copyright, Kellscraft Studio
1999-2002                                             
(Return to Web Text-ures)                                             
Click Here to return to
American Woman Abroad
Content Page

Click Here to return to
the previous section

 (HOME)


LEASING AN APARTMENT
BOARDING-HOUSES AND PENSIONS
TRADESPEOPLE'S ACCOUNTS
BANKS AND BANKING
PAYMENT BY CHEQUE
MARRIED WOMAN'S BANK ACCOUNT
IMPORTANT PARIS CONCIERGE
DEBTS OF THE FOREIGNER
PAYMENTS ON ACCOUNT
DRESSMAKERS' CLAIMS
FOREIGNER IN FRANCE
FORWARDING MAIL
RESPONSIBILITY OF HOTELS
HOTELS AND GUESTS' EFFECTS
HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS OF THE STRANGER
LAW OF LIMITATION
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
MARRIAGE AND MONEY
TITLES OF NOBILITY
PROPERTY OF FOREIGNERS
TELEGRAMS AND TIPS


XXI
FRENCH LAW FOR FOREIGNERS

ANIMALS, PROTECTION OF

     IN Paris a Société Protectrice des Animaux concerns itself with the prevention of cruelty to animals. Notice should be given to any agent or policeman.

APARTMENTS

     The question of sewage should be especially investigated on taking a house or apartment, for very many of the modern houses are not connected with the main sewage system. They should have a direct connection ("tout à l'egout") for one to feel sure that a very important series of prospective troubles are thus to be avoided.

     Water taxes, or rates, are usually paid by the owner of the building, though by a common understanding they may be included in the monthly rent bill.

     A lease of an apartment may be verbal or written; in the former case the receipt for rent paid (quittance) should explain the conditions. A lease (bail) should be registered by the lessee, at his expense, unless otherwise provided for. In general, rent is paid once a quarter and in advance. Certain repairs (reparations locatives) are at the charge of the lessee, but not, for instance, window panes broken by wind or hail, or anything that gives way purely from old age. The difficulty is to prove all these things; the landlord usually has his own ideas. It would be well to have all these set out in the lease, if possible. The lessee usually agrees to care for the premises as a "bon père du famille.'' Sub-leasing, unless forbidden in the original lease, is a common practice.

APARTMENT KEYS

     The keys are by custom given up to the concierge when the lessee leaves, and if lessee is absent for any length of time, after notice of quitting is given (by registered letter usually to the proprietor or his agent), the keys should be left with the concierge, that the apartment may thus be shown to a prospective lessee. Whatever inconvenience this may supposedly incur must be borne, and may be considered obligatory, as it is usually provided for in the lease or bail.

DOGS IN APARTMENTS

     Do not keep a barking dog, which may annoy your neighbours, in your apartment; don't keep a dog anyway in Paris. A flat dweller in 1910 was fined fifty francs for keeping a dog in his apartment which barked at night and annoyed others living under the same roof. Three separate convictions ensued, and the dog was finally got rid of as being too expensive a luxury.

AUTOMOBILE REGISTRATION

     The conductor of an automobile must have a certificate of competency, and the automobile be registered with the civil authorities, besides being "declared'' at the Mairie, or town hall, in the place where one is domiciled. Various taxes are imposed, and even the foreign-made automobile of a foreign tourist is subject to these taxes, after four months sojourn in France.

BROKEN WINDOWS

     If the window of your apartment is broken by a stone thrower, by a careless passerby – one assumes a small boy – the proprietor is bound to replace it, not yourself, as locataire. If it is broken by stones thrown during a riot, it is a case of force majeur, and the locataire pays – this is according to article 1755 of the Civil Code.

BICYCLES

     Bicycles must be fitted with a plaque de controle (a new one each year), or badge, which may be had at any tobacconist's at a cost of three francs. Those only are exempt who remain less than three months in France.

BOARDING HOUSES AND PENSIONS

     One may not conduct a boarding house or pension in Paris without a permit from the Service des Garnis of the Préfecture of Police. Identity as to nationality, personal and family details and an explicit description of the dwelling or apartment to be so used must be furnished by personal application and interview. A list of boarders must be kept in formal written-up order for inspection by the police at stated intervals, or indeed upon any occasion demanded.

