“Been around the world, don’t speak the language
But your booty don’t need explaining
All I really need to understand is
When you talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me
Talk dirty to me
Get jazzy on it.” -Jason Derulo
I would like to write a strongly worded letter to Mr. Derulo, in which I reprimand him for giving me this false sense of security. I’ve “been around the world” and I actually DO (sort of) speak the language, and can I just tell you that whatever the locals are saying in the bedroom COULD NOT BE FARTHER FROM MY MIND? French landlords do not “get jazzy on it.”
I’ve been in Nantes for 5 days, which is enough time to get settled in…if by settled in you mean very confused. Yeah, I’d say that whatever the polar opposite of “settled in” is, that’s basically where I am right now. Apartment hunting is currently the bane of my existence. Most of my problems are the same ones I would face in any country: creepy landlords, rude landlords, no-show landlords, apartments in bad locations, apartments on the 6th floor of buildings without elevators, apartments with ceilings so low you can’t stand up straight without bumping your head, scams (i.e. “You send me copy your passport and two month rent, zen visit ze apartment after, yes?”), listings for apartments that have already been taken, steep real estate agency fees…the list goes on. Then there are the problems I never anticipated: immigrant problems.
The first quandary is that you have to have a French bank account to get an apartment, but you have to have a permanent address in France to get a French bank account. Then, to start renting an apartment, you have to have a “garant” (like a co-signer) in France, but it can’t be your parents if they’re in the United States and don’t have French bank accounts either. Way to leave me hangin’, France. In the words of one of my favorite Australian philosophers, Iggy Azalea, “No money, no family, 16 in the middle of Miami.” This would be an ideal time for a long lost French relative to come out of the woodwork…
If you’re lucky, maybe you can convince a landlord to accept a security deposit or proof of financial stability in the place of a co-signer, but American bank statements don’t exactly translate here. First, there’s the dollars-to-euros issue, which isn’t hard to convert, but I think the whole “I’m paying you with money of another currency in an offshore account” thing seems less secure than just finding a French tenant, which there are plenty of. What’s worse is that in France, when they write numbers, commas and periods mean the exact opposite of what they do here. So when they read “$10,000” they interpret it as “$10.00”, and when they read “$10.00” they interpret it as “$10,000”. See the problem? My banker at BNP Paribas was pretty surprised to see that my checking account had so much more money in it than my parents’ did (HA…ha ha), and most landlords I’ve pleaded with didn’t understand why I thought proving that I had a whopping five bucks to my name made me a reliable tenant. But you can’t really blame them for being skeptical. If a 21-year-old foreigner showed me a photocopied piece of paper saying she had 15 dollars, and then–in broken English–tried to convince me that it actually means 15 thousand dollars in her country, I’d be like, “Yeah, okay…NEXT.”
To even schedule these fruitless rendez-vous, you need to have a phone number where banks and real estate agents can reach you, but to set up a cell phone plan, guess what you have to have…a French bank account and a permanent address in France. GO FIGURE. If, hypothetically, you used your endearing American accent to convince some poor, unfortunate soul at the Orange boutique to let you pay for a French cell phone in cash and then gave him a fake French address, you could at least check one of these off the list…hypothetically. I don’t know who actually lives at 13 Rue du Calvaire, BUT IT AIN’T ME.
I haven’t even tried to tackle setting up health insurance. I think you actually need a bank account and a permanent address for that too, so I’ll probably just wait until I feel a life-threatening incident coming. You can usually sense those 3-5 weeks in advance, right?
The good news is, I’M IN FRANCE! Nantes is beautiful, and I’m so happy to be here. It’s one of those cute little European cities on the water, with cobblestone streets and a castle. I start teaching next week, and everyone I’ve met so far has been great. Couch surfing for a few weeks while I get my life together wouldn’t be the end of the world. And if worst comes to worst, I’m sure I can find a rich French man to adopt me.