Overall I had far more wins than losses over the past couple of days. I am starting to identify my favorite stores for various items. I have already described my love of my local boulanger (baker). I also know where I like to buy organic produce, and various items we cook around the house. We have been cooking at home 4-5 nights each week and eating out the other couple of nights. The restaurants of course are fabulous. Oddly enough, my son’s favorite restaurant is a Japanese noodle restaurant. He has discovered a love of ramen...in France, go figure.
One of the more important tasks on my ever present to do list was to open a bank account. If you thought my adventures in finding a French cell phone were a bit much, you won’t believe the bank account process. First of all, the cell phone wasn’t actually completely crossed of the list. Two days after I purchased it, I got a text from Orange, my French cell phone carrier, saying “Identify yourself immediately. If you don’t identify yourself within 14 days, we will shut off your cell phone. Click on this website here to identify yourself. ”. What?!?!?!?
Well I clicked on the website to see what it was all about. I had to enter my phone number, SIM card number, and upload a picture of my passport. No joke. I guess it is some kind of anti-terrorism thing. I don’t know. I did everything the website asked and when I got to the end of it, I had to click on some pictures in the order they were listed on the website. It was some kind of I am not a robot tool. Only problem is, the pictures wouldn’t click. So there was no way to identify myself on the website. Talk about frustrating. I am not a robot and I am not a terrorist but I had no way to prove either. Luckily, they let me send a picture of my passport through the mail. Today I got a text from Orange saying I had been identified. Win number 1!
And now for the bank account saga…..I have been to five separate banks asking to open a bank account. The first one told me flat out that they did not open bank accounts for Americans. The second bank I went into said “Sure but you need to make and appointment and our next appointment is four days from now”. The third bank said the same thing. Again, like the cell phone identification process, what?!?!?!?! But I made appointments with both banks for several days out. After all, I am trying to chill out an accept the French way. Four days later, I went to my first appointment as was told that the banker I made the appointment with was out sick. They kindly offered me the chance to come back the following week. Again, isn’t there another banker in the office that can open a checking account. The next day I went to another appointment at another bank and was told they wouldn’t accept AirBNB as my permanent address without a letter from my host. So I booked another appointment at that bank for a week later.
Me getting a checking account had started to become a joke in my family. My son would ask if I was rejected again each time I came home from another failed appointment. In his mind, I think he pictured a big red rejection stamp that they placed on my forehead when they escorted me out the door. During his rolling around and laughing, I don’t think he realized that if I didn’t have a bank account, I wouldn’t receive the grant money for us to live on….imagine how that would have blown his mind.
Anyway, I was beginning to get frustrated, so I talked to my contacts at the local office for International Researchers. They were so helpful and offered to set up appointments with banks that were friendly to foreign researchers. In addition, they offered to have a translator come with me to the bank appointments. These are the same folks who helped us enroll our son in French public school.
Speaking of French public school, today was my son’s first day in l’école primaire or elementary school. He is in CM2 which is the equivalent of 4th grade in the United States. The process for enrolling him in school has been relatively easy compared to getting a cell phone and a bank account. It helped that we had a translator who came to the school with us to meet with the director who also helped us fill out the paper work. The director for the school was incredibly nice and informed us the class he was in had had an English speaking student the previous year and was very accepting of foreign students. Although the director did not speak much English, I found her French very easy to understand and the translator helped my husband with anything he did not understand. The director suggested we ease him into school with one hour the first day, 3 the second and a full school day the third. Today was his one hour day and he loved it. In fact, he came home saying he was now motivated to learn more French. Win number 2!
So now here we are back to the bank account, I was ready to give up and use the services for international researchers but I had one more appointment to make. So I went that bank (my 5th if you must know) after we picked up our son from school. The banker I met with was so incredibly nice. He didn’t speak much English so we were stuck with my French but I could understand him surprisingly well too. We got to the end of the hour long process and he looked at his computer screen and cursed in French. The he started laughing. I felt certain I was about to get that big rejected stamp my son loved to laugh about. He said “For Americans to open an account we need a W9 and now I don’t know what to do.”. I laughed and explained to him I knew what a W9 was and I would be happy to fill one out. He then started laughing and asked if I knew what a W9 was in French. I of course did not. He said right before The Simpsons comes on French TV, it says “W9” and then sings “The Simpsons”. He then sang it to me several times “W9, The Simpsons……W9, The Simpsons……”. He was a great singer and sounded just like the TV show. So I laughed, he laughed and voila, I had a checking account that the US government could tax! Win number 3!
All in all it was a good week and it’s only Mardi (Tuesday)!