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 KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

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


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Very funny and beautifully written! ❤️ And yes, you did have me for a second there. 😃

Barb Mayo

Yes, you got me! Thank you for the chuckle, Kristi!

Caro Feely

So funny! LOL! Could have believed it! :) :) :). Great story Kristi!


Dear Kristi,
As I looked at the calendar yesterday and realized today would be the first of April, I instantly thought of previous entries of yours where I WAS fooled! And this morning when I saw FWAD in my inbox, I smiled, and looked forward to how you would fool us this year! Well done!


I believed you, even though I live in France! So gullible!

Warwick Richter

One does expect this kind of thing on the 1st of April ... but, then again, classic French RED-TAPE could easily come up with this kind of scheme? Great read ... merci bien!


Yes! You got me, but then I tend to believe whatever you have to say even after so many years.

David Giorgi

Wow! I also believed this! haha.


Bonjour Kristi! Bien joué! You got me. Very clever and well done!


Hi Kristi,
Thanks for the laugh today! I also got a kick out of the last photo of the Boucherie Traditionnelle. Is the gentleman dressed for work in the traditional butcher shop! LOL

Ken Curtis

I found it totally believable - as practically everything government does seems like it could be brought to life on the stage of the 'theatre of the bizarre'. the intrusion on our lives by government regulations and controls has spun out of control. Fortunately as an expat living in Turkiye I am not allowed to work here, so interference in our personal finances is never an issue. If I contribute to the local economy by paying for my utility bills, buying groceries and other needs at the shops - the Turks are OK with my presence and offer little to nothing in the way of intrusion. Living in a small village overlooking the Mediterranean Sea is rather akin to living on the far side of the moon to Turkish revenue officials. As for the Boucherie just drop them a note and inform them that you are a former mental patient with a history of violence and that having ease of access to all those knives just doesn't seem like a good idea at all....

Catherine Berry

You are too good. This was too close to the bone ...and entirely plausible.

Teri Browne

You get me every year and I remembered the date this morning too.
Thank you for the laugh!


Damn. You got me! But the mind boggles … were there elements of Truth… and which elements…?! We shall never know. Ah life is indeed a divine mystery.

Meredith Entin

Dear Kristie, Hi I'm with you. I have enjoyed you for many years with a taste of FRance as well.. I think also you You are true blue. In that vein, here is another writer I'm loving reading and I think he might make money as a satirist, humorist and one never knows: Here is a commercial: His other books writings are equally witty/entertaining. (As a product of well educated son of famous parents, he did them proud I believe as a writer.

“A rollicking good time, Christopher Buckley has transported his signature wit and irreverence from the Beltway to sixteenth-century Europe in The Relic Master” (GQ). This epic quest, “as rascally and convivial as any that Mr. Buckley has written” (The Wall Street Journal), is filled with fascinating details about art, religion, politics, and science; Vatican intrigue; and Buckley’s signature wit “holds the reader till the very last page” (The New York Times Book Review).

Karen in NY

...and I was ready for it too!!! Nothing shifts me into Serious Mode like low income and social security. I didn't even blink at the idea of a silly govt program. Free is good. Donations are good. Other blogs (or vlogs) I follow also have "patrons" who make sure the income is there. Like I said...Serious Mode.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Meredith. I am looking forward to reading Christopher Buckley and appreciate the recommendation. 

Patricia Sands

Good one, Kristi! Yet again! I was halfway through before I realized the date and your classic history of tall tales on April 1!
Merci pour le rire!

Geraldine Ventura

You got me! But then, I remembered other April Fools Days when you succeeded in getting me. You are a very clever writer, Kristi. Keep it up!


Pas de tout. Je me souviens le blague de catacombes. I fell for that one! This time, I was ready.

Susan Stafford

You spin the best April Fool’s stories. Thanks for the chuckle.


Every.single.year. Chapeau, madame.

Leslie Layton

You get me every year!

Meiling Newman

Hi Kristi. I admit after reading a few lines, I told Wendell it’s April 1!!! Great story though. Miss France so much. Hope to return soon!

Linda Holt

Bonjour, Kristi - I believed every word! Sounds absolutely like something the French government would do! 😂😂😂😂😂 Bon weekend!!


As someone who is constantly struggling with French bureaucrats, it had the ring of truth. I bought it hook, line and sinker.

An Scott

Very amusing! As one who is already planning to move to France in 2 years (actually to retire with my husband) when I was reading your story, I was suddenly starting to worry that we could be "reassigned" since we're going to be living off of simply our US Social Security. I checked.Fortunately, we'll be collecting more than the minimum wage in France. Phew! But for a minute, I was starting to panic. Still enjoying your writing...for years. Happy April Fools Day!

Cindy Mc

Kristi, encore une fois,
tu m'as dupé !


Tax return early? No one I know does an early tax return! least of all me,,, Im lucky if I get it in by Oct 15, the extension date! One good thing about covid ( the only good thing aside from working from home...though 24/7 proximity to a fridge is not good) ) is that I had a extra few months. for my tax return. your story didnt ring true! Loved the idea of your being a butcher, were they telling you that you butchered the language??? . HA! ( yes, poisson d'Avril!) I have friends in La Ciotat right now, where is Jean-Marc's wine shop? they are there for a month from SF... They are loving it!


