How Things (do not) Work in France

So the good news is that we moved in on Dec 30th and so were able to see  the new year in at our new abode – yay! Furniture is in place, new appliances have been delivered, and the bedroom now has curtains. Next step: armoires (there are NO closets in the apartment), kitchen cabinets, and curtains for living room.

The bad news is, we’re living in a communications-free zone. Although our internet router arrived without a glitch, nothing happened when we plugged it in. This was not a surprise–3-month long battles for internet hookup seem to be a right of passage for all French residents, sort of like military service in Switzerland. Unfortunately,  since our “fixed” phone & TV are supposed to also come through our internet connection, we don’t have those yet, either. 

So now our battle begins. To give you a snapshot of what it’s like to settle in France – and why I haven’t even gotten around to the job hunt yet – here is a typical example of How Things (Don’t) Work In France:


Step 1 – Eagerly unpack router and plug in according to instructions. Nothing happens. Try with the 2 other outlets in apartment. Same.

Step 2 – Phone the (toll) number for customer service. Recorded voice asks for our 8-digit client ID. WHAT client ID?  It’s not in the confirmation letter the ISP sent to us. It seems the only way to get it is by checking our online account. as there is NO way to reach an actual human by phone. Trust me, I tried.


Step 3 – Go to internet cafe, log in to our account online, and click away until we find client ID. Write it down.


Step 4 – Dial customer support once more. After entering the all-important 8-digit client ID, I am then asked for 4-digit access code. WHAT access code? Curse for a while, then distract ourselves with Ikea shelving.


Step 5 – Return to cafe, log on to our ‘client space’ and go to our account details. The ‘Access Code’ field is BLANK. Moan softly. However, notice that there is another number you can phone where roving technicians can come by within 2 hours if your problem cannot be resolved over the phone. Begin to rejoice…

Step 6 – Stop rejoicing when I look down at cell phone. Notice that although battery is charged, there’s no signal. Try calling HerrKaa – “Phone Not in Service” displays. Do not understand why, as I just added credits last week.

Step 7 – Try to check my mobile account online, the same online account I had to create last week when I needed to add credits from Germany. Log in fails: Incorrect password. Click the “Forgot your password?” link and enter cell phone #. Confirmation message appears: Password sent to cell phone. Naturally. 

Sigh, shrug, debate ordering another chocolat chaud à l’ancienne and enjoy watching the snow gently falling on the fountain in Place Maubert. The good & the bad, it’s all part of la vie parisienne….


3 thoughts on “How Things (do not) Work in France

  1. First of all, Happy New 2009!
    Sounds like you had a fabo Christmas . I loved the pics, the candles on the tree and the incessant eating of glorious food. Yum. That is my kind of holiday!

    As for your description of the enormity of the bureaucracy involved in getting internet access.. I was rolling on the floor of my cube giggling. Your tale made me realize that I’m an amateur when it comes to those things. I would have been stumped at the requirement for internet access to obtain codes to enable internet access! Oh, and the phone thing was killer. You couldn’t come up with comedy like that if you set out to do that. Have you thought of turning the france-ification process tale into a comedic play?

    Do chat about the appliances when you have a chance. Did you get the bells&whistles you desired?

    ta fer now.

  2. Pingback: How Things (do not) Work in France, continued « Pain au Chocolat

  3. Pingback: It’s weird, but good, to be back | Pain au Chocolat

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