Opening a French Bank Account

Recently, I discovered just how different banking and France from banking in the United States. We were able to make it financially here in France for the first several months with the money we brought with us, but recently we have had to look into opening a bank account here since we plan to stay longer. We have a debit card we can use internationally without paying extra transaction fees, but realize we still need a bank account to deposit our earnings.

One thing we quickly noticed here in France, is how the credit and debit card systems work differently here. There are two kinds of cards you can have, credit cards and ATM cards. If you are using a credit card, you can make charges on it and take out money from an ATM. If you have an ATM card, you can only take cash out of an ATM, not make any purchases.

Below are some of the things we have learned about opening an account in France:

  • Set up an appointment with a banker that speaks English. Have them discuss the options with you and make sure you read all the fine print regarding their monthly charges, online banking, etc. This is important even if you speak French fluently, because some of the banking terms they use may be different than what you’re used to.
  • When you go to the bank, take your proof of residence, your passport, and any other paperwork you need to show you are working in France.
  • Never try to open a bank account in France from your home country. Opening the account once you are there is so much simpler.
  • Ensure that the bank you choose charges a flat fee for transferring funds to a non-European bank account. This way, if you decide to leave the country for good, you will know how much money you will lose instead of having to worry about a percentage.
  • Find a bank that is close by and convenient to where you live or work. You will have to visit the bank in France more than you would if you were in the US.


Hopefully, the lessons we learned in opening a bank account will help you if you ever visit France. We are glad to have this step behind us now and the ability to transfer funds to and from our accounts in the states.


French Family Life

I am often asked what makes family life in France different than elsewhere. Truthfully, a lot less than you likely think.

Families in France tend to eat together more often with their meal times being more formal. Often times, though, a television will be playing off to the side, so it’s not exactly family bonding time. The French focus more on the quality of their drink and food, and less on the quantity. Every family will sit down to two proper meals a day at minimum. It is rare to find someone grabbing a quick sandwich and leaving.

It is very common to have extended families living together in France. Typically, a family owns the same piece of property for generations and those that leave the nest will typically only go a short ways down the road. This keeps families close. Overcrowding is not an issue as young people go off and get married or escaped to the big city for work.

Families in France tend to have a lot of discipline in the home. This leads them to children who are generally well-behaved at church and school with very little aggression or bullying. It’s not that they are abusive towards their children, it’s more of an understanding between the adults and children that they will do as they’re told.

I’ve also noticed that children in France seem to help out around the homesteads more than in other places. There is always something to be done, and children are included in the chores. Of course, it could have to do with there being less extracurricular activities available for children to take up their time.

When you go to a restaurant, you may see the French dunking a croissant into their hot chocolate. That’s one of the things that first threw me off when we arrived in France. Yeah, I know, nothing big. These small things are the only things I’ve really noticed different about family life in France compared to other countries.


Obtaining a License in France

With our daughter, Stephanie, turning 16 years old, we decided to start looking at what it would take for her to get a drivers license in France. It is a very different process from other countries.

We discover the first thing we need in this process is patience. Though a student can start the process is 16 years old, the entire process will take around 18 months to complete. A student has to first pass a highway code test which typically takes a couple of months to do. They will take a series of mock tests until they score well and are able to take the real one. The catch is, you don’t want to rush this step, because each time you fell you have to pay again. This step must be completed before ever sitting behind the wheel of a car.

Once the student passes the test, they began taking driving lessons. They are required to take at least 20 hours worth, costing quite a bit of money. The instructor takes the learner out and works through a list of lessons and tasks the student will need to become a competent driver. The longer it takes the driver to catch on to concepts, the more costly it becomes.

The good thing is, though, that the final test is filled very rarely because the instructor will not sign off on the paperwork until the student is ready to move on. Many times, the instructor will require the new driver to take extra hours of lessons, which, of course, will cost you more money.

When at the driving school, you must have designated accompanying drivers, those who are experienced and have had a license for a minimum of three years. This is when you also let your insurance company know about the new driver.

The French learning drivers during their first year must keep a record of all trips they make, notate in the distance, the weather, etc. There will also be a couple intermediate tests throughout the first year to monitor the drivers progress.

Once the learner has finish this step, they will take one last test at the driving school before they can drive on their own. Regardless, they must be 18 years old before they can get a drivers license.

As you can see, the process is quite different than it is in the states. I suppose it’s a great way to learn the skills necessary for driving, though.