You heard me. Everything costs a bomb and a half out here.
After prettifying myself, putting on a blazer and plaiting my hair, I decided it was time to face my biggest fear: sorting out a bank account. In the UK I use Barclays and I even had my own mother come with me to set it up. Here, in central Paris, I had no choice but to do it on my own. I had seen a Barclays branch on my travels a day before so I managed to re-find it (kudos to me). I soon learnt that it’s not one of those nice, friendly ones like you have in England where they smile and greet you as if you’re some sort of saint. No. Here, in perfect Paris, I had to press a buzzer and then wait before someone accepted me into the exclusive realms of fine banking. There was only one desk, two chairs and a fake pot plant beside a marble staircase. After waiting in the queue for five minutes, I introduced myself, explained my status and asked to open a bank account. To which the man responded with a firm “No”. Apparently they don’t accept people like me – they only want long-term customers. That’s probably an excuse for “we hate the English”, but I didn’t want to argue. He suggested I might try La Poste Bancaire, so I nodded and left.
La Poste Bancaire is basically a post office which also has a bank attached to it – sort of a 2 in 1 type thing. Genius. I proceeded to get out my papers and repeat what I’d explained to Mr. Barclays man. But lo and behold, he wasn’t able to open the bank account for me; he was just the useless messenger and I’d have to book an appointment with the French equivalent of a personal banker (who was in fact in another building…talk about making me trek around an unknown city). The next appointment wasn’t until next Tuesday. Ahem. Not good enough. So I asked if I couldn’t get an appointment on a Saturday? He said “yes, how about midday this Saturday?” There’s me thinking “you just said your next appointment wasn’t until next Tuesday you moron”. He then explained how I’d need to bring with me my passport, rent contract, and €150. Wait, so you’re charging me €150 to start up a bank account? I don’t think so matey. “Au minimum €150” he replied. Well that makes it a whole lot better doesn’t it... When he asked for my mobile number it went something like this: “zero….errr…sept….er…neuf….errrr”. He then threw a piece of paper at me to scribble it down on because I was being too slow. Ouch.
So that is my current bank situation. I.e. pretty dismal. All I know now is that someone, somewhere in Paris, is expecting me on Saturday 8th September at midday with the prime purpose of stealing €150 euros off me. I explained this to the mother who owns the apartment and she was horrified. Apparently banks usually pay students to start up with them, so I clearly was unfortunate. I also bought a monthly metro pass today which cost me a staggeringly expensive €81,50, so I was in no position to dole out even more cash. Do I look like I’m made of money? This blazer was from H&M, not Calvin Klein. Sheesh. Know your labels!
I then went into what is known as “the cheapest pharmacy in Paris” and managed to spend €20 on shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and a new toothbrush. Maybe I’m being stingy but €20 euros seems like an awful lot, especially for somewhere which is renowned for being cheap! It was also slightly depressing that they didn’t sell any of my beloved Herbal Essences. I scoured the shop for a good 15 minutes for a glimpse of it, but alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. A lady who worked there asked what I was looking for and I explained how I needed conditioner. She proceeded to ask if my hair tended to “malt” – took me a while to work out what she meant until she mimed pulling her hair out of her head. I replied in the negative. Nevertheless, she took me over to what appeared to be the most expensive aisle in the shop and handed me a 150ml bottle for €12 – some sort of specialist product for people with dry and damaged hair. Was she trying to say something? She practically forced it into my hand and I went off on the whole gratitude shebang, but when she wasn’t looking I ran away and hid it in on a random shelf before finding a cheaper alternative. Crisis number one averted.
Watch this space.