I fall for your April Fool’s jokes every year! And ALWAYS enjoy them.

Sue Lennox

Yep, Kristi got me too. And I didn’t really question that the French bureaucracy would do such a thing!

Suzanne M Dennis

You got me! It was very convincing if not a bit crazy!! Good work, Kristi.

Dawn Bouchard

Your story brought me the incredible gift of laughter on yet another very dreary Ohio morning. I felt a bit guilty at first, thinking this is no laughing matter, so I was greatly relieved to get to the end and find out it truly WAS a laughing matter-lol!! Happy April 1!

(I think it struck me so funny because my son and DIL just returned from a trip to Paris and he was telling me how much he loved the ‘laid back, unhurried & friendly lifestyle.’ He said, “I want to be an American Parisian.” Everything in me wanted to share a broader and perhaps more ‘realistic’ view of French life, so your ‘tale’ of French govt woes reaffirmed my ‘obligation to inform him’ in his naïveté-haha!!)


Ha! You get me every year! Well done!!


Well done….hook, line, and sinker!

Diane Covington-Carter

I have heard you speak in a video and that was from years ago and you do NOT butcher the language.
You had me! Grateful it was a joke!
Happy April Fool's Day,


No special comment on the blague, but I wanted to let you know that I went to a wine pairing dinner last night at Rendezvous (the sister restaurant to Bouchon in Asheville NC). They were pairing the wines of the Domaine Rouge-Bleu, and I was able to talk to Thomas Bertrand. Of course we talked about you and Jean Marc with Thomas and with Michel, the owner of the restaurant. Tout était tres agréable.


Yep, you got me!

Kathleen Bidney

Hi Kristi,
Yes, you got me again. I know it is April Fool’s Day, but I just let it pass. Great story and I wouldn’t put it past government bureaucracy to create something like that. You could write satire.
Thank you for the laugh. We need it these days.
Peace, Kathleen

Jo-Anne Yurosko

😂. I was ready to be outraged, then realized it was April Fool’s Day. You do an amazing job with the French language & I admire you and all you have accomplished.


Tu l'as coince! Bravo!!


I too thought the tax administration had you until you said butcher. Lol. I thought the French thinking their cooking is the best, having to agree as a chef in French cuisine in the past, that they would want experience with butchering. It was a great April Fools!!


You got me the first few years I was following you but I am ready for you on April 1 these days. I loved it - you are very clever and a wonderful writer. I have your books and have enjoyed everyone of them. Happy weekend.


Oh my gosh!!! You get me every year! I was outraged reading about you going to the Boucherie. Then I remembered my granddaughter’s pranks this morning….. April 1st!🤦‍♀️
Happy Spring, Kristi.

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,

After reading last week’s story, I reminded myself to be prepared for your next post, Friday, April 1st. I told myself to not fall for whatever outrageous tale you had to tell.
And then I fell for it, yes, hook, line and sinker. It happens every year! You are so good at this…and I am so gullible.


Not this year! But it was probably one of your most believable ones.

Suzanne Dunaway

You are so BAAAAD. We have become vegetarians after having read this, haha.

Diane Kish

I totally fell for your story but it is truly believable!


I was ready this year because I have fallen for it several times in the past!

Jennie San Francisco

After saying Rabbit, Rabbit upon awakening this morning, my next thought was, “what is Kristi’s story going to be today?” Your French is at a very high level. You come across as very self confident. Pat yourself on the back!

Gwyn Ganjeau

You get me every time. This morning I even thought about your April Fools emails and how funny they are. And then I fell for it. :)

gary mcclelland

Having had enough experience with French bureaucracy, I found it credible that they would be upset that you weren't learning enough. So you had me in that part. But having be assigned to be a butcher was a step too far in terms of credibility. Great story!

I too have a love of fonts. especially when poorly used in things like Powerpoint slides. those who don't share my love, sometimes call me "Font Boy" and not as a compliment. But you and I know that they underestimate the role of fonts in shaping our emotions and reactions.


The catacombs are still my favorite, but the image of "sweet Kristie" with a carving knife in her hand, while having an "axe to grind" against government systems is pretty good. Maybe that's how Hannibal Lector got his start. Bou!, cherie!

Brenda Pfeil

It did seem an over the top absurd over reach but honestly, I feel like there’s been a fair amount of that in real life lately so, YES, tu m’as eu🤣🤣

Valerie Porter

Anything is possible in the new world order. You got me, and I laughed! Thanks!

Barbara Stephano

Votre blague de 1er avril était crèdible . Merci pour votre créativité de ‘raconter des histories’.

Leslie NYC

Every year you get me! You had me until the drumroll! This is my aunt’ s birthday, I paid bills this morning, well aware of the date, and STILL. . .!
I have been accused in the U.S. of not making enough money, been folded into absurdities, so it seemed very plausible for a few minutes.
We are all so eager in New York for some real spring, I hope this is it now!
Happy April and poisson d’avril everyone!


