I knew living here would be expensive with rent and replacing our electrical items (I sold everything with a U.S. plug before moving). But as with the emptiness of August, I was not prepared for the cost of utilities and other fees incurred in France. For example, just to move into our apartment (the one with broken lighting wires dangling from the ceiling, dingy paint and filthy floors) we had to pay the landlord 1,300€. We will never see a cent of that back and we still had to re-wire all the lights ourselves.
The most recent financial irritation I have is with our gas bill. When we moved in, the apartment had been empty for over 10 days, so the gas company turned the gas off. Therefore, we had to not only pay 30€ to get it back on, but then another 40€ to have them do it in less than 7 days because we were living here with no hot water or heat (it was very cold and rainy when we moved here in April). Then, to make matters worse, each month, our gas usage is calculated on our unit size, 60 sqm / 645 sqf, occupants, 2, and number of rooms, 4, including kitchen. Then the gas company figures out a rate, ours is 80€/month and we pay that each month plus a 15€ fee and taxes. Then, at the end of the year, we submit our meter reading and we either pay more money or get money back (we never see the 15€ monthly fee again). It’s so inefficient and the monthly fee is so irritating I am going to turn off the heat and be like Jimmy Carter and put on a sweater!
The next area of the fee obsessed system is with our Caution Bancair. This is our account with HSBC that we had to create with 1 year rent in advance as a deposit for our landlord because neither one of us had any credit in France and only 1 of us had a job. HSBC charges us a 3% monthly fee to keep our money locked in the account. This money gets charged on a quarterly basis and even though we opened the account mid-March, and HSBC’s quarter was ending in April we were charged as if we had the account for the full 3 months before. There is no prorating. We were told that we will get our 3% fees back based on the “investment” class we chose, but I am not convinced as I am sure there will be some calculation that makes us ineligible.
Do I sound bitter? Yes, a bit. Especially because I am powerless with speaking to customer service agents. I wanted to write this post because I think many people may have a romanticized view of living in Paris. In the big picture the few hundred euros that we will spend for this fee or that extra charge, is not going to ruin my experience with this culture, which in general I feel truly at home with. And I will point out that with FREE, our monthly internet, TV and telephone with free unlimited calls to the U.S. is 38€/month with no cancellation fees.
So it’s not all bad, and right now seeing the mess of U.S. political system with voting rights being infringed upon by the Republicans, the rights of women being stripped away with each election, nothing being done to address peoples access to assault weapons (really, who besides a soldier needs an AK-47?) and the corporations de-regulated iron financial fist over the political outcome, I am happy to be in France where women have the right to choose, elections are swift and low-cost and fully-automatic weapons are banned. This picture from the front page of Le Huffington Post France sums up the backwardness of the U.S. Vive la France!