BIRTH CERTIFICATES

     A birth certificate (acte de naissance) should be procured at the nearest Mairie, or town hall, of all children born in France, and this upon declaration within three days of the event. In case of children of American parents, they should be registered forthwith at nearest American consulate.

BOOKS AND BOOKKEEPING

     A tradesman is obliged to keep a daily journal, a letter-book and stock-book. All of these must be signed or initialed by the proper authorities once a year, who take notice that no pages have been removed or others substituted, and that no manifestly fraudulent additions or omissions are to be noted. These books of account are obliged to be preserved for ten years, and a client may force a tradesman to show his books in case of dispute. Another regulation which affects the tradesman is that he must publish publicly his marriage contract before starting in business, that furnishers may know just how far he may be responsible financially, for often a man will have passed over certain rights in this world's goods for the sole benefit of his wife and prospective children; such a procedure will also show to what extent his wife's fortune, if any, is available for use in her husband's business.

BANKS AND BANK CHEQUES

     Banks and banking, as the words are known in the United States, are hardly of the same significance in France, save as one may patronise one of the avowed American institutions located in Paris. Payment by cheque in France is not at all the common procedure that it is in America or England. A French cheque is dated by writing the date and month in letters, not in figures; each bears a ten centime stamp, and the same may not afterwards serve as proof of the payment of an account, save through the courtesy of the bank officials, for cancelled cheques are not returned to the drawer. A cheque must be signed the same day that it is drawn, and must be payable on sight – à vue. It may be payable to bearer (porteur) or to order (ordre), and the entire text of the cheque must be in the handwriting of the drawer. The holder of a cheque must present it within five days, if payable at the place at which it is dated, or eight days, if payable at another place, otherwise payment may be refused by the bank upon instructions of the drawer, and the holder loses even the right to claim its sum against the drawer if there are no funds in the bank with which to pay it after this delay.

     The responsibility of payment on a cheque being made to the right person devolves entirely upon the drawer; the bank assumes no responsibility.

     A Letter of Credit, or any of the various forms of Travellers' Cheques issued by responsible concerns, like the American Express Company, the Hamburg-American Line, etc., are useful for travellers, but a deposit subject to cheque in the Credit Lyonnaise, the Comptoir National d'Escompte or the Société General at Paris, is the most convenient method of having funds at one's ready call if settled down in France.

     A married woman may not have a current bank account, except with the written consent of her husband.

"CITIZENSHIP" AS RELATED TO "DOMICILE"

     In any dealings with French officials, or United States diplomatic or consular officers in France, or indeed anywhere abroad, do not confuse the questions of citizenship (nationality) and domicile and residence. The confusion of these points may be fraught with great importance in any legal discussion which may come up.

CITIZENSHIP IN FRANCE

     French citizenship belongs by right to legitimate children born abroad of a French father; children born in France of unknown parents or of a French mother whose father is unknown; children born in France of a foreign father who has neglected to establish his legal status as a foreigner – in the case of Americans by registration at an American Consulate between their eighteenth and nineteenth birthdays.

     Citizenship may be acquired in France by a foreign woman when she marries a Frenchman, by children of a foreigner resident in France by election and by naturalisation.

     Frenchmen may lose their French citizenship by naturalisation under a foreign power; a Frenchwoman who marries a foreigner by becoming a widow, or a divorcee may recover French citizenship under certain conditions.

CITIZENSHIP AND REGISTRATION OF AMERICANS AT CONSULATE

     Americans living abroad should register at the nearest American Consulate in order to preserve their citizenship.

     Children born abroad of American parents should be registered at the American Consulate before their nineteenth year.

CHILD LABOUR

     Child labour in France is controlled by law. They are forbidden to work between 9 P. M. and 5 A. M.

CONCIERGES

     The concierge of a Paris dwelling is a very important person. His duties and responsibilities are many. Foreign residents should make friends with their concierge, otherwise he may be very disagreeable indeed. He receives one's letters, parcels and telegrams, and delivers them at your door three times a day, takes note of the names of callers and must tell them if you are "in" or "out." At any hour of the day or night he must respond to a call at the door or grande porte, must forward letters, etc., if one is away temporarily, and for one year after one has vacated an apartment. He must keep the stairways, halls and dooryards in a state of cleanliness, etc., etc. He is the agent of the landlord, in many cases, for the collection of rents, and expects a sum equal to two per cent of the yearly rental as a New Year's gift from the tenant. Curiously enough there is a custom, usage, or right – but it is apparently a dead letter – whereby the concierge may appropriate one faggot every time a tenant gets in a supply of wood. The concierge, when he rents you an apartment, demands a denier a dieu, or payment on account, of his future pourboires, often a trifling sum; a domestic servant is also entitled to the same thing upon engagement.

