As some of you may know, we returned last summer from a short stint living in Paris. By far, the most interesting thing about living overseas, especially in France, was the “little differences” that popped up every now and again. These differences were both good and bad; sometimes they lead you to a fantastic experience that you would never have expected, while other situations made you want to pull your hair out and hide under a blanket. Examples? We have many.
When Amy and I went in for our permanent visa cards, we left each other in the waiting room and then ran into each other in the hallway before our medical examination. Neither one of us had a shirt on. It was the least satisfying topless scene I have ever known. (Explanation: they do a chest x-ray to confirm that you don’t have TB.)
In order to get an apartment, you have to have a bank account. In order to get a bank account, you have to have an apartment. Getting either set up makes you look like a dog chasing its tail around and around and around. We were fortunate enough to get help from Amy’s work. Otherwise, we’d have been forced to live in Bois de Boulogne with the scary prostitutes and swamp rats.
In Parisian restaurants, you can’t normally eat before 8pm, they won’t serve you steak cooked more than medium rare and leaving a huge tip is just about as gauche as wearing a fanny pack. True, if you are successfully able to navigate the dining scene in Paris you will be eating some of the best food of you will ever have, but make one mistake and the waiter’s eyes will roll and you will be ignored for the duration of your meal.
On the flip side, I took Malcolm to the doctor’s office once and the doctor answered the phone when I called, the doctor met us when we walked in her door and her first question to us wasn’t, “Have you filled out all these forms?” It was “What seems to be the problem?”
Also, their cheese is ridiculously awesome.
Having returned to the US, I thought I was done with all these charming nuances of French life. I was wrong. Herein lies the tale of me closing our bank account. For dramatic effect, I am replacing the seemingly endless strings of emails back and forth with a made up conversation between me and the bank officer. All of the hoops they made me jump through are real, though. Enjoy!
Me: Hi there. I would like to transfer the money in my French bank account to my good ole American account.
Them: Oui, monsieur. If you could be so good as to fill out ziss transfer form.
Me: Great! Here is the form.
Them: Ah, ziss is a problem. To transfer all of the zee money from zee account, you must first close the account. Please be so kind as to fill out zee following form.
Me: OK. Here is this form.
Them: Merci. Unfortunately, we are unable to close your account until you have destroyed your banking cards and your remaining checks. Please let us know when ziss is complete.
Me: OK, I have done it. Not really sure that was necessary since A) I have no idea how to fill out French checks and B) IF THE ACCOUNT IS CLOSED THE CHECKS AND FUCKING CREDIT CARDS WON’T WORK! Whatever it’s done.
Them: Ah, monsieur, very nice. We must have verification that the cards have been destroyed. Please send them to us.
Me: Huh? You want me to send you credit card scraps? What kind of perversion is this? You are actually demanding that I send you garbage through the international mailing system? Absurd! Whatever, I will play your little game. Here is the refuse you require.
Them: Monsieur, I am pleased to inform you that we have received your financial debris and will process your account closure.
Me: Finally! Please send me the money soon, as March Madness is coming and I need money to bet on basketball with.
Them: [Eye roll.]
Me: (after some more time has passed) Hello? Anyone there?
Them: Ah yes, Monsieur Schwartz. Vee need to verify your account closure request. Please give us your phone number so zat we may call you to confirm that everything is in order.
Me: Makes sense. All the shit that you just put me through isn’t really a good enough indication that I want my account closed. You should really verify that this is what I want to do. Ya, give me a call.
Them: Monsieur, unfortunately we need verification zat zee phone number you have given us is really your phone number. Please verify the verification number by sending us a phone bill with your name on it.
Me: What the fuck is wrong with you? You know what, just keep the money. I’m tired of your shenanigans.
I still don’t have the money. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I kind of miss you France. You’re like a big stupid dog. I can’t get you do anything I want you to do, but you enjoy life and make things interesting. Plus, that cheese!