I'm going out today to start the New Year. I have to go to the pharmacy, so I'll be able to wish a Bonne Année to all the employees there. I've gotten to know the six or seven of them over the past 7½ years — to the point where a few of them always shake my hand when I go in, rather than just say bonjour.
Then I'm going to go over the village of Seigy to buy some wine from the vigneron whose rosé and Gamay red wines we prefer over all the others we've tried in the area. Again, I've gotten to know the man, his wife, and his daughters over the years.
On Saturday I'll go to the morning market in Saint-Aignan to greet the vendors who I buy products from most often. Then I need to go over the the garage one day soon and make an appointment to have the car worked on one more time — before Christmas they couldn't do the front-end alignment because there was a part they needed to order first. That'll be another round of Bonne Année greetings.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to get my U.S. Social Security pension set up. I turn 62 in March, so I should be able to start collecting my pension on April 1. A couple of months ago, I went on line and saw that nowadays you can apply for your SSA pension over the Internet. That seemed easy enough. And then I got a letter from SSA saying I ought to apply three months in advance of the date when I expect to start receiving payments.
So last week I went back to the Social Security Administration's web site and started working through the process. It only took a minute for me to find out that I was not eligible to apply for benefits on line. Why? Because I don't live in the U.S. My primary residence for tax and legal purposes is here in France.
The instructions told me I needed to contact the Federal Benefits Unit at the embassy in my country of residence. The link showed me that I could contact that office, which is in Paris, either by phone or by e-mail. I sent an e-mail. I got a couple of responses from an agent there who said he'd call me. I'm still waiting for that call. I guess I'll have to phone the FBU in Paris this morning if I don't get a call today.
Everything international gets complicated really fast. Straddling two cultures, two legal systems, two tax systems, and two currencies makes nearly everything twice as hard to deal with. You have to get used to that if you come to live here.