We received a letter from the French government the other day, a crisp reminder that we are NOT living in America. In it they explained in a flourish of official language that an inspector had passed by to verify that we do not own a television, since we have declared so on our tax statement.  Since we weren’t at home he was not able to conduct his visit.  We were invited to return the form and pay the necessary tax to avoid any fine that would result in us being caught!

You see, in France there is a “television tax” every household has to pay - €119 or around $155 per year.  Whenever someone buys a television they’re asked for their address, which is then given to the powers that be.  Students commonly give their parent’s address, who already pay the tax, to avoid this yearly charge.  While living in Toulouse several years ago we purchased a used TV for dirt cheap.  Months later we received a letter with a form to fill out, stating whether we owned a television.  Against the advice of some French friends, we admitted that we indeed had a television and doled out three times what we paid for the set just to watch it with a clean conscience.

Fast forward to today.  We haven’t had television for seven years and happily keep that €119 to ourselves every year.  Still, I can’t help but wonder the shock we would have gone through had Monsieur the Inspector showed up at our door.

You want to do what?  Search our home?!

Why? To make sure we don’t have a television?!

Something about that situation just rubs against the American me.  I mean, do you have a warrant?  Let me see your badge!  People get robbed this way!!

I can imagine us sitting around our kitchen table, Monsieur the Inspector sipping on a cup of coffee that we’ve offered him.  He talks casually as beads of sweat slowly form on my forehead.  Finally the dénouement arrives, “So Monsieur Workman, is there anything you are hiding from ze French government?”  In a wave of panic I crack – “YES, YES!  There is a Romanian family hiding under the floorboards beneath us!”