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Be Nice to Your French Neighbors!

Volume XXII, Issue 15

Scenic photo of rolling hills and green fields in France

After all these years I finally submitted my application for French citizenship. It doesn’t buy me much more than a French passport and the right to vote, because with my Carte de Résident, I can do everything else just like any citizen. Still, my fingers are crossed that France will accept me as “French.”

Meme for the Local's six steps to French citizenship

In a recent article in Droit-Finances.com (a leader in legal and financial information to help users choose, decide and act at every stage of their lives, supporting its community of users on a daily basis, covering all the legal and financial issues they encounter in their professional or personal lives), the headline had me reeling.

“In Jura, a foreigner is refused citizenship for mowing his lawn on a public holiday.”

Seriously? As it turns out, mowing on a public holiday is forbidden by the rules of neighborliness. A resident of the Jura (a département in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in Eastern France) recently learned this the hard way when he was refused citizenship for this reason.

Map designating the département in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in Eastern France

Every garden owner knows (really?) that mowing on a public holiday can get you into trouble with your neighbors. Even so, it’s rare to be fined just for doing so. In general, there are few legal consequences for not mowing your lawn…at least in France. However, a Frenchman living in Switzerland has just suffered serious repercussions for not respecting this simple rule of good manners.

The case was recently reported by the Swiss newspaper Le Quotidien Jurassien, which describes the case of a 50-year-old Frenchman living in Switzerland who applied to the authorities for naturalization. Under Swiss law, anyone who has lived in the country for at least 10 years and holds a permanent residence permit can apply for a passport.

Fulfilling these conditions, this French resident of the Clos du Doubs commune applied to the local authorities for naturalization. This relatively common procedure requires the prior approval of the municipal assembly. At first sight, this might appear to be a mere formality. But on March 27, the assembly of this commune in the Swiss Jura region surprisingly voted against this naturalization, with 13 votes “against,” 11 “for” and 6 abstentions.

Among the grounds for refusal cited were…the lawn mowing and pruning carried out by the applicant on public holidays, thus disturbing the peace and quiet of his village. In addition to these grievances, the applicant was also criticized for being too rarely present in the commune, and for having a house that had been under construction for 10 years, with debris from the building site regularly blowing away during strong gusts of wind.

All reasons which, in the eyes of the voters, were sufficient to consider that the Frenchman had not yet successfully integrated. Even though the commune’s mayor, Jean-Paul Lachat, admitted that he had never received any complaints about him.

Breaking certain neighborhood rules can therefore have serious legal consequences. If he still wishes to obtain his Swiss passport, the French 50-year-old will have to move to another commune to apply, with no guarantee of success. As you can see, acquiring a Swiss nationality can sometimes come down to the wire…of a “débroussailleuse” (brushcutter).

Question: Are there any days or times when you are not allowed to mow your lawn in France, such as early on Sunday morning?

ConnexionFrance.com has the answer:

In France, carrying out garden work such as mowing a lawn is subject to various rules, and ignoring them could, in theory, result in a fine.

You are allowed to cut the grass in your garden:

Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon and from 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 noon and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. You are also allowed to mow your lawn on Sundays and public holidays but only between 10 a.m. and 12 noon!

Chart of French Public Holidays

French Public Holidays

These times were decided by a 1992 law and are designed to avoid unnecessary noise pollution. “For daytime and nighttime noise alike, the authorities can sanction people with a fine of €68,” the law states. However, this fine can be increased to €450 if the matter reaches the courts. It may also be useful to check if there are any local rules in place regarding mowing your lawn.

French mayors can issue municipal decrees banning such operations at certain times to avoid neighborhood disturbances. If you live in a copropriété, you should ask your syndic for the building rules. If there are restrictions in place and you ignore them, your neighbors can demand action from the syndic.

So, I guess if you’re looking for citizenship, it’s best to be in good stead with your neighbors! Uh oh, with all my property issues both in Paris and Nice (structural problems in Paris, toilet plumbing in Nice), now I am worried!

A bientôt,

Adrian LeedsAdrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group®

Adrian Leeds with Jake LamarP.S. Jake Lamar held captive a packed room of expatriates at Après-Midi in Paris yesterday to hear about his experience as a writer in Paris for the past 31 years…how he came to love reading, writing and living in France. The audience had lots of interesting questions for him about his writing methodology, his interest in jazz and even his experience as a teacher in French universities. Be sure to read all about it, see the photos and watch the video from the fun afternoon.


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