I moved to France all of 3 weeks ago. I am still slightly recovering from culture shock.
I dreamed and fantasized about my move to France but never anticipated such huge adjustments. Of course I know France is not America, but certain things that seem common sense to me are foreign or non existant in French life.
Let’s start with something simple: Fire Safety.
I imagine France must not have many fires, because many of the homes and buildings are not equiped with fire escapes. In fact, the windows that one might jump out of if necessary are usually covered at night by shields so that the tiniest bit of light cant’ get in! If there were a fire in a tiny apartment and you could not get out the door, the apartment would become an oven and you would roast.
In my new apartment there is no fire alarm, carbon monoxide detector, smoke detector, fire extinguisher, nor fire escape. Although there was a box of sand in my hostel.
I’ll just pray that the hot plates I have for a stove top don’t start any fires!
Next let us discuss: Breakfast.
Or for me, lack thereof. I am a meat and potatoes type of girl. Even when it comes to breakfast. I enjoy fried eggs, bacon, home fries, and french toast. (Thankfully I knew before arriving here there is no such thing as french toast in France.)
A French breakfast consists of coffee or tea, croissants, a baguette, and possibly cheese. I was shocked when I learned that meat is not eaten for breakfast. So much for my hopes of a sausage cheese biscuit one day. I will have to cook my own breakfast daily because its the most important meal of the day. With all the walking and climbing stairs multiple times per day, I cannot start the day off with a lack of energy or hunger pains.
I’ll just have to make a fried egg sandwhich with a baguette!
Finally, on today’s list anway, there is the issue of: Banking.
The French bank is unlike anything I have ever seen!! I opened a French bank account before I left the US. I had no trouble opening the account and transferring all of my dollars into the new account. I was informed my debit card would be ready upon my arrival in Paris.
It wasn’t until I got to France that the problems with the bank began. The pin code to my atm card was mailed to me. It is not simply printed on the paper. It’s a scratch off thing. I was misinformed by one of my American friends and scratched the wrong side. The numbers were almost invisible by the time I was through with it. I tried the code twice unsuccessfully before asking the woman at the bank if she could decifer it.
We were both wrong and the machine ate my debit card! A new one was ordered and would take 5-7 business days.
Bewildered, I told the woman I needed to make a withdrawal. She seemed aggitated and told me it really wasn’t a good time. How rude of me to inconvenience her by being broke. The woman told me she needed authorization and everyone was on lunch break. It was about 12:15. I asked her when I should come back. She told me at 3:00. “3:00?? The lunch break here is 3 hours?” I barked.
After about 30 minutes of waiting, the woman made some phone calls and got her authorization. Why an authorization is needed to give me my money out of my account is beyond me.
I signed a form requesting some Euro and the woman gave me a plastic card. She told me to put it in the atm machine and my money would come out.
Let me get this straight, although this is a bank, you don’t actually have any money? This is too much for me to bear!!
Banking in France sucks and takes some getting used to. I might be able to settle on a few things and accept certain things here like cheese is served for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Yes, cheese is on the dessert menu. But when it comes to money I don’t like to play around.
Don’t get me wrong, I am going to stay in France, I just wanted to share my culture shock with all of you. As time passes I’m sure this rough adjustment will just feel like a bad dream. I will awake to my fantasy of a fun and fancy free PARIS!