    If the concierge of your apartment deliberately annoys you – as taking advantage of the particular occasion when you are about to give a reception to paint the handrail of the staircase, you may sue his employer for damages, and, if your case is well-founded, win it. This, provided you want to take the trouble. If your concierge is really so disagreeable as all that you had better move. He will not of course try the same trick again, but might conceivably try one something similar.

     If the concierge of your Paris apartment house (and this is local custom rather than law) goes off and leaves a small child of six or eight in charge, and a burglar breaks in and steals, his employer – the proprietor of the building – is responsible. French law recognises equality of sex, and a man or woman may be concierge, but they "must be capable of carrying out the duties so entrusted to them."

DEBTS

    Debts due from foreigners can be collected by restraint upon the effects of the foreigner who may be temporarily resident in a French hotel, house or apartment. It is called a Saisie Foraine, and can only be put into execution by the creditor after application to the Judge of the Tribunal du Premier Instance, or a Justice of the Peace of the District where the goods of the debtor are to be found.

DEATHS

    Deaths after being declared at the Mairie, or town hall, and a "certificat de Décès" issued, may be followed by an immediate funeral, usually arranged direct with the Bureau des Pompes Funebres at a fixed tariff, according to the elaborateness of the cortege, etc., such charges being regulated by law, and ranging from forty francs upward.

DEPOSITS OR PAYMENTS ON ACCOUNT

     Arrhes is an unusual word which you may meet with in your dealings with your milliner or dressmaker. A cabman even may demand his arrhes in case he is taken for a long journey across town, or under circumstances by which he has no assurance of being paid his fare. Sometimes arrhes are asked for in taking a lease of a house, apartment or studio. In these cases the payment and acceptance of arrhes binds both parties, though the lease or bail may not have been signed.

DISGUISES

     One is not allowed to wear publicly costumes of another sex, nor any uniform, medal or decoration without being entitled thereto, exceptions being made in the first case at the seasons of Mardi Gras and Mi Careme.

DOCTORS AND DENTISTS

     Doctors and dentists may only practise in France if possessed of diplomas issued upon the completion of certain courses in Government-appointed institutions. A degree from a foreign institution, of whatever rank, carries no right to recognition in France save that these first conditions have been complied with. Such is the law as it exists to-day, though certain privileges and exemptions of certain formalities are sometimes made upon representation to the proper authorities.

DIVORCE AND SEPARATION

     Separation is granted husband or wife by the courts by reason of the same causes as are admitted for divorce. This may be a concession to the Church, which does not admit of divorce, though in this connection there is, it must be remembered, no State Religion in France; Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Mohammedans are alike before the law, though in the latter case a Mohammedan living in France may not practise polygamy, as he is allowed to by the tenets of his creed.

DRUNKENNESS

     Drunkenness in France is punishable by fine if in public, and fine and imprisonment if repeated. The law differentiates though between occasional exuberance (ivresse) and habitual drunkenness (ivrognerie). It is also punishable by fine if one sells drink to a person already the worse off for it, or to minors. A coutume, or local custom or usage, is current in most parts of France, which allows one the privilege of retracting within twenty-four hours any agreement made in a public drinking place.

DRESSMAKERS' CLAIMS

     A dressmaker must give a customer a good and proper "fit." The higher price one pays, and the more exclusive the establishment patronised, the more exigent one is entitled to be as regards all details of style, workmanship, material, finish and fit, and the French courts may be expected to uphold any reasonable claims of a customer, a foreigner even, as against an establishment of this class. It is a question as to whether such a case is worth taking to court; possibly not with regard to a small dressmaker working on her own account, but with regard to an establishment of undoubted financial responsibility, one has a fighting chance – if the case is well founded. A sine qua non is that you shall have agreed to pay what may be called a" fashionable price" for the garment in question; this implies (because in general such are admitted as excessive) the best of everything. If the couturier so much as substitutes satinette for silk, or bone buttons for ivory, if the former were agreed upon, his case may be expected to fall to the ground.

