Before you go

Social Security website brochure

We’ve recently added some more information on our page called “Are You Serious?” that you can access from the tab above. That’s where we’ve assembled an outline of the basic steps we took in preparation for the move and then what we did upon arrival here. With at least a year’s worth of planning before we made the big move to France, we thought that we had everything covered. Actually we did, as far as taking care of our situation at the time but then some things changed and we had to adapt. Opening a bank account at the branch at the end of our street proved much easier than we anticipated compared with what we’d read about the experience of others. Getting money transferred into that new account from our US bank and Social Security benefits direct deposited there too, well, not so easy. Continue reading “Before you go”


Making coins the medieval way

If there’s one thing that you learn when you move overseas, it’s to be prepared. Whether it’s a government agency, a utility, or a private business you are meeting with, it always makes sense to take an original and at least one copy of any document that any of these officials have asked from you before. To open a bank account we anticipated the need for our passports and proof of address but a marriage certificate and tax forms weren’t at the top of our list. Luckily both were at the bottom of the file folder that we take to every appointment so it was easy enough to produce those. To cancel our prepaid renters’ insurance, we needed a handwritten statement swearing that we no longer lived at that address, but at least we could write that out on the spot (with a lot of guidance from the woman who helped us). What we weren’t prepared for was receiving a refund check for the remaining insurance that we weren’t going to use. How were we going to deal with that? Continue reading “Check→in”

The kitchen’s in the living room

Kitchen in a box
Kitchen in a box

Like many of our neighbors, we’ve gone paperless. One of the first things that you have to do to establish yourself in France is to open a bank account. Shortly after that your mailbox will contain notices, sometimes several days in a row, from your new bank to welcome you, to confirm the details that you’ve provided, to inform you of the appropriate government regulations, to let you know that a fee will soon be charged to your account and then another after it has been taken. In other words, you are kept very well informed, including a notice on how to receive all of that information as emails. Luckily that option also exists for the various utility companies, grocery stores, and pretty much any other place that we shop. Of course that means that all of those tempting catalogs no longer arrive at our house but when you have a determined shopper around, nothing stands in his way. Continue reading “The kitchen’s in the living room”

Bank account

French bank and insurance office
French bank and insurance office

We finally broke down and opened a French bank account. We’d been resisting it since our arrival here for a couple of reasons. In the US we were spoiled with free banking of all sorts: accounts, checks, savings, ATM cards, transfers, toaster-ovens (!), even seed-money given to you as a new customer. Once we got to Europe we found an online German bank that offered much the same at that same low price: zero. Not so in France. Continue reading “Bank account”


The key to a successful new life in France is a bank account. With it you can go anywhere and do anything. Without it you are stuck, dead in your tracks. Almost all of your bills are paid directly from it and your income is put directly into it. Your debit card is tied to it and you use that “carte bleu” to pay for everything from restaurant meals, to train tickets, to supermarket purchases. Even your monthly rent or mortgage payment comes right out of your account and into the landlord’s, perhaps at the same bank, and there’s the rub. Continue reading “Catch-22”