The 5 senses in French + Smokey's Grief
Glaçon: A Wife's Revenge + Ratatouillaisse recipe

Illegal Alien, Moi? Sans papiers? Carte de sejour & Lettre de motivation + Ratatouilasse recipe (ratatouille + hamburger)

Hamburger-ratatouille golden retriever smokey
This deliciousness you are seeing, above, is French artist and friend Yvon Kergal's recipe for caramelized "Ratatouillasse" (apparently a valid scrabble word, though no other definition found...) It's the most delicious hamburger-ratatouille combo ever, find the recipe here!  

TODAY'S WORD: une carte de séjour

    : residence permit

AUDIO FILE: Listen to Jean-Marc:
Download MP3 or Download Wav file

Pour obtenir ma carte de séjour, je dois faire une lettre de motivation.
To obtain my resident's permit, I must write a letter of motivation. 

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE... by Kristin Espinasse

There comes a time in every parent's life when they want to run away. But this morning's escape wish comes at an inopportune time. Far from leaving my home, I am scheduled, tomorrow, to ask the French government for a new carte de séjour: my 10 year resident's permit has expired for the second time and I am once again in a precarious sans-papiers situation, no more than an étranger en situation irrégulière.

Add to that this morning's meltdown after my flesh-n-blood French counterparts returned from the States only to glander for days...while Mom does the cooking, cleaning and laundry rattrapage. And while caring for my kids actually releases endorphins in my body--the comfort I get in being able care for my children while I still can--it is for the very same reason (their burgeoning adulthood) that I am at odds with their relaxed attitudes: in order for them to succeed in life, they must learn to organize! 

But I should talk! Lack of organization is what has put me in this clandestin situation with the French authorities. "You do realize that your residence permit expired 3 weeks ago?" The woman behind the security window is not smiling. 

"Yes," I admit. "Veuillez m'excuser. I have been caring for a family member... who has since passed away." (I felt guilty using this information to my advantage, but surely Breizh would want to help in keeping me united with my children and my husband,  the family she looked after for nine golden years. Come to think of it, this may explain the sudden onslaught of emotions on entering the Préfecture in Toulon. As Jean-Marc and I sat down with an audience of immigrants (all waiting impatiently for their number to be called by a French authority), I burst out in tears.

"What is wrong?" Jean-Marc asked.

"I don't know! Je suis très émotive....."

Maybe it was the sight of so many people waiting to plead for residency... a 6-year-old boy, oblivious to his situation... a young mother wearing a headscarf... an older couple looking as fragile as the numbered ticket, somewhat wet and crumbled, in my hand.

I used to be awed by the expats in literature and yearned to be one of them. Decades later and I am a part of the expatriate community in France. But a funny thing happened the moment I became an official expat: the term suddenly didn't fit me at all. It sounded unpatriotic. Though I had left the States, I felt no less an American.

I once heard the term "immigrant" used by Americans in online expat forum. My first reaction was, how can you consider yourself an immigrant? Have you fled a war-torn country? Isn't an immigrant someone who comes to a country for a better quality of life?

Back at the Immigrations waiting room in Toulon's Préfecture, I look up at the surveillance camera and imagine what the authorities are seeing among the group of immigrés: a woman with tears streaming down her face,  sandwiched between a 6-year-old and an older couple. The tears are misleading given the catharsis taking place. I am so grateful to be here in France, having come here 23 years ago pour une meilleure qualité de vie. And it is the very reason I wish to stay here: to help my children understand the gift they've been given and to share this culture with others, by talking about the French way of life.

As I type this letter to you, I hear dishes clattering and silverware falling into the kitchen drawer. My daughter is done vegetating from her jetlag. When she's finished with the dishes, she has promised to help me with my lettre de motivation (A document the French government has asked for).  I began practicing with Jackie yesterday, by reading her the first line of my letter....

A l'attention dé Préfécture du Var. Chers Monsieurs. Chers Madame. Je suis très motivée de rester en France car....