DIVORCE

     Divorce in France is allowed for statutory causes on the part of husband or wife, violence, cruelty or insults, or the sentencing of either party to death, exile or penal servitude. Collusion in divorce proceedings annuls all hope of judgment. Divorce evidence is not allowed to be published, and only public notice that divorce has been granted is allowed. A divorced person may not afterwards marry the corespondent, and may not marry again in less than ten months. Children and grandchildren are not allowed to give testimony.

DEATH OF A FOREIGNER IN FRANCE

     The death of a foreigner in France often causes much difficulty for friends and relatives in the time of most poignant sorrow. The American Consul should be advised immediately, thereby much annoyance may be saved. Death duties are payable to the French Government in some cases and not in others. Only one versed in such matters can decide the procedure. If death occurs in a hotel, an indemnity is due the hotel keeper for derangement, or moral prejudice, according to circumstances. This may be much or little, and may often be made a matter of arrangement. The personal belongings of the deceased are immediately put under seal by the Justice of the Peace, a formality which usually gives way before the representation of the authority of an American diplomatic or consular officer.

DEATH DUTIES (DROITS DE SUCCESSION)

     Stocks, bonds and valuables of whatever kind, if kept in a safe deposit vault to which the original owner had a key, are not liable to the French death duties. Once the succession is regulated and the executor having rights is recognised by the French authorities, the key and other property (which may have paid death duties) is turned over. What further fortune the turn of the key may bring to light is no concern of any one but the executor.

FOREIGNERS IN FRANCE

     All persons living in French territory are subject to the laws of France, except with regard to personal property and his or her power to dispose of it by deed of gift or testament.

FORWARDING OF MAIL MATTER

     Letters are bound to be forwarded to your new address by the concierge upon your leaving the building where he is employed; he is also bound to reply to inquiries and give your new address to those who so demand, for a period of one year. As an extra precaution with regard to letters the Receveur Principal des Postes et Telegraphes should be notified of your change of address.

FAMILY RIGHTS

     A Family Council may be instituted by law to safeguard general interests. The same institution is known under the Code Napoleon in Louisiana. The presiding officer is usually a local Juge de Paix.

     The rights of the paternal head of the family are absolute; a child remains under his authority until majority, and may not even leave the house (legally) without permission.

     Guardianship of the father over the personal estate of minor children is implied. If either father or mother dies the survivor becomes the guardian, who, upon decease, will presumably have appointed a legal guardian if the children are still minor.

     The ward's interests are not guaranteed by a bond, but by hypothèque legale of the property of the guardian, which amounts to practically the same thing.

HOUSEHOLD SILVER

     If you choose to bring household silver to France for use in your Paris apartment, you must pay two francs a hundred grammes. Household effects in general should have a certificate of origin from the nearest French Consulate in America.

HOTELS AND THEIR RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS GUESTS

     Hotels and auberges are responsible depositories of the effects of their guests. The hotel keeper is responsible for theft or injury thereto, whether committed by his employees or an outsider. Burglary, as an act of "superior force," gives a legal exemption.

     The hotel keeper has lien on the effects of the traveller for lodging and food and drink supplied, but only on the effects which the traveller may have brought with him to the hotel. The Statute of Limitations annuls the hotel keeper's claim after six months.

    The hotel register is bound to be kept by law, and is ever at the call and inspection of the police. The same regulation applies to lodging or boarding houses. A hotel keeper may not lodge more than twenty-four hours one who proves to have committed a criminal act during that time. The hotel register is thus required to have the details of the guest inscribed thereon immediately upon arrival, name, age, nationality, profession, where last from, where bound.

HOLIDAYS

     French legal holidays are Sundays; January; Christmas Day; Ascension Day; Easter Monday and Whit-Monday; Assumption; Toussaints, and the Féte Nationale – July 14th.

HOTELS

     Baggage left at a hotel as security for a bill may be sold by public auction six months after the departure of the traveller, any surplus being deposited for the latter's account in an appointed depository, where it remains for two years, after which it is acquired by the State.

HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS (IMPORTATION OF)

     The bringing of household effects to France by a stranger who expects to reside there is possible only under certain restrictions. Household furniture, books, linen and clothing once used abroad are admitted free for one's personal use. If any considerable quantity is involved a visit should be paid to the French consul at the point of departure and a certificate of service, which will cost but a trifle, be taken, if one can be obtained. This will, in a way, establish origin and bona fides. The assay rights on household silver and gold will have to be paid if any but the slightest volume of such is brought; twenty francs a kilo on silver and three hundred and seventy-five francs a kilo on gold.

