We have thought and uttered this phrase aloud many times over the 2 years we have been living in Ariege. There have been times when la vie Francaise has been extremely frustrating. The banking system is convoluted. Internet shopping is made unnecessarily difficult by the lack of pricing, product information and an apparent necessity to have your order confirmed by phone instead of merely completing your transaction on line. We have been caught out by the religiously observed 2 hour lunch break and have been physically ushered out of stores and builders' merchants at 12:30 on the dot unable to complete our shopping. "It's not like that in Britain" we have muttered.
Now that we are back in Britain for a while we are profiting from the 24 hour shopping culture, ordering goods online without difficulty and we have not had to physically enter a bank once. In many ways everyday things seem to run smoother here. Or so I thought until yesterday.
Yesterday we drove into Salisbury and parked in a central car park. I could not help but notice how expensive it is to park your car. Parking is almost always free in France. Oh well, no choice but to buy the overpriced ticket. The parking meter only took coins. And only certain coins, and moreover not any of the coins we unearthed by raking through our purses and pockets. Luckily there is the facility to pay using your mobile phone. "It's easy and fast" the display board promised us. Jeff dutifully dialled the number, entered our car registration number on his phone and waited for the call back from Parking HQ to take our payment. Yes, you've guessed it - we waited and waited and no call back.
Luckily we spied a man wearing a hi-visibility jacket. Well he's got to be an attendant hasn't he? Jeff approached him and asked if the phone pay system ever actually worked. He didn't know. He wasn't the "Parking Ambassador". Yes that's right, they're not called Car Park Attendants or Wardens anymore, they are Parking Ambassadors. I'd had enough by now.
I volunteered to trek to the distant shops at the far side of the car park to get some change. Jeff stood guard by the car to beg the Parking Ambassador not to issue a penalty ticket while I ambled around a shop mentally calculating how much I needed to spend on an item to get adequate change from a £10 note. Clutching some moth repellant and £6 in assorted coinage I trudged back to the car and nearly 15 minutes after arriving we could leave the car park. It all felt quite French!!