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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Frugal Son Changes Francs to Euros

Ummmmm. Did I mention that I was in California, with very limited internet access? Luckily, I have another missive from Frugal Son. We did the same thing when we were in France last summer.

Monday January 16, 2012: Bref. Je suis allé à la Banque de France.
Today I did what Mama and Papa have been nagging me to do for months and finally went to the Banque de France to exchange the 100 franc note for euros. In addition to Mama and Papa’s constant reminders, there were a few other factors that were the ultimate impetus for my trip. For one, the euro had recently “celebrated” its 10th anniversary—although celebrated seems a little strong for the somber mood that surrounds the euro these days—and France was entering the waning weeks in which franc notes would be able to be turned into euro. Coins had already long passed this point, becoming valueless in 2005, but bills are still exchangeable until February 17. In addition to the limited time left to exchange, there was also the problem of my very limited funds following my Winter Vacation extravaganza in Germany and the Alps, which meant that the 15.24€ that the 100 francs would get me was suddenly a very enticing sum that would actually have a tangible effect on my day-to-day financial situation. I don’t work on Mondays, so in the morning I was free to go to the bank. I ended up getting a late start, so I had to walk briskly to get to the bank before they closed for lunch at 12.15. Fortunately, the bank was just about an eight-minute walk straight up the road that runs in front of the lycée, and though I had passed it many times on my way to the market, I managed to “get lost” (in reality it was just further up the road than I remembered) and had to ask directions from a postal employee. The building is surrounded by a tall metal fence, which also has panels to prevent you from even seeing in. The only public entrance was a little door in the fence where I had to push a button and then wait for someone to talk to me on the intercom. After a long wait (I even contemplated pushing the button again, but decided not to for fear of seeming suspicious or something) someone finally came on and asked me what I was there for and if I had identification; once I responded the door slowly swung open. Next, I had to press another button to get through the door into a little entrance room, where I was confronted by yet more doors! I again had to press a button and wait for permission to go through this door, which lead me into a tiny little air-lock type room with a machine for scanning IDs. I had to place my passport against a little scanner and then wait for approval before pushing the button and waiting for the next door to open. Finally I was in the actual bank, which was totally empty. I went to a guichet that was specially assigned for people exchanging francs and, after ringing the bell, briefly waited for the employee to show up. He took the francs, my passport, asked me about my address in Le Mans before handing me a full-page receipt to sign and handing over the euro bills. I left—once again going through all the doors—happy to have a bit of extra money to pay for some “exceptional” expenses, most notably a hair cut!


Duchesse said...

Getting into some French banks makes you feel like you're being incarcerated! (Has he even tried applying for a checking account?) Wonder if people will continue to hoard francs.

Blue Jeans Girl said...

Wow, all that to exchange some money. In Europe the whole banking environment is much more formal and purposefully intimidating than it is here. No coffee and donuts in the lobby. I have tagged you for a meme and hope you'll consider participating. The details are over at my blog.

Shelley said...

I had an awful time finding a bank in Newcastle that I could bear to do business with. Barclays couldn't get my name spelled write on cheques or deposit slips (different mistakes on each), but the cash point was the nearest and most convenient. Lloyds was going to insist that I close every other (ie Barclays) account and I didn't consider my other accounts any of their business. Another, I can't recall which, had a bouncer type at the door on Friday mid-day and when I said I wanted to open an account, he told me I'd need to make an appointment. I walked off, figuring that if it was that hard to put money in, I might never be able to get it back out. I was practically in love with NatWest for years, though they do pay their stupid executives an appalling amount of money (one was given an annual £11 million retirement just as the government was pouring money into his failing bank).

I've often read that the Rrench love their bureaucracy and what better place to be bureaucratic than in a bank?

Duchesse said...

Americans are often surprised by the barriers and formality of banking in other countries.

First time I was served coffee and donuts in a bank,in Oklahoma in the early '80s, I was astonished!

In Canada the banks were- and still are- in the British model (they founded them): formal and ensconced; there are only five. And they still do not serve coffee unless it is Customer Appreciation Day. Donuts, never, though I once saw peppermints.

Blue Jeans Girl said...

Peppermints would be a much better option I think. I'm not sure it's ever a very good idea to mix hot drinks, sticky treats and currency -- a recipe for disaster on many fronts.

Funny about Money said...

I love the letters your son writes! Who would think anyone under the age of 50 could still practice the epistolary art?

And what a strange experience!

Banking in other countries truly is strange for Americans. I have a client who's Dutch (though she lives in Japan). When I finished editing her book, she had to send a money order, because in the Netherlands checks are practically nonexistent. My request to be paid with a check came across to them as weird and alien.