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Monday, October 13 2008

The aliens are coming

Lately we often hear the question wether there’s work to be found in France and then I always think: who am I to take away somebody’s dreams, after all, when we left for France we didn’t know either what to do. The effects of the economic crisis have been felt in France to, it's not only the problem of the neighbor, it’s everyone’s problem now.

But while the world decays Ruud and I could continue writing about cheese, wine and French bread. To be honest, I have even considered doing this, because the media swell of suffering on all fronts, I mean, how much can we bear and is there any hope left for this world. But, what can I write about cheese, wine and French bread while we mainly eat Gouda cheese of the Netto Marché, drink beer and bake our own bread.

fresh baked  bread, good beer and Dutch cheese

If I get to see the flowers and the birds in the air then I think that if they do not suffer from the economic crisis, why should I? And so I decided to go meditate positive thoughts on my bench in the sun. But while I thanked the universe for my beautiful me, myself and I, three jets buzzed over me and it started to thunder.

Unemployment in France is high, currently about two million on a total of 60 million inhabitants. That a number of large employers in our immediate surroundings (as Espalux in Bozouls and Bosch in Rodez) are in distress is an indication of the seriousness of the situation. And yet I don’t understand, because there is much done to lighten the financial distress of the individuals, but who will support the companies that these individuals work for?

If you’re looking for a steady job in France look for a job as a craftsman, carpenter, roofer, welder, electrician, chimney sweep, mechanic, and so on. In high season, you will still have a chance at a job in the catering industry, but the demand for workers in that sector will be decreased after bad weather in springtime, high diesel prices and purchasing power (fra: pouvoir d'achat) reduced to zero, so 48% of the French people decided not to go on summer holidays. I wonder when the civil servants (fra: Fonctionaires) with pensions and days off to the afterlife will feel the effects of the economic crisis.

Anyway, you could still start as an independent. The best you can opt for is the so-called "micro-entreprise". The advantage is that you pay no VAT and you pay about 30 to 55% of your revenue, provided that your annual turnover (fra: chiffre d'affaire annuel) is not above 27,000 Euros for the creative professions (little material investment), or 76,300 Euros if you sell goods or rent houses. However, the first two years you pay (regardless of your income) a very high amount to the URSSAF that transfers fixed charges for you. Count on an amount of at least 3,000 Euros per year. After two years, the charges will be calculated on the basis of your actual income and you will hopefully pay less.

After 16 years being a self-employed (fra: independantes) Ruud and I know the tricks of the trade like no other. Also in France this is a life of run and dwell with irregular income and sponsors who can withdrawn the contracts from one day to the other. It is wonderful to work when, where and with whom you want, but the absence of a regular income is sometimes exhausting, even in France.

In addition to the high unemployment in France, there are other problems that can make life difficult here. Firstly, France is an expensive country. That was the case when I went on vacation to Palavas as an eleven year old girl and that was also true when we emigrated to France in 2006. Especially vegetables and fruits are expensive and one should say that if there’s any vegetable and fruit growing, it’s here in France. But the big supermarkets (Système U, Inter Marche, LeClerq) are driving prices to record heights. In eight months (between September 2007 and May 2008) products in supermarkets are on average 6.6% more expensive. On average, because some products are almost 35% more expensive! Fruit and vegetables are in a years time respectively 18 and 11% more expensive, the price of flour has tripled and milk is 20% more expensive. The best place in France for you to get vegetables and fruit is the market and everything else in German hard discount stores like Aldi and Lidl.

Another problem is the cost for fuel. In the first place the 15% extra on the regulated gas rate that this year has been gradually introduced and the extremely high prices for diesel, which most French people drive (half a year ago the diesel was 0.98, two months ago 1.50, now the price has dropped again). The latter is often cited as a cause for the rise in prices because the transportation of these products is much more expensive. But recent studies of Que Choisir (the French Consumer Association) shows that the rise in prices at major supermarket chains are often artificially.

Yet, in France you have more choices when it comes to fuel than in the Netherlands. France uses nuclear reactors for generating electricity (80% comes from nuclear power plants) and so many people lit electrically. Also gas and oil are among the (expensive) possibilities. However, wood is by far the cheapest fuel and if you buy a new wood stove (fra: Poel à bois) - provided new and installed by a qualified professional – you can get a tax return of 50%. We got rid of our old central heating boiler (fra: chaudière) from 1967 and recently we started heating the house on wood. Not always easy, but with the 10 cubic meters of wood for 500 euros, we keep the house warm for a year now instead of the same amount per month when we were on fuel oil. Ça change tout.

And another thing: the crisis in the housing market for old and new in France. Since the banks no longer provide mortgages, people no longer buy houses. Dozens of real-estate agencies in France have closed their doors. Just three years ago, our business plan of six lines on a scrap paper was enough to get a ‘prêt hypothecaire’. That’s now unthinkable. Many French people with permanent jobs have been moving heaven and earth to get a mortgage, not to mention a foreigner with an uncertain income. To prevent slowdown of construction the state has recently earmarked five billion Euros but I wonder what the point is to build houses for people who cannot pay.

Anyway, if you add everything together, the increase in fuel prices, high unemployment, inflation, greatly reduced pouvoir d'achat, the crisis in the housing market and on top of the financial and economic crisis, you can understand that many French families at this moment are complètement raplapla. Either, who soon wants to move to France should have enough money (on a Icelandic bank or elsewhere) or preparing for a sober life with many uncertainties, but with all the advantages that the country offers you.

Yet there’s something positive in the whole thing. Finally, at school they take into account that the 180 Euros for the annual school trip is quit a lot of money, the garage ventilates the engine first so it will pass the MOT test, the needlewoman repairs a zipper for 2.30 Euros and the chief road worker allows us to take thirty wheelbarrows of gravel from a gravel mountain for free.

They don’t do this for pity but for humanity and to my opinion that’s the only thing that can keep the world together nowadays. Anyway, if all that fails then we can always look forward to the arrival of 'The Galactic Federation of Light' on October 14, 2008 who will drop down from space to save this wonderful human race. Frankly, if I was such an alien I would avoid planet earth like the plague but it’s up to them. If in any case they bring along a zilion pound then everything will be alright.

i didn't see a ufo, but i saw an ovni

posted by Maartje Heymans at 12:00  |  send a comment

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October 2008
- The Aliens are coming
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