Renewing my driving license in France with baking dish and table lamp
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Renewing my driving license in France with baking dish and table lamp

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This post is also available in: German

I discovered by accident that my Dutch driver’s license was expired no less than 3 months and saw the storm coming; I had to redo my exams again for car and motorcycle and also my theory exam again. In French. My perimeter full of freedom would disappear, and my freebooter life would go in an eternal lockdown. I would never be able to show people a wonderful property for sale on the French Riviera.

Luckily, The internet told me that you can exchange an expired driver’s license within a year, even in France. That gave me courage. Renewing a driving license in France is of course not a simple task. One must report without an appointment to the Préfecture where every morning long rows of people are waiting, knowing that they are actually standing there for nothing.

The Holy Afternoon hour

Whoever is lucky enough to be ‘serviced’ before midday will receive a stack of papers, handed out by a grumpy person. Everyone waiting in line looks anxious on the big clock: slowly the times taps towards the Holy Afternoon.

When it is two for twelve, the shutters close, the man or woman looks behind the counter with a sad smile at you and you have the choice of going home too for an extensive lunch and unstress with a sandwich and a glass of wine or you stay stubborn standing in the row.

An invalid driving license supplies a substantial fine in France. And if you wait for longer than a year, you can go back to the driving school for dummies. Of course, nobody wants this! So people resist the wait and the humiliation as only French people can do that.

Long waiting times

All those people are actually wasting their time at the préfecture in the knowledge that at the National Driving License centre in Nantes something always goes wrong. Documents disappear or lie on stacks of many meters high so that the waiting time can sometimes take a year and a half before anything happens at all.

If you want to exchange a foreign driver’s license, there’s certainly no priority and if you can’t handle the French language and your self-control the situation will be painful. No one tells you exactly where and when your application has been processed or when you can receive the coveted new driver’s license.


All the complain and the Jammer about Nantes and the driving license renewal have apparently helped. Because suddenly there was the ANTS! The Agence Nationale des Titres Sécurisés: a digital driving license renewal service with fully automated process processing. Wow!

Totally happy and excited, I immediately decided to create an account. Government and automation is never a happy marriage and with the constant threat of the WEF Cyberhacks that could destroy a database, I didn’t want to lose a day.

Registration went simple; From address to driving license number and country of issue. Then the evidence that you live in France, that you pay taxes and sending in an electricity bill. Finally, the system asks you to send a photo. That could be done by post (now my alarm bell is ringing) or via a digital app called Photo ID. By creating a photo that meets the driving license conditions you would be able to upload it with a unique digital number. Super handy. You’d think.

I install the app, take a selfie, pay 5 euros and send the photo. That went easily. Too easily of course: the next day I receive a message that the photo is rejected because of a shadow on my neck. Hmm, that’s why photographers always have an assistant with those foil shields and extra lamps. I move to the bathroom, put on all lamps and try again. It doesn’t work to photograph my face without shadows. I search down for something shiny and reflective.

Selfie for advanced users

In the oven, I find an aluminium baking dish, which reflects well. I stand for the open window with all lamps on, an oven dish in my left hand and the phone in my right hand. The app takes two photos and you can’t laugh. I send the photos again and price my inventiveness. Unfortunately, a message comes in the next day: ‘The shadow in your neck is not acceptable. And the background must be neutral. Make a new photo. ” I look at the photo again and now see bathroom tiles in the background and some lingerie of Jo.

It is never easy but I don’t let myself break through such an App. The alternative is still that I can go to a photographer and send paper photos to an address in Nantes. You know, where everything goes wrong.

I collect reading lamps and extension cords and remove the door from the bathroom. I place the door to the glass shower wall and place the lamps in the bath. A deadly combination but we all need to make sacrifices. A lamp that normally leans somewhat on the couch is searching for some support. With my right foot, I keep this lamp up while I blind myself with the light.

In my left hand, I also mirror the daylight in my face with the aluminium baking dish and I check on the screen if the background is neutral. The door is actually too small (or I am too big)  so I duck somewhat through the knees to get my head in the digital frame with an even background.

With a cramped and worried face, I make two photos and send them again. The next day there’s a new message: “The photo has been approved. You can continue to the next round! ” Woohoo!

Nantes remains Nantes

The next round makes it more exciting; Now I have to send my real driver’s license to ….Nantes. The bottomless government sput where applications disappear and new driving licenses appear. Ants advise me optimistic to send the driver’s license registered with proof of receipt because imagine that it will be lost…..

I approve and then I receive a provisional driver’s license by e-mail as a statement for the police. I see the date. And now I understand. The preliminary driving license is valid for no less than one and a half years. It is obvious; the online application is well managed but at the end nothing has changed in Nantes itself.

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About The Author
Ab Kuijer

Experienced communicator and marketeer. Former radio, TV and advertising producer in Amsterdam. Author of ‘Think Small, Grow Big’ that explains why advertising is dead. Owner of an international marketing agency specialised in real estate. Lives in the South of France since 2006 for obvious reasons: sun, sea, wine and healthy food. Became on the Cote d'Azur the first Dutch President of the British Chamber of Commerce, later rebranded the Riviera Business Club. Happily married to Jojo. Ab reads and writes 2000 words per day about different topics. xxxxxxxxxLiving on the Côte d'Azur is the first real estate portal with a personal service. A daily fresh collection of more than 1700 high-value luxury properties and new construction projects along the French Riviera; from Menton to Saint Tropez. We are also present with local teams in Paris, Ibiza, Portugal, Mauritius and Tuscany. Clients recommend us for being responsive, professional, honest and accurate. xxxxxxxxxxxxWith local multi-lingual teams, Living on the Côte d'Azur provides a 'Good old Dutch' Service for foreign buyers, helping them on the journey from a long-list selection towards visiting the short-list. We explain how French real estate law works, and guide the buyers through the impressive French paperwork until the signature at the notary for the final deed.