Anyone who has lived in France will know how difficult it can be to get even the most simple of forms completed, let alone accepted. Tracy Leonetti, an English woman living in Vallauris, knows this better than most considering her perhaps unusual line of work. In between enjoying the sun and sea of the region, Tracy helps expats getting through the mounds of paperwork that could drive the calmest person into a frenzy of scribbles and frustration. Here she tells Riviera Insider where it all started and how she can help with your bureaucratic woes.
What first brought you to the French Riviera?
I'd like to say it was my dream to live in France, but in fact it was much less romantic! I was working in Bermuda and an ex-boyfriend came to visit me. He persuaded me to come and see him in France. As I'd already travelled quite a lot outside of Europe, I thought that the south of France sounded like a lovely place to visit. I very quickly fell in love with the French Riviera and have now been here for 24 years. I married a French man – I was with my ex-boyfriend for ten years after the move here, but we went our separate and I later met and married my husband - and we have two beautiful children.
After all these years, what keeps the Riviera special for you?
I've spent my life living by the sea, hence working in Bermuda where the sea is never far away! When I travelled round Australia and New Zealand, it was in search of the nicest beaches!
For me, it doesn't matter how long I've been here, being able to get up each morning to a beautiful blue sky and the magic of being able to take a walk along the sea front from Golfe Juan to Juan les Pins is simply amazing. On days when I have a bit of time (not so many these days I admit, especially with all the paperwork that Brexit is bringing to my customers here...), I love having a coffee before walking back or going for a dip in the sea. It doesn't get any better than that, even after 24 years!
Can you tell us how your company, Leonetti Business Services, began?
It all started because of the struggle and stress I went through trying to get my paperwork in order when I first moved here. I distinctly remember coming home after my third visit to the CAF almost in tears having faced a particularly arrogant agent at the desk who would not validate the child benefits for my daughter. In those years, there was no one to help me and I spoke minimal French. After I got through all that (and I did get the benefits in the end), I realised I could help people avoid the frustration of French bureaucracy. Now, after helping countless people before they relocate here and then when they arrive, I am pleased to say their experience is so much more positive and you can reach me at email@example.com.
How do you help other expats?
Non-local and relocation customers can have all their bureaucratic questions answered before they get here. The first months are so crucial in getting the paperwork done right the first time so I make sure that happens. My aim is to help them each step of the way and make the transition smooth. People can choose from different service packs to meet their specific needs - help with anything from finding a property through to setting up a business. Local customers get hands on help with obtaining or trouble shooting problems with carte de séjours and citizenship applications, carte vitales, car registrations, utilities contracts and business administration.
I specialise in helping people set-up small businesses (auto entrepreneur) and next step growth planning. The most important thing is getting the job done and leaving everyone with a smile on their face.
What is your favourite season in France?
Well that's an easy one, I love autumn. The weather has cooled down, a lot of the tourists are gone, the beaches are emptying and the colours are changing. It’s the time of long walks and preparation for Christmas, a fun time in the Leonetti household!