Me:1, France: 0
Today was a big day: I opened a French bank account. Oh, I know it doesn’t sound like much to you – you with your iPhone, and your monthly MUNI/Metro card, and your handy debit card that allows you to buy $6 coffees, $12 salads, and $60 olive oils on a whim. But here in France, nothing happens unless you have a French bank account. And I mean NOTHING. No Metro passes. No debit cards. And absolutely positively NO smartphones.
Enter Exhibit A, my trip to the Apple store to buy an iPhone, which, in a denial-laden haze of 2003-ness, I dismissed as completely unnecessary before I actually got here. I made it all the way to paying for my phone before I learned I needed a French bank account to start a French phone plan. (Which I sort of knew, but I was hoping to somehow talk and/or smile my way through that.) My helpful sales associate then pointed me to the ING across the street and promised it would be super-simple pimple for me to open an account then buzz back and get my phone. Here’s what happened at ING:
Me: Hi, I’d like to open an account
ING Lady: Okay. We’ll just need to get a copy of your lease, your visa and your phone number.
Me: I don’t have a phone number; I’d like to open the account so I can get a phone number.
ING Lady: I’m sorry, you can’t open an account without a phone number.
You see the conundrum.
But I was ready for this. So I took a break. I bought some pillowy bedding to pimp out my super-hard bed. Then I had some butternut squash soup, sea bass, and risotto. Because that’s what people in France do when faced with hard times – they eat creamy risotto and they fortify. And then I walked across the street to a bank with a name I can’t remember, and in a Will-Farrell-takes-on-James-Carville-Old-School-debate-like moment, I apparently blacked out and busted out enough French to convey what I needed and a nice man named Vincent (“VanSAHn”) opened an account for me. Just like that, Johnny on the freakin’ spot. I really only understood about 40 percent of what he said and he tried to sell me a phone at the end, but whatever. I’m legit. YOU CAN’T SHAKE ME, FRANCE! Phone, Navigo card, frivolous purchases with a French debit card – YOU WILL BE MINE!