Living in Cordes – Tuesday in Albi

Tuesday was our fourth day as French homeowners and the first day all the shops are open after the weekend. It was also the last day we would have a rental car, so Tom and I went to Albi, a picturesque 20 minute drive from Cordes, to change the SIM card in his phone and set up French phone and Internet service. Coming from the US, we had the amusing idea that the task could be completed in one visit.

Turn out that in France, particularly in August, it’s more complicated than that.

For a start, to get a French phone number, you need a French bank account. Like many of the French cities we’ve visited, Albi’s central commercial district is largely closed off to cars and offers everything you could need, so we walked over to the Albi branch of the bank that also has a branch in Cordes.

In France, we discovered, an appointment is necessary to open a bank account. The Albi bank officer could make one for us in Cordes, but the next one available was on Thursday a week.

At the Albi branch, however, an appointment was available the following Tuesday. That seemed worth the bus trip, especially since we’d already found out that we’d have to return to the Apple store for a charger that’d had to be ordered. Tom said we’d take the Albi appointment.

The bank officer wrote down all the documents we’d need: passports, three months of bank statements from our California bank, proof of residency in France (which we already have – though how we got it so soon is another story), and several more documents that she kindly agreed to leave off the list, since we couldn’t possibly have them yet.

She’d also need our phone number, of course. It’s an American number, Tom said. But then the bank cannot call you to confirm! A French number is needed!

Catch 22.

However, having already set a precedent regarding the missing documents, Tom was able to convince the officer to confirm the appointment right then.

Lesson learned: even when the red tape seems endless, a little dialogue goes a long way.

Credit goes to Tom’s excellent French, pleasant personality, and the willingness of the French to keep the conversation going and to negotiate.

It’s true we still have to go back to Albi in a week with the rest of the papers, and that surely won’t be the end of the steps we’ll have to follow – we’re told it takes about three weeks to get local internet and phone service set up – but Albi is such a beautiful place and I’m sure there will be other things we need that aren’t available here in the village, that I won’t mind going back.

10 thoughts on “Living in Cordes – Tuesday in Albi

  1. Great to hear you are getting settled. I joined several expats groups and find them extremely helpful. As I have learned, everything takes much longer and is more complicated to get done. This includes getting a drivers license, setting up bank accts., getting phone/wifi/tv, etc. By the way, being from Calif. you can’t exchange your drivers license. Other states have agreements with the French Gov. that allow you to exchange. Your CA Lic. is good for one year. But, Tom speaks enough French, he can probably take lessons and pass his written test with ease. Here is one of the expats sites I love: https://www.facebook.com/groups/americansinfrance/
    Expect to learn a lot, get great advice and make new friends. Mimi

    • With age I have come to expect less. It’s not that the French are inefficient. Why as an American should I expect everything to work as I have become accustomed to? I’m really glad that ATT provides the ability to use our account overseas for $10 per day. This way we have access to friends and family as well as to the fabulous resources of the Internet.

    • Thanks so much, Mimi. I’ve been participating in several expat groups but hadn’t found that one.
      We knew about the driver’s license issue and planned to get Iowa licenses when we were there last month – Iowa is one of the four states that have reciprocity arrangements with France – but it turned out there wasn’t time. We’ll have to spend more time with Tom’s cousin next year and open a bank account there. Otherwise, you’re right, Tom will probably get through the French system.

      • Living in the moment is an experience I have come to enjoy ” post enduring”.
        You and Tom are more suited for that non instant old country lifestyle🌍. Thanks for the updates and continue to enjoy yourselves.

  2. I have always wanted to visit Albi — didn’t realize it was that close to your new home! (I do tend to forget how short the distances are in la belle France.)
    Happy adventuring! Yay to Tom for bureaucratic success!
    XXX OOO

  3. Sounds like you have a lots of things to take care of in order to be comfortable in your new country. I don’t remember such going on when we moved to France. What I still remember it that most of the people and companies were appreciative of our Americanism. Of course, they were very grateful that we helped them win the war against Hitler. So far this is a very nice summer. Not too hot, a little rain, plants are doing fine. Have a great time together. Love, Mom

    • Thanks, Dorothy.

      Not so much to do, really. The house is comfortably furnished, we’ve got the transfer of the water and electricity set up, we’re meeting the neighbors, and discovering our favorite shops and cafés. People are extraordinarily friendly, and many have stopped in to welcome us. We’re having a great time!

  4. Ah yes, French tape, yards of it, memories of it….bonne chance et bon courage, but at least the Occitan people seem delightful….My one suggestion for the suggestion box at the end of my year in University in Bordeaux: move the California student exchange program to University of Toulouse, where people are known to smile….
    Kathy Bornino

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