A bunch of practical questions

(asked by FrancophileEtoile from Glasgow, Scotland)

If I buy a French TV set (looking at Darty prices, not as likely as I first thought 🙁 Please tell me Darty have soldes… ) is there such a thing as a French TV licence like we have in the UK? I’m assuming no as (I think) all French tv is commercial? I don’t want to have to pay an extra 100-odd euros for the year’s licence if I’m only going to be there for 7-8 months.

Well, if I know everything about France and French things, I must admit if there’s a country I’m pretty clueless about, it’s the UK… In the list of countries I’m clueless about, the UK is on the top 5, alongside Bhutan, Equatorial Guinea, Costa Rica and Latvia.. (maybe that sentence should not be taken literally).

But because of that I have no idea of what a UK TV license might be…

But in France, we have a “redevance” that you’re supposed to pay yearly in order to be able to legally watch TV, because no, not all French channels are commercial, actually among the 6 channels one gets with a basic TV, three of them are public channels.
The keyword here being “legally”. I don’t remember ever paying it, but I think that you normally pay it with the local yearly taxes (not to be mixed up with the normal yearly taxes).

Seriously, if you’re there for only a few months, don’t even bother with, I don’t know of anybody that ever was controlled (at least not students and such) and even if you are, what are they going to do? Send you to jail? Nah…

Concerning the prices of TV, I haven’t bought one in years, but I assume that Darty is indeed one of the cheapest places to buy one, and I doubt that they have sales for them (the bi-annual sales are technically for clothes only… technically…) but who knows?

Opening bank accounts in France: how would I do it? (…) How many forms of ID will I need? Any recommendations/warnings of banks to avoid would be helpful too.

To open a bank account in France, you need to go to a bank and say “Hi! I’d like to open a bank account, please.” (the keyword here being “please”) 🙂
After that, the clerk will give you all the documentation and/or tell you what to do.

Any ID that has legal value will work. You might need a proof of domicile (electricity bill, phone bill, rent receipt, etc…) or not.

As for advising you any bank… Mmmmm…. The purpose of any bank is the same: to screw you over… I can’t really compare with UK banks (see question 1), but compared to US banks, I’d say that French banks usually screw you over less than US banks do… but they’ll also lend you less money if needed (being a foreign student, don’t even think of having a French bank lending you money though). The best thing to do is to shop around and see what they have to offer for students or even for foreign students. Just check the websites of the main ones: Caisse d’Epargne, Crédit Agricole, Crédit Lyonnais (recently renamed LCL), Société Générale (you know the bank of the trader that lost 7 billions the other day), Banque Populaire, BNP, I might forget a few.

Cartes de Séjour: there seems to be a dizzying array of different types, and I’m not sure which to go for, or even if I get a choice in the matter. I will be 19 when I start working (for 12-18 hours a week) and apparently because of my age and working hours I may get a less-comprehensive (student?) carte? Obviously I want a proper one which will last the year, not just the année scolaire. I just don’t know how to work the system 😉

If there’s one thing I’m really proud of knowing nothing about it’s the cartes de séjour thing… For people who don’t know about French administration imagine a mix of administration the way it’s depicted in the movie Brazil and of Soviet administration and I think you obtain a pretty clear representation of what French administration is like. And as a French citizen I have to deal with it on many aspects of my life, but also as a French citizen, there’s one section of the French administration that I will never ever have to deal with, it’s the immigration bureau.

So, I make sure I never go -not even remotely- near it (just in case a confused and lost foreigner asks for my help and then I just can’t say no).

So, sorry, I can’t give you any information about it, I don’t want to give information about it, I don’t even want to think I could be able to give information about it, and this is the one and only case I’d tell a foreigner what I’m about to tell you: Figure it out by yourself!
Actually, I even think that’s a good test… If you survive the immigration bureau and paperwork, there’s a chance you might be able to survive France…

That being said, if I’m not wrong you’re Scottish, and as such, whether you like it or not, you’re also a Citizen of Her Majesty’s United Kingdom and Colonies (or something like that), which also means… and here I might surprise you as I know the Brits are pretty ignorant about that fact… you’re also a European Union citizen… and as such, you don’t need a carte de séjour to live in France…

Surprising, isn’t it? 🙂

This might be a bit Paris-centric but Navigo/Cartes Orange: are they worth it? I will probably be going in and out of Paris from Créteil academie and the neuf-trois, but wondered if they were good value for money. I’ve looked at prices and can’t really judge…

Don’t worry about being Paris-centric, most foreigners don’t even know there’s a whole country called France just outside of Paris. But I know the British know better, as nowadays there are more British citizens than French citizens in some of the best French villages (I personally love this true expression of what the European Union should be… I’m not too sure what the locals think, but who cares?)…

So, about the Navigo (because Carte Orange will cease to exist in a matter of weeks now (or maybe it has already ceased to do so, I haven’t paid close attention lately))…

Well, it really depends on how often you’ll take the subway, and if you work, whether your boss will pay for half of it or not (as it’s common practice in Paris).

Currently 10 tickets cost €11.10 (because only tourists and fools will buy tickets one by one)
A monthly “credit” on a Navigo pass costs €53.50 (for zones 1 and 2, which is Paris and the very close suburbs)
A weekly one costs € 16.30 (for zones 1 and 2)

So basically to have your Navigo pass to be worth it on a weekly basis, you need to take the metro more than 15 times a week.
And as far as the monthly pass, you need to take the metro 49 times a months, that is about twice a day…
What I’d advise you is that for the first few weeks you buy tickets by 10 (actually you’ll have to, while your card is being made, the card itself being free) and you’ll see how much it costs you per week… But keep in mind that once you have the Navigo pass, you’ll also tend to take the metro more just because it’s “free”.

I hope all of this answers your questions…

More Questions Answered:

Frenchman Written by:


  1. Lise
    May 23, 2008

    Ah, thankyou 🙂 Re: the Carte de Séjour,even though I am an EU citizen (and grateful for that fact) I’m still being told I need one for ID purposes, unless I want to carry my passport everywhere. This is from an official source, so I’m a bit confused now 🙁 I’m not going to be a student when I’m in France, I’m going to be teaching, but I’m hoping I still get student-y benefits…

  2. Non, Je ne regrette rien
    September 21, 2008

    okay, I did have to laugh at the CDS response…. authentically French…

  3. Dimitris
    November 13, 2008

    It’s the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”, though the Queen is not the Queen of the United Kingdom, but the Queen of England, mind you … These things are VERY important!

    The colonies do not exist anymore. It’s the Commonwealth of Nations that replaced it, though we’re still talking about an organization with voluntary membership. The Queen still has an important role though, she’s accepting toasts and she reinforces the application of the protocol in their coctail parties.

    Oh come on, you should learn those things, it’s so much fun 🙂

  4. happydaiz
    November 27, 2008

    Re: banks question

    I’ve lived here for a year and, after extensive complaint among friends, I have gathered that LCL seems to be the least complained about (that’s not to say you won’t have the odd happy opportunity to experience the famous french customer service 🙂

    La Poste seemed to be pretty bad - problems receiving cards, problems finding cash machines that are free (ie la poste).

    I’m currently with Société Générale (I have no money to lose so I don’t think I have anything to worry about there lol) and I wouldn’t really recommend it - for one thing, I was sworn at on the phone the other day and they just generally seem to be reluctant to do anything to help. I’ve heard similar stories about Caisse d’Epargne.

    Apparently CIC is good for students and those with less money - cheaper in terms of charges and more flexible re: overdrawing.

    Actually opening the account isn’t that hard as long as you have an address.

    Bon courage!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.