So I’ve lived here for a little over 4 years now. And I’ve helped a few people with the basic details of how to go about moving to France. Visas and lodging are one thing but there are all the “nit-picky” details of starting your life here in Paris (or just in France) that are just baffling so this post is dedicated to trying to clarify some of these questions/mysteries for you and to give you some assurance when you move to France.
Phones: Phone plans in France are different from in the states and for the better. In France first of all when someone calls you or texts you it is FREE. Yes isn’t that great? No longer will you suffer from that friend who has that unlimited texting plan that they got back in 1999 and who takes up ten texts for one sentence and therefore use up all your credit. Or just that chatty friend who uses up all your minutes to describe that cute boy she saw at the café but didn’t dare even look at for the two hours she was there. Plus phone plans are not all that expensive. I for example have an iphone plan that has unlimited text, 3Go of data, unlimited Wifi (With hotspots everywhere in the city, and unlimited calling including unlimited calls to the US!!!! Yeah I can call my parents on their cell phones anytime I want for as long as I want for FREE! All of this for…wait for it.. 22 euros a month!!!! And with no contract. I can change this anytime or suspend it for a few months any moment I want over the internet. Isn’t that amazing? A person from the US is probably fuming right now…i know it is really unfair. For those of you who are interested in this plan you can order a sim card here: http://www.sfr.fr/telephonie-mobile/red-de-sfr.html. You have to have an unlocked phone and a french Bank account. And that brings me to:
When you are coming to France one of the difficult questions is. Do I bring cash and exchange it or do I pull out of an ATM?
-Personally I would pull out of your ATM is your bank has an easy ATM fee/exchange rate. I use capitalone and I really enjoy the fact that it costs me around 4 dollars when I withdraw and I’ve found this to be the easiest way to get money sent to me from the us. Because, despite my best efforts, I have found that it is IMPOSSIBLE to link your French bank account and your US account and transfer money [annOYing]. Exchange places are pretty much rip-offs. Often you don’t have the real exchange rates and they take a tax AND service charges. In the end you lose money so I would use ATM or use your debit card. Problem with the debit card is; in France we use microchip cards and so magnetic strip cards sometimes don’t work.
When getting an account in France:-get an account that has the most minimal fees possible There isn’t anything as free checking in France
-Get the insurance. If you get locked out of your house, lose your papers (passport), or get your purse stolen and no longer have keys, ID cards ect… Your bank insurance will cover a locksmith, lock replacement, Key replacement and the cost of your papers. Once I just lost my spare keys getting off a plane and my bank cover the 135 euros that it cost to get my particular safety keys remade. I wish I had known this when I got locked out of my apartment and a guy charged me 200 euros to drill a hole entirely through my door (an apartment where I was a guest mind you) and stick a coat hanger through to the other side and jimmy it open. 200 euros for a new massive peephole…. Like a hole in my head!
-Don’t let anyone tell you no! You do have the right to an account (especially if you are working) many banks are jerks about it but you can get one just keep trying. When I got mine I was student and I went directly to the school and asked if there were any banks nearby that they worked with. I also looked in my school planner and around the school for banks who were advertising. I went with my letter of studentship and they set me up no questions asked. BNP is a pretty solid bank and allows people accounts. The Banque postal is friendly but will only allow you an ATM card but not a debit card. You certainly can’t open one from far away. you have to do it in person. To open an account you’ll need your passport, probably your working papers or whatever kind of contract you have or a letter of studentship, and some proof of your address meaning an internet bill with your name on it or a letter stating that you are being housed by your employer or host at X address it is called a lettre d’hébergement [that is a really important thing. Keep it in a binder and protected, your going to need it a million times over keep it under plastic]and then you’ll need proof of their address such as an EDF bill.
-When I opened my account the problem was my account was now situated next to my school! This wasn’t a big deal when I was a student and there everyday but when I moved further away from school this got complicated because in France you can only do all of your banking in one bank with one banker. I wasn’t use to this because in the US you can usually walk into any agency of your bank, even in any state and someone can help you. But here however, if your banker isn’t in: you can’t get ANYTHING done. When you move you can change of course and it’s just one more set of papers to fill out.
When you want to bring printed documents:
Over here paper size is different A4 so none of your folders or binders will be big enough for anything anyone prints for you here. Took me a moment to figure that one out
mostly when I was struggling in school with my teachers were telling me that my 3 pages of writing was too short. on american paper it was long… on A4 each page was missing a paragraph and 1/2. Woops! Reformatted word REALLY fast! (you can change it easy in the documents tab then change paper size in the advanced settings)
So you’ll want to buy paper supplies right when you get here (even reprint the documents you planned to bring with you if you don’t have A4 paper) because all of your letters and bills, documents you’ll need to keep EVERY piece of paper that you are given. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve been asked to produce a seemingly meaningless paper and having it has saved my neck enormously. They have these things called lutins that are great!
I spend so much of my day gathering info and trying to figure out everything I need to know to move. It’s draining haha.