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LIVING IN FRANCE

Blackouts, driving and admin: 6 essential articles for life in France

The possibility of power cuts this winter remains the topic du jour in France, so we look at how likely it is, plans the government has put in place and how you can stay informed. Plus, if and when you need to change your driving licence, Christmas dining in the French-style, and some important admin for Brits in France.

Blackouts, driving and admin: 6 essential articles for life in France
(Photo by Eric PIERMONT / AFP)

Let’s begin with some good news – “We’re not in a disaster movie”, according to government spokesperson Olivier Véran. Good to know.

Véran was speaking as the French government asks local authorities to prepare emergency plans in what it insists is the unlikely event of power cuts this winter, we take a look at how likely this scenario really is.

‘We’re not in a disaster movie’ – How likely are blackouts in France this winter?

Local authorities must still work on an emergency plan, however, that lays out in detail how planned power outages would happen in France, and which services would be affected.

Schools, trains and hospitals: How France will handle possible electricity blackouts this winter

Linked to that, the French government has encouraged people to use ‘Ecowatt’ – accessible both as a website and mobile application to keep track of energy use this winter, in an attempt to stave off shortages and possible power cuts. Here’s how it works and how can you sign-up.

‘Ecowatt’: How to use France’s new energy forecasting website and app

At The Local, we’re often asked the driving licence question: do we need to change our licence for a French one?

If you’re living here you may eventually need to swap your licence – but how long you have to make the swap and exactly how you do it depends on where your licence was issued. Here’s the low-down.

Reader question: Do I have to swap my driving licence in France?

Christmas is coming – and that means feasts. But if you’re expecting figgy pudding and mince pies in France, you’re likely to be disappointed. That said, and in a bid to tempt you into something different, the home of gastronomy has some wonderful festive food traditions of its own. French food blogger Florence Richomme explains more.

The 12 dishes that make up a classic French Christmas feast

An administrative one to sign off with this week. British adults who were living in France before the end of 2020 should all now have residency cards, but for families the situation is slightly different – here’s how to secure legal residency status for your children.

Brexit: How Brits in France can secure residency rights for their children

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Timbre fiscal: Everything you need to know about France’s finance stamps

If you're doing a French admin task, you might be asked to provide a 'timbre fiscale' - here's what these are and how to get them.

Timbre fiscal: Everything you need to know about France's finance stamps

In France, you can buy  a very particular kind of stamp to cover the cost of a titre de séjour, or French passport, to pay your taxes, get an ID card if you’re eligible, or pay for your driving licence.

Basically a timbre fiscale is a way of paying a fee to the government, and some online processes – such as the tax offices – now have the more modern method of a bank transfer or card payment.

However there are plenty of official tasks that still demand a timbre fiscale.

In the pre-internet days, this was a way of sending money safely and securely to the government and involved an actual physical stamp – you bought stamps to the value of the money you owned, stuck them onto a card and posted them to government office.

They could be used for anything from paying your taxes to fees for administrative processes like getting a new passport or residency card.

These days the stamps are digital. You will receive, instead, either a pdf document with a QR code that can be scanned from a phone or tablet, or an SMS with a unique 16-digit figure. Both will be accepted by the agency you are dealing with.

Once you have the code you need, you can add this to any online process that requires timbre fiscaux (the plural) and that will complete your dossier.

You can buy them from a properly equipped tabac, at your nearest trésorerie, or online

Paper stamps remain available in France’s overseas départements, but have been gradually phased out in mainland France.

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