Friday, September 28, 2012

We meet the French Mr. Drysdale


            One of the first things we’d planned to do once we landed was to open a bank account, which turned out to have been a good idea since you can’t get much done around here without one. To buy a cell phone, rent an apartment, in fact, most major transactions require you to produce your relevé d’identité bancaire, or R.I.B. – a little slip of paper that proves you have a bank account. As near as I’ve been able to figure, the laws of France tend to favor consumers, and not just a little, so this handy little document gives creditors a leg up on where to start recouping their losses from mauvais payeurs. (As far as I know, this means deadbeat, but it might not. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been really irritated by writers that throw foreign words and phrases around without any translations. Fortunately, my pathetic French will keep this to a minimum.)
            The Tuesday after we arrived in Bordeaux, we appeared at the local branch of Barclay’s to arrange for our accounts. We'd chosen Barclay's for it's international character (the one that doesn't lose billions of pounds) and because our friends know one of it's regional kahunas.  We were met by a very nice bank official who ushered us into his office where he began to explain the various account options available. Maybe any Americans he'd dealt with were well heeled or possibly he knew our friend was the president of the local Aston-Martin club, but it was obvious from what he was showing us that he figured we had a shitload of money. This impression didn’t last long.
            The number of documents required to open this account approached what I needed to get into the FBI. In fact Barclays might now know more about me financially than the Bureau ever did, but at that initial meeting we came up short. We had to have some proof that we had actually lived at our U.S. address. Why, I don’t know.  My bet is that France, like the U.S., probably came up with a bunch of ideas to keep criminals from easily laundering money but end up only make it more difficult for everybody else.  Fortunately for us, French customs officials wanted the same thing so we happened to have a copy of our latest St.Pete water bill, conveniently sitting inside another folder of documents back at the apartment.
            So it took two meetings to get our bank account and by the time we’d finished the only thing I hadn’t done was turn my head and cough. We still had to wait a week before we were notified that Barclay’s was now ready to accept our euros, which brings up another point. All of our income has to be converted to euros. Not surprisingly, having our account set up to let Barclay’s convert our dollars (which, after gaining or holding against the euro all year, began to sink almost as soon as we got here) royally screws us. Well, maybe not royally but going through a currency broker gives us a better exchange rate. Now we’ll see if all the figuring Cynthia did before we decided this little adventure can keep us from ending up in the streets, which brings me to the subject of dogs.
             Last time I mentioned I was going to go off about dog shit, however, I’ve decided maybe I should do a whole post on the subject of dogs in France, or at least my observations, anyway. Sorry if you were really looking forward to hearing about it. In fact, if that’s the case, I recommend counseling. À bientot, TTFN.



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