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opening a bank account in France

The most frightening thing I’ve ever done in a foreign country.

I’ve done a lot of things abroad that probably should have scared the crap out of me.   I walked through the old city of Jerusalem on the first day of Ramadan after somebody threw a pig’s head over the wall to the Al Aska mosque.   I smoked something probably illegal with a rug dealer and one of his 89 cousins in Selcuk, Turkey.   I crossed the street in Rome.   Now that I think about it, it’s a wonder I’m still alive.

But up until now, I’ve never done anything like this.    I’m going to try to open a bank account in France.   I hear it’s difficult, but it must be done in order to gain any kind of legitimacy here (like rent an apartment long term, get a phone or buy a house).

After practicing the phrase “Bonjour,  je voudrais faire un rendez-vous avec un persone qui parle anglais, s’il vous plait.” for a week, I finally have the nerve to walk into Credit Agricole and ask the lady behind the desk the question I’ve rehearsed.

The woman  responds politely in French and consults a calendar.   She understands me.   Yaaaaaay!!!!   Triumph!

Then she asks:   A quelle raison?

Uh oh.   I was not expecting this.   “Ummmmm….je voudrais….umm… ouvrir un ou une (I wave my hands around) account.”

She shouts triumphantly “un compte!”

I shout triumphantly “Oui!” and we practically high five each other.

She makes the appointment and writes it down on a little card.

So I get there at the prearranged time.   Today,  a very young man is at the desk helping people in French (of course).  When it’s my turn,  I say bonjour and  show him the card.  He says “c’est moi” and asks me if I speak a petite peu de Francais because he knows very little English.   About three words more than the woman who made the appointment, I reckon.

The good news is, he makes as much sense to me as an any English speaking banking professional I’ve dealt with.    He asks for my passport, my justifacat de address en France et des Etats Unis.

Surprisingly, my brain doesn’t go dead when he asks a question.   I don’t  turn red, stammer or sweat, which is probably soothing to a banker.   I have answers, paperwork.

After about an hour he releases me onto the street with a packet of information and my new account number, online code and tells me my account will be open and working on Vendredi (the day after tomorrow).

I feel like someone should be throwing me a parade for such a major accomplishment.   I’m now legit in France!!!

Either that or I just gave some kid a chunk of my hard earned money and he’s off spending it on wine, prostitutes and  loud motorbikes.  Or worse,  maybe I just gave my money to a bank.

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