EDUCATION

     Education is obligatory in France for boys and girls from six to thirteen years of age. Instruction may be at public or private schools, or even at the home of the father.

GAMBLING DEBTS

     Gambling debts are not admitted to process of law, save with exceptions referring to "sport." Billiards and card playing do not come in that category.

INFECTIOUS DISEASES

     In case of suspicion of an infectious disease having taken place in an apartment about to be hired, the landlord may be compelled to have it disinfected by the public health authorities, otherwise you are privileged to cancel your lease.

IDENTIFICATION

     The average American travels, and often lives, abroad without any official documentary identification. A passport should be in the possession of every one travelling or living abroad. This, in the absence of any other pieces d'identite, for which the French authorities so often ask, will prove useful and even valuable on many occasions.

LEGITIMATISING OF CHILDREN

     A father may recognise and legitimatise a child without even the tacit admission of the mother. The French law is liberal and simple. Recognition is made legal by an Acte Authentique de Reconnaissance, which is stamped and registered by the authorities free of charge. No woman may claim paternity for any child born out of wedlock; this with exceptions. The subject is a vast one, but not complicated. The law favours the better instincts of humanity and is generally so recognised.

LOST AND FOUND

     Lost property if found is supposed to be delivered in Paris to the Bureau des Objets Trouves, elsewhere at the hôtel de Ville. A form is filled up, a receipt given, and affairs run their course, when, under certain reservations, the object is ultimately given to the finder, if no owner appears. If one buys lost property, he must, in case the owner appears, give it up on reimbursement of the sum paid. This presumes that there has been no collusion or fraud, and that the article was bought in good faith.

LAW OF LIMITATIONS

     The French Law of Limitations – after which one may not be sued for debt – varies as to whether the dealings are by persons in trade or between a tradesman and an individual. A milliner or a dressmaker produces one of those ravishing confections for an American customer, who, living on her income, occupies an apartment in the F. toile quarter, and for some reason or other, because it was not as ordered, because the dress did not fit or what not, refuses payment, the individual may not be sued for the bill after two years have passed. The French Civil Code (Feb. 26, 1911) thus "outlaws" such transactions. This applies as well to doctors' and dentists' bills.

     Between merchants doing business along similar, or different lines, prescription comes under another ruling. Notes and Bills of Exchange, etc., are only outlawed after five years.

     The accounts of a professor or teacher of the sciences or arts, for lessons given, are outlawed in six months, as are also those of hotel and restaurant keepers, for board and lodging furnished, and of labourers and work people for their day's wages and material supplied.

     The accounts of servants who hire themselves out by the year, and of boarding-school teachers, are outlawed within one year.

     Within two years, limitation applies to the bills of doctors, surgeons, dentists and chemists. The bills of doctors are legally due when a patient recovers, or dies. This would seem to offer much subject for discussion, but the fact, as it is generally understood, is stated nevertheless. Lawyers' fees are, according to the same reasoning, or custom, due when judgment is obtained, or a compromise between the parties interested arrived at.

     A general statute provides for general limitation at thirty years, but legal matters in which judges or lawyers are appointed as trustees and the like are supposed to be settled within five years, at which date, notes, bills of exchange, etc., signed by merchants or traders, are annulled by automatic prescription.

LEASES OF HOUSES OR APARTMENTS –  (BAIL)

     One salient point should be observed first of all, and that is the condition of the house or apartment (état de lieux) upon taking possession. Unless it is so expressly stated in writing, the lessee is supposed to have received the property in good condition, and must so leave it. The expense of a survey, or the act of compiling an état de lieux is usually shared equally by the lessee and lessor.

     The rent (loyer) is supposed to be guaranteed by the lessee having possession in his own right and in placing in the apartment sufficient furniture. The landlord, through his concierge, or by other means, may forbid the removal of any furniture if any portion of the rental remains unpaid. Sureties may be entered into for the amount of the rental, or a deposit may be made by the lessee in some bank in the name of the lessor, as a guarantee, in which case, by local custom – not law – the interest on the sum so deposited belongs to the lessor.

     A hired piano or other article of furniture could secure exemption by an agreement in writing, signed by all the parties concerned, but such an arrangement would not apply to a general outfit of hired furniture, unless the lessor was otherwise secured.

MOURNING

     The periods of full mourning in France (Paris) are one year for a widow or widower; nine months for father, mother, father-in-law, or mother-in-law; six months for a child, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, grandparents, brother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in- law. Half mourning follows for nine months in the case of a widow or widower; six months for father, mother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, and three months for other members of the family.

MAJORITY, OR COMING OF AGE

     Majority comes automatically to boys and girls at the age of twenty-one, when, so far as all civil acts are concerned, they are no longer minors. As to marriage, all males must have completed their eighteenth year, and females their fifteenth, but consent of the parents must be obtained in the case of the man up to twenty-five years of age, and of woman up to twenty-one. Failing the latter, the formality known as an acte de respecte absolves them from the necessity of parental permission.

METRIC SYSTEM OF WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

     The metric system is alone legal in France. Any one who may expect to have general dealings with French tradesmen or institutions should provide himself with a set of these tables and their American equivalents in weights and measures. The system is simple, practical and thoroughly applicable to all transactions whereby are usually applied our own rather complicated system of computation.

MONEY – (CURRENT COINS AND BANK NOTES)

     The gold of Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Greece, Austria and Tunisia passes current in France, and the gold and silver of Belgium and Switzerland. Papal States coinage is no longer current, nor is the divisionary coinage of Greece, as was the case until quite recently. Small silver coinage, certain of the Napoleon effigy without the laurel crown, the coins of the reign of Louis XVIII and some others, are now demonetised. In general all the five-franc or five-livre pieces of the European powers are current in France, but no bank-notes except those of the Bank of France. An English sovereign is usually accepted by shops and hotels at twenty-five francs, and a five dollar gold coin ought to bring between twenty-five francs fifty centimes and twenty-six francs. Copper coins are not legal tender beyond five francs, and no one is obliged to make change for a bank-note.

MONEY (COUNTERFEIT)

     False money is a thing for strangers to beware of in Europe. Once accepted you have no redress against one who gave it to you, but he must not refuse to give you another piece for any you may be justly suspicious of when you are actually completing a transaction. If he refuses it is an affair for the police.

MARRIAGE

     The institution of French marriage is based on the family. The question of the mercenary "dot" is not to be considered here, but the endowing of a daughter, and often a son, is a tenet of the French family creed. It is not obligatory by law, but is usual.

     Marriages between brothers and sisters-in-law, though tacitly forbidden, is often to be arranged by personal appeal to the President of the Republic. Marriage is a public institution and must be celebrated before a civil officer, the Maire of the Commune; whether a religious marriage follows or not is optional. Public notice to the effect that a marriage is to take place must be posted on the notice board of the Mairie, or town hall, and the exhibiting of a birth certificate, or an "acte de notoriete," in the absence of the former, is necessary, as well as the written consent of the parents (or its substitute in case the former is not possible), as well as a public acknowledgment of the terms of the marriage settlement.

     American diplomatic or consular officers may not officiate at the marriage of those of their nationality, as may their colleagues in the British service, but they may, upon request, be witnesses of the marriage, at an appropriate fee, which is regulated by the legal list of consular fees, and the same may be recorded in the records of the consulate upon the payment of the legal fee as well.

     A woman married under the French law must obey her husband, is obliged to live with him, and where he may decide. With the authority of her husband she may carry on business and make contracts as if she were single, but may not go to law except with his specific consent or that of the courts. If her husband is poor and she has financial means, she is obliged to aid him, and she cannot, as an individual, transfer any property which she may possess without his assent.

     The subject is a very vast and important one, and any one interested, for any reason whatever, should take every means of supplying themselves with thorough information on the subject if they would avoid pitfalls and unthought-of circumstances and conditions.

     From a sentimental point, the French law does not recognise a breach of promise; only in case of material loss, as for the purchase of a trousseau, expense of a journey, or what not of a like nature, has a jilted young woman any recourse or hope of the gain of "damages."

NOBILITY

     The French titles of nobility are a hereditary distinction. Such existing titles as one meets with are descended from a time anterior to the meeting of the National Assembly of 1789 – which abolished them by decree – or from the new nobility erected by Napoleon in 1806, or the Restoration of Louis XVIII. Various abolishments came into operation, but certainly such things as existed cannot be abolished, and so with some reasoning descendants put forth their pretensions, which, however, are not legally recognised, and may practically be considered courtesy titles.

