The Paris Struggle Part III
Hello Everyone! I'm writing this third and last part of the Parisian life from beautiful Mexico. A lot of you have asked me if Mexico City will be my new Big City but unfortunately It's not BUT I have already a visa which I'm super excited about and I'll be sharing with you soon!
Thank you again for reading me, and I hope you find this part as useful as the others, on this last part I will be sharing all the little and basic details about living in Paris, I must say and must warn you that every process in France can result in frustration, so just take extra patience with you, breathe and try to assimilate as best as possible.
Lets start with the first one and very important one: CELLPHONE!
Before I arrived to Paris, I spent some weeks in Spain thus I got an Spanish sim card because you know... I cant survive without data! well, while in Spain I learned the cheapest way to get a tourist sim card is at a tabac or convenience store. When I arrived to Paris, I needed to have a french number right away, since I needed to apply for a job. First thing I did, I went to the tabac store and got a sim card, there are two companies Lyca Mobile and Lebara. I looked online for the most convenient package and I personally chose Lebara, I paid around 15 euros and they gave me a plan with unlimited calls-messages and some GB included. It was fine but in the long run it wouldn't be very convenient. After finally getting an address in Paris I decided It was time to get a "real" phone subscription, So there are 3 big phone companies: Orange, SFR, and Bouygues.
I first went to Orange, since it is the one I had been the most familiar with, It was a huge disappointment when I was told that for being a foreigner I was needed to give an outrageous security deposit, and on top of that I needed a french bank account and here is when the stressful or better said frustrating part begins. I mean, It makes sense you need a bank account so you can schedule your phone bill, so okay... Lets go open a BANK ACCOUNT! (Dont worry I'll be back to the phone subscription).
You must acknowledge that if your French is basic or null you will have a bigger problem, not to scare you and not to tell you it will be impossible but to give you a heads up, so you can be prepared. Well opening a bank account has been for me one of the most frustrating process I've ever done.
How did I choose the bank I wanted to go? Well, to be honest ever since I remember I've always wanted to open an account with BNP Paribas, Why? Just because I’m a tennis fan!.
I remember to entered the branch happy, with a big smile the host welcomed me and immediately asked me what he could do for me. I said I'm new to the city and I would love to open an account with them, he told me I needed to make an appointment for that matter so I could fill out a form and an associate would contact me. I was astonished! This is not normal for me, I'm used to associates insist until you open an account with them! So I was like "Okay, but can you give me an idea on which documents I would need?" He said NO. I handed in the form, he looked at it and said he was not very positive on me getting an account open just because my income was very low. I could not believe this, I just said thank you and left, of course I never got that call back. I proceded to try with other banks.
I read some opinions on which was the best bank with the lower fees and so I decided to go next to LCL. There they right away noticed my accent and asked where I was from, next question was where do I live and I answered “13eme arrondissement” to my surprise, they told me they couldn’t open an account for me because unfortunately I did not live on that arrondissement (It was in the 10eme) and if I wanted to open an account I must go to the one that belongs to where I live! by then I just decided to wait until I move and once I moved I went again to LCL, CLC and Société Générale.
LCL asked me for a proof of residence but I had no bills under my name I had only a contract but they said they couldn’t accept unless the contract was from a real state agency which was not the case so NEXT. CIC accepted the contract as a proof of residence and they had no problem with my income, BUT they scheduled the appointment for 10 days from then! Can you believe this? I had to take it anyways just in case it didn't go well with the last one.
Last but not least I went to Société Générale there was a super nice lady and she even tried to speak English. She told me I didn’t need anything but an ID (passport/visa) and a proof of residence (which was okay with the room contract from the owner), She said we could do it right there on the spot! I felt a relief! Their fees were a little higher but she offered me 50% off on the first year paying only 4.25 euros a month and I had the opportunity to choose the plastic design I wanted from a huge catalog! I choose a super cute one with Laduree design!
I did NOT have to give any money but she put 20 euros in it, taken into count when I made my first deposit. The plastic arrived home within the next days. Having a bank account I felt like the queen of the world (lol). You most be familiar with the famous IBAN number since every transaction you want to make they will ask for this number (phone suscription, cable tv, job employer, paypal, etc), no worries your bank will provide with a little paper you can cut and carry with you or give away when needed.
Having finally a bank account I had ALMOST no problem getting a phone subscription. I went to SFR since I heard of a good deal of 100gb for only 20 euros a month. Well, long story short I was not able to get it! I took all documents with me, we were filling out the form and when it came the time to scan my passport, the machine could not read it! They called the head office and explained the situation and they said since I was foreigner and my passport couldn’t be read I needed to leave a deposit, so same thing as with Orange!