 "Maman!" Jackie says, "It is called a une lettre de motivation... but that doesn't mean you begin it with "I am motivated." And never use "car"! We quit using car ( "because") after 5th grade!"

"OK. How about parce que... "

"No! Don't use parce que! You must not use "because" at all! In France, you must use argument to convince people!

*    *    *

Looks like I have a lot of work to do to get this letter ready for tomorrow. And I realize, now, I have one more point to add to the list of arguments as to why I should remain in France....

Dear Monsieur le Préfet, would you be so kind to grant me ten more precious years in France, car... parce que... ETANT DONNE QUE ... given that I have so many things to learn and to share.

A parent tries her best to raise considerate and responsible kids. I was so touched to receive, just after writing this story, a lovely note from Gail and Fred, the couple in Portland who allowed Max to stay at their home all on his own. Gail writes:

I just got my computer back and wanted to send Max a thank you for the way he kept the apartment. It was clean and neat...couldn't have had a better intern in the space. Also, he left a bottle of wine and tea set that I will write and thank him for.

sans papiers = illegal, clandestine
= to veg out
le rattrapage = to catch up
clandestin = clandestine
le préfet = prefect, reeve
étant donné que = given that 

Mother and daughter franco-american Kristin Espinasse Jackie

Picture of me and my daughter, taken 12 years ago in La Ciotat. Everything else that I would like to teach my children is summed up in this famous poem: Read Desiderata in French and in English here

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John Alexander

Best of luck with your renewal! I'll bet more than a few of your readers, including Cheryl and I, go through similar exercises in trying to satisfy French bureaucracy. Lucky you have Jackie to help out ;=)

No trip to Port d'Alon for us this year, but a much anticipated week in Marseille at the end of August.

Thanks for keeping the blog going and best to you and your family.

Arthur Breaux

You should be so brave to post this. Good luck! And best wishes!


Kristin-I would love to know how Jackie would start your letter!

Roger Anderson

Kristin, why not consider becoming a French citizen? Is it possible? You could have dual citizen ship as I know people who have retained their foreign citizenship and become U.S. citizens also.

Chris Miasnik

Yes, it is possible as I know an American couple in Quison who did just that.

Chris Miasnik

Now you've given me a complex! I use "car", "parce que", and "a cause de" all the time. I need more options than just "etant donne que".

Kristin Espinasse

Roger, I hope to write about that sometime!

Ashley Benz

Your post for today feels far from foreign to this"expat." My needy child comes in the form of an ornery three-year old and we too have just begun the process for the daunting ten-year card...we also want our son to learn the ways of the world by living en France, but it takes an emotional toll for sure! Thanks for a much needed smile amongst all the red tape!

lou bogue

Much good luck on your quest, I someday hope to be an ex pat, would like to live in the NICE area but the idea of convincing the government, I think would be a very good policy here in the US, so many complain but want nothing to do to change, would like to see Jackie"s explanation, always good luck for you and yours, your long time follower and friend, Lou Bogue

Micki Simms

Hi Kristin,

Never could find the Ratatouillasse recipe. Went to FB and didn't find it there. I have a friend who would love it. Looks delicious!

Hope you got your carte de séjour issue settled. Breizh would have been happy to have helped, we all know that. :)

Photo of you and Jackie is so beautiful; innocence and beauty of a child perfectly captured next to the beautiful mother who cares for her and gave her life. Timeless.

Be well,

Micki and Chami 🐾

catharine ewart-touzot

Government paperwork is difficult from either end, and both countries make one feel as if you must prove your worth; I guess that is why so many take the easy route and come illegally. I'm certain that all will be resolved and for 10 more years you can breath easily in your adopted home. When I married a Frenchman I never considered the legal complications, but...the excitement, the adventure, the love....yes I would do it again!


Bonne chance, Kristin!

Thanks for the link to the poem- I needed that today! I couldn't find the recipe on FB, but would love for you to post it again.


