The French Word "Renifler" & Getting my Husband and My Dog to Speak the Same Language
What are "les patins à roulettes"? + Embarrassment is the Thief of Joy

La Cotisation: How much money I earn blogging $$ + a retirement pension for Americans in France?

boucherie butcher shop french typography shopfront
“La Boucherie” in Pélissanne—Notice the lettering on this shopfront (can you translate the French?). I love typography and have always loved language even if I am still capable of butchering French. In today’s story, you’ll understand why... 

The Butcher of Paris by Stephanie Phillips fiction about FranceFor our True Crime readers: The Butcher of Paris  I've not read the book (read at your own risk) but the title goes along with today's story :-)

Today's Word: la cotisation

    : subscriptions, dues; contributions (social security)

French Audio: Click the link below to hear Jean-Marc pronounce the French words in today's post. Then scroll down to the vocabulary section to practice your French comprehension.

Click here to listen to the French vocabulary

A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE by Kristi Espinasse

After completing my tax return early this year it was time to celebrate at the beach with my husband and our dog in nearby Bandol. But the festive feeling dampened when, shortly after submitting ma déclaration d’impôt, I received a registered letter from the French IRS informing me my 2021 earnings were insuffisant.

Insufficient earnings? "What does the French government care if my earnings are lower than usual?" I asked my husband. Jean-Marc was perplexed, too, until he remembered our tête-à-tête last year when we sat down to figure out how I might be eligible for retirement benefits in France. (Turns out, I could use the points accrued in the States, adding them to the points I am finally accruing in France. But that was not all...).

"When you registered for French social security, one stipulation was that you earn no less than the SMIC (minimum wage) in order for your quarterly cotisations to be worthy of your future pension. According to les règles, if you do not earn the equivalent of the minimum wage you are either suspended from the pension points program or assigned another job.”

Assigned another job? But that’s crazy! For one, how am I to fit into a French workplace when I practically butcher the language? And two, I like working from home in my pajamas (teaching French...).

As for insufficient earnings, last summer’s sabbatical was to blame. Back then I justified the break: “most teachers have summer off...” Only I’m not a teacher, but a professional blogger "in the educational sector." Writing, like teaching, is a low-paying job, but for years I have managed to make a wage from blogging and, added to my husband’s, it was enough for us...but apparently it was not enough for the Powers That Be.

Speaking of The Powers That Be, isn’t it eerily Orwellian how the government in France gets to decide what job a future social security recipient will do from here on out? Then again, after so many government directives these past two years, it isn’t surprising.

A breakdown of my income shows that in 2021 I earned 15,140 euros (roughly 1400 less than French minimum wage) from my job as un écrivain. This amount includes my earnings from blogging, income from freelance writing, and author royalties (sounds impressive but for 2021 book sales I received a check from Simon and Schuster for a grand total of $138). As you can imagine, any plans to retire and live off royalties are as absurd as the government reassignment scheme I will attempt to explain next:

As per the 1999 "rematch program" the government reassigns workers to more gainful employment, as such, postal workers are becoming hairdressers (making for a choppy outcome if you’re the customer..), gas station attendants are now boulangères (bringing in more bread for a living...), and now a blogger is being reassigned as...drum roll...

“Une Bouchère.”

Blinking my eyes I reread the registered letter, which underscored my transformation from blogger to butcher as “the opportunity to carve out a better retirement.”

“Just who makes these bizarre ‘rematches’?” I asked my husband

“I don’t know,” Jean-Marc snickered. “Artificial Intelligence?” 

That’s it! Artificial Intelligence- or A1 (like the famous steak sauce...) Oh là, my mind is already prepare meat. But how can AI justify my not-so-meaty qualifications? I mean, apart from butchering la langue (tongue—an edible delicacy in France) aren’t I under qualified to work as a butcher? Come to think of it, as one who turns 55 this year...I join the ranks of older workers who are neither over- or under-qualified, but disqualified for most jobs.

But back to butchering, is this the French government’s idea of une blague? I mean, the only thing I could possibly butcher is an April Fool’s joke.

Voilà, dear reader. On this 1st day of April, did you fall hook, line, and sinker for the story? Or, as my husband said, was this one too far-fetched to believe, trop gros à croire? Let me know in the comments. And many thanks for reading and sharing this post.

Jules in La Ciotat boucherie butcher shop
As a final twist to today's tall tale, here's a local butcher shop that was transformed into an art supply store here in La Ciotat. (That's my mom, on her way out of the store with more paintbrushes.)

In books: RETIRE IN FRANCE: is the most comprehensive guide to retiring and moving to France. This book will guide you through the entire process, and help you through the problems with detailed checklists and exhaustive information: from preparing your home, selling it, getting your long-stay visa and residency permit, shipping, getting a car in France, finding an agent, buying a new home, going to closing, furnishing, and settling in France in comfort and ease. Order the book here.

la boucherie = butcher’s
la cotisation
= contributions to social security 
la déclaration d’impôts = tax return 
insuffisant(e) = insufficient, inadequate =
tête-à-tête = one-to-one discussion
le SMIC “salaire minimum interprofessionnel de croissance” = minimum wage
les règles = rules
un écrivain = writer
la boulangère = baker
la bouchère = butcher
la langue = (double meaning: tongue and language 
une blague = a joke
trop gros à croire = too far fetched to believe

Boucherie in provence
I leave you with one last boucherie photo, taken while strolling with Mom in Brignoles, years ago. Corrections to this post are always welcome and appreciated. Merci d'avance.

A Message from KristiFor twenty years now, support from readers like you has been an encouragement and a means to carve out a career in writing. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider a donation. Your gift keeps me going! Thank you very much.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety