The Role of the Mairie in France
The role of the mairie in France cannot be overstated – especially in rural areas – so you must ensure that you know what your local mairie will expect from you or be able to help you with.
Essentially, the mairie is the mayor of your village, town or city. They are an elected representative with a ‘direct line’ of communication to the decisions made locally, and are usually based in the town hall, which is likely to be one of the most impressive buildings in the town.
The role of the mairie and their potential involvement and influence in your life depends greatly on where you live – as a rule of thumb, the power a mairie has over local residents is far more pronounced in rural communities. In larger towns and cities, you may never get to meet your mairie, unless you go to a civic function, or get involved in local issues. It is still a good idea to stay on the right side of the mairie wherever possible, as you never know when you may need their help!
PaperworkThe town hall is the place where you go to register births, deaths and marriages in France – with all the official paperwork that these procedures entail. Larger town halls will have at least one receptionist on hand to advise you and offer the correct forms for you to fill in way in advance of meeting the mairie, if that is even necessary, with the town hall open for normal office hours. In smaller towns and villages the mairie may work by themselves, with the town hall open just a couple of mornings a week, although you will get to know the routine once you become a local!
The mairie is also the person that deals with school enrolment – with a more personal involvement in rural communities. It is important to remember this if you are moving to a small village and you already have school age children as, like is the case in the UK, many small village schools in France are having to close due to not enough pupils, so you will be greeted very warmly!
If you are not an EU citizen, you will find that you may need to apply for a Resident’s Permit, which can be instigated at the mairie, although you may also need to send information to other places depending on your nationality.