I can’t believe how naive I am! Every year you get me. You are so good! I’m going to send a reminder for next year so I can be prepared. Well, maybe not-it’s actually quite fun to be pulled into your great stories, believing everything no matter how outrageous-then to get the last word and the truth. Wonderful!

Robert Powell

Ha1 Unfortunately, knowing France all too well, your story could be based in fact.


“You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Dawn Johnson

Every year in the past you got me!!1. This time since I already saw a few other April fools jokes and knew it was April 1. I was ready for you. But it was a good read and not too far fetched in my mind given what you said about the government directives as of lately. As I’ve been dealing with the same issues seeing about applying for social security at this time and jumping through the hoops this one resonated with me.

Susan Carter

I fell for it completely.

Sarah LaBelle

This was so very funny! Merci.

Judy Feldman

I was unprepared! You almost got me again! (It was a little too weird to believe). Mais, bravo, tu nous as eu encore une fois!

barbara michels

At first I started to fall for it, but then I realized it was 4/1/22 and read the remainder with delight. You always do such a great job on this day of the year (and all other days too.) Merci.

Jerry wood

Yes you had me hooked for a few minutes as I’m used to crazy government rules. Then I glanced at my watch and realize the date.

Jann Forth

rire à haute voix!!
tu es le meilleur 😘

Juli Parrott

You had me. Thanks for a fun post.

K. J. Laramie

How do you manage such complete believability every year and get us every time? You are a very skilled April wolf in FWAD’s sheep’s clothing. You would think we’d learn! 🥸😅 Oh my! I was getting worried!

Monica Gfrorer

I believed it! I was worried for you. Good Job!

Sharon Marchisello

You had me until all the job reassignments!

Gerry Forth

My first thought was that the French government felt sorry for your meager earnings and was about to compensate you as a boucher would be paid, even though you would still be a writer. Stranger things have happened in our beloved France.
We have a small rental property in Villefranche sur Mer on which we pay a variety of taxes including income tax. We also pay social charges even though we will never qualify for healthcare or a pension. As one of my profs once said (many times), "life isn't fair." He was right about that.
I also am a writer and from what I can tell, your earnings put you in the 90th percentile of all writers/authors in the world. It says a lot about how our contributions are valued. Still, it is a wonderful gift to the world. Thank you - please continue.

Diane Heinecke

You got me again, Kristin! Bravo.

Gloria Maxwell

I blush to admit I believed the whole story. Thank you for a fun April Fools day.


You had me too! Loved the puns and the last sentence just perfect :D


Ha Ha You are the master of the April Fool. Gets me every time.


I can't tell you how relieved I am to learn that the French government doesn't really do this. Great story!

Ruth Hallett

I've been following you since the beginning, so I knew it was Poisson d'Avril, but you did remind me that I'd better file my tax returns ASAP!

Marianne Rankin

No, not this time! I have been tricked every previous year, but I know better now. However, when you started out on a serious note about your low income and would you qualify for French Social Security (40 quarters of work required in the USA - how many in France?), I was wondering if you had decided to put off the poisson d'avril joke for a day or two, to keep us on our toes. The details of your royalties, the amount of the SMIC, etc. were interesting and relevant. True, many people aren't paid what they are worth, but I'm glad you enjoy what you do - and I've though numerous times that in creating the blog, you not only have made many friends, you have created a family history that I'm sure you and your relatives will enjoy looking at from time to time.

I know that you wrote "butchering" the language to fit with the butcher job you implied you would have to get, but you don't butcher the language in real life. I can see that over the years, your French has gotten better and better. By now, you must be nearly bilingual. Once when I was watching an interview when you were still at a vineyard, you were rattling off French so fast, it was very impressive. Don't sell yourself short. And I'm grateful that you have shared your knowledge with the rest of us. Merci!

Sue Farrowe

OMG, I am so gullible. I laughed all the way through, thinking this is strange - and, the unbelievable part was that although I was laughing, I believed it. Thanks to all who were wise and spoke up, otherwise, I would be thinking France is not such a great place to live after all. I really did not want to think about the job they would assign to me.

Thanks for your ever-entertaining blob - keep it up.

MaryCatherine Levandovsky

Ken, Your last sentence gave me my belly laugh for the day. Thanks so much! Also I found the info about living in Turkey interesting. What are they doing in Turkey regarding COVID? Mandatory shots? Vaccine passports? I've been wanting to visit Turkey for a long time but it is still so difficult to travel because of the frequently changing restrictions/rules by every country.

Eileen Burns

Nope! Ya didn't fool me! But, yes, any creative endeavor can stigmatize us in the eyes of the powers-that-be...A friend who works for an insurance company once advised me to NEVER admit to being an artist, that I would never be insured, as that entire industry has artists pegged as crazy! I have been attentive to keeping many other sorts of job for 50 years....

Joan Miller

Hilarious! Merci beaucoup! The story was great and the topping on the cupcake was the naked ? guy in the picture. So funny.

Alice Shupe

Quelle blague! You did indeed get me! Bien fait!

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