NEWSPAPER STATEMENTS – LIBELOUS OR NOT

     Newspaper mention, by error, of any act or fault improperly attributable to an individual, is bound to be corrected by the owner of the paper upon request of the grieved party, by gratuitous insertion of the correction within three days after having received such request.

NEWSBOYS

     A newsboy in France may not shout false news in order to sell his papers. A leather-lunged newsboy (of perhaps twenty-five years of age) shouted: "Great Catastrophe on the Underground," when there was nothing that had happened to justify such a procedure. He was arrested, admonished and fined.

NATURALISATION

     A foreigner may become naturalised a French subject, and enjoy all the privileges of the French, but he may not be eligible to legislative assemblies until ten years later. Naturalisation applies only to the individual, not to his wife and children, without a separate procedure.

NOTARIES

     A Notaire in France does not exactly correspond to a Notary Public. Protests are made in France by Huissiers. A French Notary may, under certain conditions, administer an oath to be made use of on a document in the United States, but his signature and seal should be certified by a United States diplomatic or consular officer located in France, under which circumstances it would have been better to have had the notarial act performed by such officer in the first instance.

LOST AND FOUND PROPERTY

     Treasure trove, i.e., objects found on one's own property belong to the owner of that property; if found on the property of another – in a hired house, apartment or garden – half value belongs to the finder and half to the owner of the property.

PROFESSIONAL SECRECY

     Professional secrecy is provided for by law. A doctor, lawyer, clergyman, etc., may not reveal information which has been confided to them in the way of their professional duties, except as to liability to a fine or imprisonment, or both.

FRENCH PROPERTY

     A foreigner owning property in France is subject to attachment in law if a suit goes against him in France.

PROFESSIONAL ENGAGEMENTS

     Actors, musicians and singers are engaged upon written agreement, with usually the right of the impressario to annul said agreement if the artist does not "take," a fine distinction and one fraught with considerable possible difficulty. After the first appearances, and assuming that they are successful, the engagement holds good for the full term of the agreement, and the salary has to be paid whether the services are made use of or not. If hired for a certain role, and once having played it, an actress cannot refuse to play it further without abrogating the contract. Continued illness releases the manager from the obligation to pay salary, but not a temporary illness. Pregnancy is not recognised as an illness under normal conditions.

PAWNSHOPS (MONT DE PIÉTÉ)

     The government pawnshop, or Mont de Piété, is a well organised and well conducted institution, though of course there is the same sense of personal fall in pride in dealing therewith, as with the most rapacious usurer. Loans are made for one year, with interest at three per cent, plus another three per cent for expenses, and a further tax of one per cent, in all seven per cent. Sales are made upon the claim of the borrower after three months, or by law, during the thirteenth month, if the pledge is not redeemed, any excess going to the borrower after the deduction of the additional expenses which are provided for and regulated by law.

TELEGRAMS

     Telegrams, the sending of which is a government monopoly in France, may be written on the forms supplied at the post-office for the purpose, or any white blank paper. Cablegrams may be written on the printed forms supplied by the cable companies, and should be accepted by all post-office telegraph bureaux, though they are sometimes wrongly refused.

TIPS (POURBOIRES)

     These are regulated more by custom than anything else, and are only treated here as they apply to domicile, or residence, rather than for the thousand and one occasions – restaurants, tea-rooms, the paying for personal service wherever expected, and the like.

    From the domestic side, then, the coachman who takes you from the railway station to your house or hotel expects a tip of twenty-five centimes above his legal fare. When you pay a bill of the grocer or the baker, you are supposed to give the employee who presents it at least two sous. Servants at country houses where you may be invited are grateful if remembered at the rate of a franc a day, or five francs as a total if the stay is but a few days. The withered old party who shows you to your seat or box at the opera expects from fifty centimes to a franc. Your concierge will expect from ten to fifty francs as étrennes at the New Year, and all employees of tradesmen who have served you the previous twelvemonth, personal servants and domestics, will expect also their New Year's gift of from ten to twenty-five francs and upwards.

