For a lot of the things that France does right, and extremely well, there are things that it does wrong, and terribly.

But then there is that grey area, where things are done right for some people, and poorly for others.

One example of this is Pôle Emploi. This is a governmental service to help unemployed folks find new work. They also provide information on starting a new business, where to take classes to boost your skills and, if you don’t speak much French, they will (theoretically) give you French lessons.

Now, I am employed. But my the bare-minimum hours per month that my employer has been giving me qualifies me for access to the Pôle Emploi services. On a daily basis I get e-mails with job postings that match somewhat to my skills (although that isn’t much, because of the aforementioned difficulties with speaking French).

Of course, if there is one thing that the French are notorious for, it is an overblown bureaucracy. They simply are not satisfied until a file passes through five different hands, is checked and double-checked, duplicated, triplicated, stamped in the right places, etc. Needless to say, this DOES NOT produce efficiency in their system.

Plus, sometimes they can just be kind of stupid.

When I went in and signed up, my registration was handled by an agent who was available. She gave my lots of information, and said she would look into getting my in to a French class. Alright! Great start!

But that’s not all! After your registration meeting, you are automatically assigned a different agent who handles your file. And it can be pretty hit or miss on whether or not you get a good or a bad agent. Guess which kind I got?

Three months later I get an appointment with my assigned agent, who is not the same woman. The missus came along to this appointment to help with any language problems. My agent, frustrated that I cannot communicate easily in French, started speaking directly to my wife, with the reasoning that she doesn’t have the time to deal with my poor French. However, when my wife asked about those French classes I was supposed to be getting signed up for, my agent said that the woman who signed me up in the first place was taking care of that, and that she (my assigned agent) couldn’t be bothered to check in on it. It has been almost nine months and nothing haas come out of that.

Meanwhile, we have friends who were signed up and in their French classes within a month of registration.

And these appointments they set up? They don’t “plan” the meeting with you. They tell you when it is, it is usually within the next 2-3 business days, and you have no easy option to reschedule.

Well, I already had a doctor’s appointment for the time they scheduled my second meeting (this would be December), so I/we (the missus helped because it was all in French) called the number that I am to contact if I cannot make the appointment. After much banter back and forth we were told that I am to send a doctor’s note directly to my agent, and ask her nicely if we could reschedule.

Now, you’d think that calling in the cancellation would also have been noted on my account. But, no, you’d be wrong (bureaucracy inaction). The day AFTER my meeting was scheduled for, I got a letter from the director of the local branch stating my registration was being canceled because I was a no-show. This mean that they sent the letter the day of my meeting! So I sent him (and my agent) a strongly worded letter stating that I followed their procedures for cancellations, and that I sent my doctor’s note directly to my agent. It took a couple of weeks, but he finally sent a letter stating that my registration wouldn’t be canceled, and that I can continue to use all of their wonderful services.

And, guess what, today I get a letter today (Saturday) saying I have an appointment this coming Monday afternoon. Yay for the warning! Since I teach Monday afternoons, i am going to have to go into Pôle Emploi in the morning and just be like: “Hey, can’t do it. Get you fucking act together you incompetent morons!”
So, yeah. Pôle Emploi. (S)hit or miss.