I went again to get some Facebook advice and they recommended FREE or RED by SFR, I compared both and RED was the best option since SFR is the one with the best reception, reputation and is user friendly. I went online and It was super easy to get and I got as well a good deal with 30GB with unlimited calls-texts and 3GB of roaming within the European union for only 10 euros a month! Another plus, is that I could keep the same number I had already with Lebara. There are a lot of deals also with FREE, but I guess it all depends on your needs if you need a lot of data, rooming and also signal. I must say that with RED I did not have any problem it even worked in the train and metro. (NOTE: RED also asks for IBAN number this is why I did not go straight away with them).
I will like to go back to the bank account, I want to tell you how it works so it is not a surprise for you as it was for me. Remember, my bank is Société Générale and I will speak only for them, but I'm pretty sure it is an European thing, that your card will work as a credit card. You will have 3 accounts the "Account" which is where you have all your money, the "Carte Bleu" which is the credit, and "Livret" where you can put your savings in. You will be able to spend certain amount a month and at the end of the month you must have that amount to pay your monthly expenses, please note that all recurrent payments made with the IBAN number will be credited immediately into the account. You must be cautious with this and make sure to always have the money there since they charge high fees per day if you do not have the money. Another thing you should know is that you must likely will get paid monthly, so your employer will pay you the first day of the next month which it also means will be reflected in your account within 2-3 days, so please avoid fees and try to have always a little extra just in case since some transactions take time to be reflected.
Another thing that surprised me is that you have certain limits, I was told this is depending the card you get. I, of course, got the most basic and for example I could not spend more than 500 euros a month, which was a problem when I needed to buy a flight for 900 euros. Even if you have the money in the account, they dont allow you to spend it with the Carte Bleu. You need to submit a request to extent limit, which thank God it can be submitted online. Another limitation is ATM withdrawal, I couldn't take out more than 400 a week BUT the good thing is that you can withdrawal on any bank's ATM and you won't get charged a fee! So you shouldn't worry on looking for your specific bank. So I will recommend you speak with your bank's associate and have all these limitations and fees clear.
Let's leave money on the side and talk about another important issue in Paris: Public Transportation! Paris has: buses, metro, tram and RER trains and as I mentioned on my other post, Paris is part of Ile de France which is divided into zones so you have 1 to 5 zones depending where you live. This is very important to know, which zone you live and which ones you will move around.
When living in Paris, or even if you are visiting as a tourist for a period longer than a week you must get a NAVIGO pass. You can either buy it monthly or weekly, but you must know that it goes with the calendar, so to take a full advantage of it you should get it the first day of the month for a monthly pass (75.20 euros) or Monday for the weekly (22.80) I always recommend to get the 5 zones to fully cover Ilê de France this way you will be able to explore beautiful places on your free time. Another recommendation is if you get the monthly pass to order it online (here) so in case, God’s forbids, you lose it they will reimburse it, thing that doesn't happen if you get it at the metro station. Bonus points: If you get it online you get to upload the picture you want!
Lets talk about another thing a lot of you ask: Health Care, I must admit I'm blessed with health and not having to go to the doctor on a regular basis. When you come with a VVT one of the requirements is to have a full year covered by a travel/medical insurance but isn't easier when you dont have to go through them? lol
As a woman, one thing I was worried or concerned about is birth control. In France you need a doctor's prescription in order to get any kind of contraception. There is something called Planning Familial where you can go and get information and a free prescription to get pills, or you could also get another kind of contraceptive. You can even get tested or seen by a doctor, all of this free of charge if you still dont have your Carte Vitale (This is basically the social security card). You need to check their schedule since they usually just open 2 days a week. I was lucky to have one center in front of my building, I went to get information and I took with me the box of pills I was taking and they gave me a prescription for the equivalent to the french brand for 6 months! I said I did not have my Carte Vitale yet, and they told me it would be free then. You can check here the closest center for you.
Speaking of Carte Vitale, with this card you have the right of public health care, I honestly had no interest in getting it, and it is not a requirement since with the VVT as temporary workers It's not really need it BUT as I also said before, this visa is brand new and not all employers know that or not know how to deal with this so they still require you to have it, BUT as they require it they also must help you request it. This card you must demand after 3 months of living in France. After those 3 months I took my documents to the CPAM requesting a Carte Vitale for the first time, I also had to fill out a form and send it all together, after this I got a letter saying that my employer had requested the carte vitale and then I got my temporary number! After that they told me in order to get the card I must send again same documents! Which I personally didn’t want to do it since I had so little time left in Paris by then I didn't want to bother. I just provided my employers with the temporary number and it was enough.
I dont want to make a bible out of this! So, I hope I covered the basics to introduce you to the Parisian life. Feel free if you have any other questions, doubts, or comments to ask me directly here, via email or social media! I'm always happy to help you.
Coming up NEXT: Don't miss my next post! I will be talking about my beautiful pictures in Paris!