My daughter became a French citizen recently nd she doesn't even live in France. It's "just in case" they ever decide to move to Europe. She has been married to a French husband for seven years.. Whenever she thought she had crossed all the t's and provided every possible document, it turned out that, non, she needed to send something else. It was a lot of work but she finally got it. Sound like you have tried, and got too frustrated?

Cynthia P. Lewis

The lovely photo of you and Jackie has to be my favorite picture which you have ever posted on FWAD. I enjoy seeing it each time for it personifies motherhood and, for me, the sepia tones lend timelessness.

Bon courage with your carte de séjour. Little do the fonctionaires know how much you could write about your motivation to remain in France and your gift to France while living in their beautiful country!

Best wishes always,

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Leslie,  happy for your daughter.  I need to learn more patience in this area,  and need some perseverance too!

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you,  Cynthia!

Sue J.

Love Jackie's insight into your letter! All those classroom words pfft! Out the window.

Best of luck with your lettre. Even if France's government can't, we recognize a national treasure when we see one.

Julie Farrar

So much to thank you for in today's post. First, the reminder to check your FB post for the recipe. I forgot to save it first time through. Next, thanks for the language lesson "because" -- I thought I was up to speed because I knew both "car" and "parce que." Now you tell me that neither are used much. Please ask Jackie what the average French person uses so I don't give them another reason to scoff at my language skills.

Finally, I must ruminate all day on Jackie's statement that the French don't use "because" at all. Instead one must use argument. What a grand insight into the French mind. I wish I knew French better to recognize that linguistic element at work.

And congratulations on raising a son who leaves things better than he found them.


The absolute best way to hear that your children have done well and have learned good habits and good manners is through others like Gail who graciously took the time to let you know how pleased and impressed they were with Max. Isn't it just a thrill to hear good things about your children? Very reaffirming.


Sincere, beautiful, touching, loving, artfully presented, reflecting your maternal and earthy wisdom. As said before, your two seeds are most fortunate to have you and John-Marc as parents. Max reflects the charm and chivalry of his dad. I have some trouble writing this but if there is a God who inspires anyone to express most loving, spiritual, wise words -HIS/Her special message, it took place with the writing of Desiderata. Wow!

Joanne Ablan

Hi, Kristin, Good luck with the paperwork. It is a sad commentary on today's
world that simply saying I am a homemaker who lives with her husband and
children in France and does not receive government subsidy to live is not sufficient cause for citizenship. I agree with those who have commented on the lovely photo
of you and your daughter who obviously adores her mother. Maybe you should
send the photo to the French government? Joanne, Carmel-by-the-Sea

Heather in Arles

Me too!!!

Karen Lucas

Good luck with the paperwork. I am sure it will all work out in the end. So heartbroken about your doggie. I looked for the recipe which looks divine but could not find it on your fb page - there is a long blank space.

Suzanne Dunaway

Just show them your blog. How could they NOT want someone like you in France. They should thank their lucky etoiles!!!
If they give you any trouble, point them in my direction, cherie.

Kristin Espinasse

Thanks,  Suzanne!  Loulou The Cat would back you up,  I am sure! =-)


Etant donne que... oh, I just felt my grammar knowledge gap expand exponentially! Lol. And SUCH insight into cultural difference "you must use argument to convince..." This is what I love about learning another language, about other countries and culture, the many many ways there are to be human is just astounding. So much fun! Best of luck in your persuasion exercise, with such thoughtful children at your side and Breizh's spirit guiding you along, you'll wow them for sure.

Kristin Espinasse

Sharon,  I want to frame the letter Gail sent!  What a gift.


Our dear Kristi,
Another wonderful post(as always!)And once again you have captured my(all of ours!) admiration for not only learning another language in speech but also in writing.
That is beyond awesome!
So proud of you!
Natalia. Xo


OH! I so understand your frustration with the paper work...
A French- born with double citizenship and American children I have seen it all from both sides !
In France they even have an official name for people like me :" Une Personne U.S."
(alors que c'est si simple dans notre Coeur)

Bon courage Kristin et merci pour votre blog, si honnete que l'on si reconnait...
Odile , California .


