In one of my earlier posts, one of the first after arriving in Avignon, I told you all how easy it was to open a bank account. I wasn’t lying. OPENING a bank account was a very simple process. However, USING my bank account has been, quite frankly, a nightmare. To cut a long story short, it’s been six weeks and I’ve only just received my bank card.
I hate dealing with banks in my native language in the UK, so you can imagine how much I dread dealing with them here. I’ve been to the bank more times than I can remember, and each time they’d give me a different reason why I could not collect my card. The first one was that I had to wait for a letter which proved I live at the address I had given. The next was that I had to put money in the account, so I transferred my entire student loan so I’d only have to pay for one international transfer fee. Then they said I hadn’t supplied them with an email address (I had) and told me to wait for an email from them. The weeks went on and I still hadn’t received anything, while many fellow Erasmus students had already received their bank cards, having opened their accounts after me. So I went in again, where I was treated with nothing but callousness. They know I’m a foreign student. They know I have a limited knowledge of banking jargon compared to their usual customers. So when I was told ‘I can’t give you your card, it’s invalid’, I responded with ‘Why? What do I have to do?’. All I wanted was some clarity. And all she did was repeat the word ‘invalid’, interreupting me every time I tried to speak. I was eventually asked to step aside so that she could serve the next customer. Looking back, it was silly to let a woman at a bank make me feel so small and insignificant. But that’s what she did. That same woman was there to greet me yesterday when I was finally allowed to collect the card which had been sitting in a little drawer for weeks. I didn’t hold a grudge, I was polite. I even used the conditional tense.
If you decide to study in France, you will most likely have to wait an age for just about anything to get done. So, in the meantime, what do you do when all your money is laying in a bank account that can’t be easily accessed by card? I would 100% recommend getting the Post Office Travel Money card before you leave. It’s been a life saver for me. All you have to do is top up this card online or on the app and you can use it in shops and restaurants free of charge – the only fee you pay is to withdraw cash from ATMs. If you want to avoid this small fee, try withdrawing big sums of money at one time, perhaps enough to cover you for the week. This makes more sense than taking out the odd 10€ or 20€ every now and then, and having to pay each time you do it. This will also be a good way of practicing managing your money, a skill I am yet to master.
Other than that, my only tip is to just grin and bear it. All the other Erasmus students here have been complaining about having to wait so long for bank cards, student cards, forms to be signed. It’s irritating, but I supppose it’s all part of the experience of getting to know the workings of a different country. I’m sure anyone else who’s completed a Year Abroad in France, or anywhere else in the world, would say the same thing.