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The countless employee handbooks, pamphlets and brochures the French ministry of education has sent me over the past three months have all aimed to drive home a single, solitary point: you’re on your own.

Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the dilemma surrounding my lodgings when I arrive to France. To clarify: I do not have them. I will not have them until after I arrive, and even then it might be days or weeks before I even have an idea of where I’ll be living for the next seven months. I am assured that this is not out of the ordinary, that hundreds of assistants arrive every year in the same situation, that it would be silly to sign a lease before I’ve seen the apartment or its neighborhood.

True though it may be, none of this is comforting for someone who will be arriving in an unfamiliar town with, oh I don’t know, about seven months worth of luggage.  And as a technology-addicted twenty-something, I am having a hard time coping with the fact that rural French villages do not, in fact, have an active presence on Craigslist. If you Google search “Martigues Craigslist,” the only results are real estate listings on Martigues Drive in Orlando, Florida. Although I have sent several inquiry emails to large real estate companies operating in the area, my best bet is almost certainly going to be to show up in person at a real estate agency in Martigues and request an appointment. Which is where the real fun begins.

As I learned from my six months in Paris, the French still possess a remarkable affinity for human interaction.  While charming in some ways, it is downright infuriating in others.  American services like Peapod or Fresh Direct would be inconceivable to the average French person, who knows his or her baker, butcher, grocer, sommelier and cheese expert personally. Sure. I’m on board with that.

There is no such thing as a toll-free number. If you are having trouble setting up your WiFi network, you have pay €0.40/minute for the privilege of customer service. Not so awesome.

When you open a bank account, you have to do so at a specific bank branch, and, if you ever need to make any changes to your account, you have to return to that specific branch to speak to the bank manager. Not so bad when you are a permanent resident of a place, but when you don’t yet know where you’ll be living, picking a conveniently-located bank branch can be tricky. Oh, and they won’t let you open a bank account without an address. Which wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that most landlords will not rent you an apartment without a French bank account. You see my dilemma.

None of this, however, is news. I was warned about the never-ending loop that is French real estate, and, like a fool, believed that I had outsmarted it.  I contacted my school district, who graciously offered to open me a bank account before my arrival. All I had to do was sign some papers when I got there and everything would be set. Just got an email from them a few days ago, congratulating me, welcoming me, and casually mentioning that I could sign my bank documents and receive my essential account information at the training session in mid-October.

Um.

Now I must rely on the magic of wire transfers/traveler’s checks/my Austrian roommate’s European bank account to secure housing. I’m not sure if the latter trusts me, but she just broke her leg (falling off her moto while reading a Twilight novel in German, I imagine), so since she can’t come apartment-hunting with me anyway she’ll just have to accept it.

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