Opening a French bank account (and insurance)
This varies by bank. Basically, be prepared and bring everything. I went to Crédit Agricole because it’s where the assistants at my school have had their accounts in the past. You’ll probably need to set up an appointment rather than just walk in and do this. You’ll need:
1.) Your passport and one copy
2.) Your arrêté de nomination to prove how long you’ll be in your city AND that you’ll have a salary.
3.) Something to prove you live in your city. I used my rent papers but you could use a justificatif de domicile signed by your landlord certifying you live there along with a copy of their ID card. There’s no set definition to what must be written and given to support a justificatif de domicile, so ask the bank.
4.) Take out renter’s insurance. Why? Because for assistants, number three still won’t really be enough since they’ll want bills under your name to prove you live where you do. You can get around this by taking out renter’s insurance, which your landlord will probably ask you to do anyways.
Make sure to ask for a bunch of copies of your RIB once you’re done. Your school will want copies so they can pay you (make sure to get them in within the first weeks so you get a payment advance!!), the cell phone company will ask for them, everyone will want them. Just, you know, don’t give them out to the beggars on the street because that could cause a problem. Know that at Crédit Agricole, it took about 8 days before my bank card came in. Some banks take even longer. No, you don’t get a temporary one to use while you wait like in the US. You just suck it up. Also, Crédit Agricole does not have a cashier. You cannot deposit money to a human. You must fill out a bag with all your RIB info and put said bag in a safe and then it takes 24 hours to get into your account (you’ll want to put 20 euros in your account once you set it up because you’ll have the fees taken out for the card and insurance soon after setting up your account). For other banks, such as la Banque Postale this is not the case. I think it might be because Nîmes has a fairly high crime rate (don’t pay attention to that, parents!). Honestly, I’m not sure I’d reccommend Crédit Agricole. I’ve heard that they often turn away assistants, probably because we don’t stay the full year thus we don’t pay the one year account fee. The one in Nîmes seems to have a quota on how many assistants they take. Most assistants in Nîmes go to LCL (Crédit Lyonnais) because there’s a woman who works there who is experienced working with assistants. To future assistants in Nîmes, I’d suggest going to that bank instead.
How to get a French SIM card
What you’ll need:
1.) A RIB, which is a paper from the bank with all your bank account information on it. In my case, one of my teachers gave hers and I paid her the price of the first month and the sim card in cash and gave the store my RIB as soon as I had one. Once you give them your RIB, you’ll have to take a form to the bank giving them permission to let Free take money from your account.
2.) To have unlocked your phone before coming to France (highly reccommended) or to buy a new phone in France.
Really, I think that was it. I think. Maybe I needed a copy of my passport too. Really, the first few days I pretty much carried everything with me. You will be given a paper for the bank that Free Mobile gives you so that the bank has permission to pay them. Which is really weird.
Now, how to choose which store. Most people go with Free (you can even get a SIM card by filling out their online form) because they’re the cheapest. 2€/ month for unlimited texts and 2 hours of calls to US and French (and other countries too) phones. Definitely landlines in the US are included, not sure about cell phones. It takes 3-4 for you to receive your SIM card in the mail. If you really want a phone plan in the meantime, you can go to SFR and get a phone card. Once your Free SIM card comes in, Free tells SFR that they’re going to take over your phone. A few assistants did that.
How to get your birth certificate translated
If you wait until you come to France, here’s a list of sworn court translators: http://courdecassation.fr/informations_services_6/experts_judiciaires_8700.html#experts. Look up where the translators are listed in the index. You’ll find their contact info there as well. Some people here have gotten away without an official translation. Others have not.
Getting around in France
BY TRAIN: If you’re going to be taking the train, I’d highly recommend getting the carte jeune from SNCF. This gives a price reduction to those between 18-27 years old. The card costs 50€ and pays for itself very quickly. Also, join the fidelity program. You may receive special price reductions this way.
BY BUS: This will depend upon which region you’re in, but many regions have a fairly cheap bus line. If you’re in the Académie de Montpellier in the Gard region, you’ll have the Edgard bus line. The bus gets you around Gard- and even to Arles and Avignon!- for 1.50€. This is great for traveling on the cheap. The TER (bus and train) gets you to Aigues-Mortes and Grau-de-roi for 1€. Word of advice for getting to and from Montpellier, if you get to Aigues-Mortes or Grau-de-roi, you can take another bus, line 106 of Hérault Transport, to Montpellier. Hérault Transport costs 1.60€. Of course, you’ll need to coordinate the timing. A ticket from Nîmes to Montpellier is pretty cheap too depending upon the time of day and much simpler. Look for a bus line in your region. If you want to travel in the Ardèche region, you can take Edgard to get to certain spots or go to Alès and take the NTecC bus line.