example, doctors make about a third of what they would in the US, while nurses make almost the same salary as in the US. University is free. The Socialist party is more centrist than left – the “Left” is far, far left of socialism. There is a considerable part of the population employed in municipal and public works jobs. It’s incredibly hard to get fired from a job once you have it. As I’ve seen in Kathmandu, people line up for their flight before the incoming plane has even landed at the airport, and totally ignore instructions to board only “if you’re traveling with children, and seated in rows 17-24”. I could go on, and probably will once I learn more about my new country.
The French response to the kind of customer service debacle we encountered? “Bref.” Loosely translated as “Oh well, what are you going to do.” And you’re probably thinking to yourself, “First world problems, Lindsay.” But I have to say, “Mais non! Second world problems. France isn’t really a first world country.”