One of the first things I had to do when I got to Bordeaux was set up a bank account.
I arrived to Bordeaux prepared with all of the documents I might need–a copy of my last three bank statements, my work contract, copies of my visa and passport, you name it! I also e-mailed my homestay dad ahead of time so he would have my an “attestation d’hébergement” handy and an electricity or gas bill in his name, plus a copy of his passport ready.
The next day, I woke up early and after enjoying a little café and chocolatine, I went to the bank that JP belongs to.
I am starting to realize how “walk-ins” are not very common in France…whether it comes to opening a bank account or even getting your hair cut.
Appointments are key.
And I didn’t have an appointment…
The bank told me that even though I had all of the proper documents, the earliest they could see me would be next week. I had to have the bank account set up by October 3 (today) for my salary with my school, so that wouldn’t work.
I went to another bank near by, and they were able to set me up with an appointment three hours later that day.
Naturally, I killed my time by shopping–Bordeaux seems to always have more chic clothes than the shops in the US >:)
I came back to the bank for my appointment and after two minutes of sitting down with the banker, she told me I didn’t have the right documents! Instead of a passport copy of my homestay dad, she wanted the physical passport to make a copy herself and a bill less than three months old. She set me up for an appointment the next day.
Even though I knew there was no chance I would let myself lose my homestay dad’s passport, I felt super awkward asking for it! Trusting someone with your passport is kind of a big deal, but he was very nice about it and let me borrow his passport the next day and printed a new copy of a gas bill. When I got home I said, “J’ai perdu ton passeport!” His face dropped. “Je rigole, je rigole!” (I lost your passport! Just kidding, just kidding!)
Finally, I could start setting up my bank account! The banker was very nice but spoke quickly and it made me realize just how much my French has improved over the last year. I still get anxious speaking, but I understand a lot more now.
The appointment lasted about half an hour and I should receive my bank card in the mail within the next week. That’s the other thing with setting up a bank account here–unlike in the states where you can leave that day with a temporary bank card, you have to wait for your bank card to come to you. And I’m not able to deposit any money or anything until it shows up. But on the bright side, there are a lot more benefits to being a student or being younger than 25 in France! I’m charged only about 2 euros a month to belong to the bank and I was able to choose a card with a special image at no extra cost–I chose a pink bank card with macaroons on it 🙂
It’s so interesting to me how I get such different reactions about being married in Bordeaux than I did in California. It seemed anyone–strangers included–would be pretty surprised and start questioning me about being married at a young age. When I went to a Wells Fargo in California to deal with my travel plans and it came up that I was married, the banker was shocked. She started asking how my parents felt, etc. etc. But the banker in Bordeaux was so cute about it! I mentioned how I met my husband in Bordeaux last year and we got married this year–I acknowledged it was fast and she immediately chimed in saying, “Ah yes, but you are in love!”
After setting up my bank account, I went to go sign up with a gym close by. In Melbourne I got a membership and it’s amazing how much happier and better I feel when I regularly work out.
Before getting here, I was really anxious to have to do these things alone. While I can understand a reasonable amount of French, I’m really self conscious when I speak. But I’ve been keeping a positive attitude and forcing myself to go out and get things done–and so far it’s worked out!
I know my French may not be perfect, but getting the hang of my own routine and reminding myself it’s okay to feel frustrated or embarrassed at times has been really helpful.