TAXES

     Taxes for the foreigner in France are a complicated procedure. One pays an indirect tax on salt, matches, etc., and a direct tax on automobiles, dogs, real estate, house rent, for doors and windows, for doing business, for the founding of a club or society, etc. There is also the octroi tax, which is Paid on all comestibles, and many other things besides, which are brought into most of the cities, towns and villages of France. This is a very considerable tax in Paris, though it seldom is levied against the individual personally, save as you may have made an excursion to the country, and the happy idea struck you to bring back a dozen really country eggs. Then you pay as you leave the railway station, or pass the Porte Maillot, or by whatever means you may enter the city.

     The tenant's tax in Paris is one per cent on the rent value and is imposed upon the tenant. Rent value of less than five hundred francs secures exemption. These taxes are payable by twelve monthly instalments, or as a total, at the choice of the tenant.

STORAGE OF FURNITURE OR PERSONAL EFFECTS

     There are government-recognised warehouses where goods, and under certain aspects, personal effects, furniture, trunks and the like, may be stored against a proper receipt or warrant. This document, under certain conditions, is negotiable, and on it money may even be borrowed. This is quite apart from the function of the government pawnshop, or Mont de Piété

STAMPED PAPER (PAPIER TIMBRE)

     Legal documents and petitions are generally required to be drawn up on Papier Timbré. The document is invalid otherwise. Such stamped paper is usually to be had at the larger tobacco shops, and, like stamps, tobacco and cigars, is sold as a government monopoly.

STOCKS AND BONDS

     Gifts of stocks or bonds, real or personal property, etc., between living parties (inter vivos) should be registered under some form of notarial act. Gifts from hand to hand, of a watch or jewelry, of an automobile possibly (dons manuels), require no such document. A married woman (a Frenchwoman or any other living under French law) may not receive an inter vivos gift save by her husband's consent, or the authority of the French courts.

SUNDAY LAW

     Sundays are public holidays in France, but private business so transacted, including formal agreements, etc., are valid if performed on that day.

SHOPS AND SHOPPING

     Avoid disputes, their settlement is a seemingly interminable affair. Receipts should be taken for every payment or purchase made, above all from a dealer with whom you may at one time or another have had a credit account. These receipts are valuable records. Keep them. A ten-centime "quittance'' stamp is required by law to be placed on all receipts, and involves a fine against payer and payee in case of omission. A dealer is bound to deliver the same goods which he offers, and to guarantee them as represented, though if offered "with defects," and so accepted by the purchaser, they cannot at a later time (of delivery) be refused. In the case of unseen defects – vices cachés – the responsibility rests with the seller. All big establishments have a "claims" department, but it is conducted in their own interests, though nominally bound by certain observations of impartiality imposed by law.

SERVANTS

     The servant question is not easily or briefly handled. Female servants from the country are very numerous in Paris, as are Swiss. One may often learn of servants looking for engagements at the Mairie, or town hall, of the Arrondissement, and there are also private employment agencies (Bureaux de Placement). Domestic service seems to be at a discount for young girls, who, in Paris as elsewhere, are taking up with shop and factory work. Wine and washing are usually supplied a servant, or, in lieu thereof, a cash indemnity is allowed. Servants pay the Bureau de Placement a fixed fee, after a situation has been Obtained, and after a sufficient time has passed to allow of her having been able to earn the sum in her new position. Servants remaining away from their employer's establishment overnight may be summarily discharged. Servants are generally engaged under verbal agreement, but it is incumbent upon the employer to keep a strict written record of money transactions with servants, as his word is usually accepted as final if supported with plausible bookkeeping records. An engagement can be broken, for cause, with a servant, on eight days' notice, usually by the payment of eight days' wages and packing them off. In case of bad service the servant cannot demand a written character, but may demand a certificate giving the date of entrance and leaving his, or her, employer's service. A servant may not pledge the credit of his employer for even necessaries for the house.

WINDOW BOXES FOR FLOWERS

     If one keeps flowers on balconies and in window boxes, the watering of them, or the knocking of them or their pots off accidentally into the streets, incurs liability for damage by the offender.

WILLS

     A holograph will – one wholly in the writing of the testator – if witnessed by three persons, who should give their addresses, should be acceptable for probate to authorities in the United States, and would be recognised by the French authorities, if need be, under article 970 of the French Civil Code.


Click to return to the Kellscraft Studio Web Text-ure Content Page.