Typo : que l'on s'y reconnait sorry.


Good Luck! Take your patience with you. Government usually crawls along.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you,  Odile.  Xoxo

Kristin Espinasse

Many thanks, Sue J! Just saw your note. Reading these comments in my inbox,  out of order.

Kristin Espinasse

Julie,  and all who wrote in about the French words for because .  No need to worry--you can use the words car  and parce que.  I think Jackies point mostly has to do with bureaucratic French =-)


Suzanne has great point. You do so much to promote all things French to people around the world, with your photos and blog post and books, which highlight the beauty and charm of French life, inspiring people to visit, even providing information about hospitality options in your region. Also, you participate in your family's wine business. Who deserves French citizenship more?

Maria Cochrane

In springing off of Allydavis, I would like to know ALL of Jackie's advice in writing and forming responses that she received from her schooling. I didn't know that one should not use 'car' or 'because'. Could you ask her to jot down an assortment of helps like that in writing?


I agree that maybe your letter should include FWAD and a great bottle of your wine😏 (bribery of course not), not that you would need it.
You'll get your next 10, easily, I'm sure.

Jan in Colorado

Just tell them that you are an ambassador for France to the whole world!

Kristin Espinasse

Jan,  👍


Very interesting post. Thanks.


Same here. I'd really like to make that Ratatouillasse.


You are not in France for "quality of life" but because you have been married to a Frenchman for 20+ years. Why would you have to justify that? It should be a formality, a "breeze." Aren't you being a bit dramatic?

Or you could just apply for citizenship, but maybe that would entail hassles keeping your US. Always nice to keep a back-door exit.


First, France knows that they have a good thing in you. I am sure you increase their
tourist industry with your blog. Besides you are a mother and the wife of a soon to be very prominent wine maker. Would not look good for them to deny you.

Second, I am sure that parce que or car would suffice just fine for the French government. American teen-agers seem to have their own language, or at least vocabulary, so I imagine the French teens do also.....

And lastly(is that even a word).....don't doesn't accomplish a thing. Be
positive....they won't take a good mother away from her children....and have lovely
Joie in Carmel-by-the-Sea


How strange that 20 years of marriage don't make you a "permanent resident"...
There is a distinction between an immigrant and a refugee, as well as exile...
Which are we?
While I know I'm not a refugee, I am an immigrant and sometimes feels like an exile. Are we doomed to be torn by our love for 2 countries???
Can you really be homesick when away from one of your countries then have le mal du pays in the other?

PS: JIC you do start your letter with Chers etc; it is Chers Messieurs, Mesdames.... :)


40+ years ago I was taught to to begin my lettre to any professeur with "Mon tres cher et bien estime (accent aigu will not work here) Docteur Professeur . . ." Essentially buttering them up (now there's an idiom to explore!)by giving them every possible title. And yes, if you knew the person in question was a grad student, not PhD yet, you still stuffed in the doctor. Better to overstate than omit any honorific. And we ended with "Veuillez acccepter l'assurance de mes sentiments le plus sincere . . ." So it was a major anxiety attack before you even got to the body of the letter. I would have been terrified if I were in your shoes. By all means, have multiple proofreaders/editors, because if they think you haven't even learned French well, that will count against you. Bonne chance.

Lauren Golden

I could not find the recipe for carmelized "Ratatouillasse and it looks so good!

S Barnabe

Did you find the recipe for Ratatouillasse, Ed? I can't locate it. Help!

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristin,

I hope everything went well with your renewal. I was thinking you might already have dual citizenship. Nice to have Jackie to help you out with your letter!

Congratulations! Now...take it to the next step,for French citizenship.
My son Daniel did this.You will be so happy!
You then,are French from birth.That is what is printed on his,...hopefully your passport.

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