Utilities & all the headaches that come with them Originally posted 06/27/2011

I hate dealing with utilities. Something about electricity, water, rent, cable, cell phones….all necessary parts of life but what a pain in the neck! The days of “automatic debit from my account” were so simple, so nice. But here, if only life were so simple! As I mentioned in my last blog, S went off on a three week stage the Monday after I arrived in Calvi. So, aside from my natural disappointment at having my first “vacation” in the Mediterranean toute seul, my reality check hit when I realized that, um, we needed a home. The hotel life was great, aside from missing the normal small talk as I did not understand a word she said….someone making my bed every day, offering me clean towels and help with wi-fi. However, about halfway through the third week of hotel living, I suddenly had the epiphany that I really would like my own kitchen, my own washing machine, my own sheets (Plus 35 euro/night gets a little pricey!) Thus, the apartment search commenced…..and continued, and continued, and continued…At first, I thought someone would just drop an apartment lease in my lap and eloquently explain it all in English. And after my fourth stop at an immobilier office, as I left crying as the women laughed at me when I asked for an apartment in my broken French, I got S's text. “Baby, I have a good feeling, you’ll get us an apartment at your next stop.” And sure enough, I met Vanessa. She spoke some English, said she “might” have a studio, and even drove me out to the apartment the next day! It certainly wasnt the Taj Mahal, but it was the only available apartment I could find in our price range in 2 weeks, so it was now Chez Nous. I will warn you about going through an agency.....they tend to charge in the neighborhood of one months rent for their services. It was a necessary evil for us at the time, but when we were approached by the Property Manager about another apartment upstairs, we avoided paying the finders fee for
The one upside of a military town is that people understand when a woman comes in, speaking broken French, and looking quite desperate, that she’s the wife of a Legionnaire and that is where the family income originates. However, the bank isn’t always that friendly; even in a small town it took a while for the bank to understand that my photocopies of S's carte d’identite militaire & Releve d’Identite Bancaire were actually legitimately obtained. After the apartment was set, the next major hurdle was getting the electric and water turned on….which I will say is next to impossible in a foreign country, without S with me. However, unlike in America where you can pay with Cash/Check/Visa/Mastercard, here the main forms of payment are virement, prelevement, & mandat compte. And all of these are finalized through the bank, NOT through the utility provider. And this is how the first 6 months of living in France was for me. Every time a bill wasn't delivered for the month, I would go to the office and ask for my statement. They would tell me, "Ca arrive", and I was just supposed to wait for it. UGH madness! What I learned was that each utility defaults to a different cycle, which is never monthly. Electricity is every 2 months and water every 5/6 months. Now I realize that it's very important to specify how long you would like your cycle to be, so that you are not hit with a 400 euro bill after several months of not hearing anything from EDF or Kyrnolia.
Rent is also usually paid through virement, or bank transfer. This is much more helpful that in the US, there is no worry of money orders or waiting for checks to clear. However, many of the landlords for property in Corsica do not live on the island, so if there is a problem with the virement, you are pretty much screwed, unless you have all of her bank information still and can attempt a mandat compte (money order) to her bank account. That is another thing - money orders are completely electronic here, and the paper you receive is just notification of your virement.
Our bank account is through La Poste, a national bank through the post office. The Legion uses the Poste for its banking (I
Think it's Crédit Agricole in 2016), but I encourage any Legion family, as soon as they are able, to open an account with Societe Generale or a similar bank. We have had so many problems with debit cards being denied at the market, Western Union Wiring, and general customer assistance we will be opening a second account as soon as we're able.
Ugh so anyways, just writing this post has given me a horrible headache! I'm happy to answer any questions you have, just post and I will get back to you! Moving on!