September 28, 2009

Posted in la vie bordelaise tagged , , , , at 11:32 am by Fat Girl Dancing

Written on Thursday, September 24, 2009 5:42pm

So much for surviving on my own…I’m still relying on my family to do things for me, only this time it’s my host family.

I went to my appointment with the banker this morning.  I was beyond nervous – bank officials make me nervous on a good day, much less in a situation when I can’t really understand them and they have the power to reject me.  I presented him with the papers I had, and he said some things in French.  It was a problem that I didn’t have a bill in my name to prove my address, but he started to show me an attestation paper, where my host family could vouch for me, but I stumbled and said I’d only known them since Sunday.  He said that wouldn’t work and the bank couldn’t do anything for me, and I was pretty much out of luck.

I felt defeated, but thought I could try other banks if I could just get my host family to put something in writing saying that I lived there, since we only have a verbal contract.  I took a long walk this morning, exploring new parts of Talence.   I had a chocolate éclair and bought some groceries.

The grocery store overwhelms me.  I don’t know how to eat here.  Dinners are a meat and a starchy vegetable followed by cheese (CHEVRE OMG OM NOM NOM) followed by a pudding cup.  Breakfast has been cereal everyday.  I just bought a new, different box.  I’m trying all the interesting French cereals and staying away from things like Frosted Flakes and Golden Grahams.  It’s lunch that really gets me.  I ate out for lunch on Monday and Wednesday, and school fed me Tuesday, but I can’t afford to eat out every day.  I hope I can eat at school on my long days.  I bought some viennois bread, cheese, and turkey slices to make sandwiches and a microwave salmon meal.  Their microwave meals are hilarious.  Just like ours, except instead of spaghetti and meatballs you can get rabbit and potatoes.  Ready in just two minutes!

Today for lunch I had the éclair, a peanut butter granola bar from home, some Pim’s cookies, a banana, and grapes I ate on the way home from the store.  They were the biggest, roundest, fattest, most delicious grapes.  I bit them in half, picked out the seeds, and ate the rest.  The French do not eat while they walk, so I’m sure I stood out instead of blending in, but I don’t care.  They were so good.

I came home and dozed and read and was generally just very bored.  I’m not used to having nothing to do and no one to talk to.  I feel so cut off.  Tomorrow the other English Assistants are meeting in Bordeaux for dinner, so it will be good to finally meet them and hopefully form some friendships there.  I think I’ll arrive a little early so I can explore Bordeaux and maybe get a cell phone.

When mon père got home, I told him what had happened, he called the guy an idiot and said we’d go back to the bank right now and take care of it.  I felt relieved but guilty that I keep putting such a burden on them to help me out.  The banker was surprised to see me back, but with F.’s help we explained that I had actually known them longer than a week, and my teacher had made the initial introductions (kind of), so it sounded better and he could fill out an attestation.  F. didn’t have any bills on him – even though he has an account there, he still needed to show a bill to prove his address! – so my account won’t be valid until they come back from Saguinet next week, but it’s created and I have my all important RIB and I can get paid.  YAY.

There was so much paperwork for opening a bank account, I had to laugh.  I know the French love bureaucracy, but it was ridiculous.  The guy was stamping and signing at least 15 different papers, and I had to sign and write “read and approved” on about six different papers.  At least checks are free in France.

I was grateful that F. went with me, because there were a lot of questions and things that I didn’t understand, and he helped translate.  I can’t imagine how the other assistants are doing this completely on their own.  Or maybe I’m the only one who still needs so much hand-holding.



  1. Bunny said,

    Gosh Penny! That really does sound crazy complicated but I’m so glad you’re getting it all straightened out!

    Is it just not possible to use your USA bank while in France for so long or is simply not advisable?

    Another festie and I are still in the planning stages, but we’re looking at hiking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela next Spring. We’d be starting in St Jean Pied de Port and finishing in Santiago de Compostela about 780km later, after about a month hiking the breadth of Northern Spain.

    Love your updates! Keep them coming please!

    Festie hugs …


    • jesuislaprof said,

      Thanks Bunny! I’m glad you’re enjoying them ^_^

      Well, I need to have a French bank account so the French government can pay me through direct deposit. It’s one of the requirements to get paid!

      YOu will LOVE St. Jean Pied de Port!! Oh my goodness, that is the most perfect tiny French Basque town up in the Pyrenees. That sounds like a great, strenuous hike…lots of climbing!

      If you’d like to see some pics of St. Jean Pied de Port, there are some on my Flickr from my trip last year. Click on the link and it’s the next 25 or so pictures ^_^
      St. Jean Pied de Port

  2. Monica said,

    Oh, no. You aren’t the only one who needs the help. I’m temporarily staying with a teacher from my lycée and I would be so much more lost without the help of him and his girlfriend. Because of them, I have a phone, a bus pass, an appointment for a bank account, and maybe a place to live (have to confirm I want to apply, then do so, etc). Even with that I feel useless most of the time. I mean I’ve studied French for six years and it’s absolutely crazy trying to get all this working. I haven’t even been to the grocery store yet. I’m both excited and scared.

    • jesuislaprof said,

      Good to know I’m not alone…sometimes the boards make it seem like everyone else has it all figured out and I’m just bumbling around, lost! ^_^
      Good luck at the grocery!

  3. dana said,

    Aye. I totally would have done the same thing in the bank. Why stop talking when you can muck everything up with just a little more effort? Of course, I might have topped it off with some crying in the bank. 😉

    Glad to hear it worked out.


    • jesuislaprof said,

      Believe me, I was holding back the crying! ^_^

      Still haven’t gotten my ATM card, so there’s currently no money in my bank account, but yeah, it seems to be all right ^_^

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