What advice would you offer others about banking abroad?
I've lived in two Europeen countries and the banking experiences have been both different and similar. As opposed to the US, there is a well-established practice of using automatic payment for bills. At first, this seems like a convenience, until you want to stop the payment. With checks, we have total control of how much, to whom, and when. In France, I set up an automatic payment for insurance on my account. When I closed the account, I was still being charged the insurance payments (on a closed acount - go figure). I was told that I had to send a letter by certified mail to stop the insurance charges.
For transferring money to the US, England was better. I was able to use an international money order which cost about $10. In France nobody seems to have ever heard of such a thing, so I do electronic transfers, but they are more expensive (about $40 with charges on both ends).
In France the banks have a whole list of charges and there is always a monthly charge for your account and for your card.
For Americans, it's a good idea to keep a US bank account open and active. You never know when you might want to buy a present for someone, or give a family member some money, or to pay a bill in the US. It's also a good idea to have a credit card from the US for your return visits (also because credit cards are rare in France - I don't know anybody with one nor how to get one myself). Unfortunately, many US websites will not allow you to use a credit card with a foreign address for payment. (Continue)
What advice would you give someone preparing to move to your area about the actual move, choosing a neighborhood and finding a home?
Moving here was the best thing I've ever done. The
French lifestyle suits me better, although there are
plenty of things I miss. I was quite surprised when I
learned how the people outside of the US view
Americans and the American way of life. I felt
suddenly very exposed. I suppose I had assumed that
Americans amuse themselves with TV and movies, a lot
of it being self-parodying and self-referencing, and
that other countries did the same thing. What I wasn't
prepared for is that the rest of the world sees and is
interested in all that we do. That not only do they
see the good stuff, but they see all of the silly,
dumb things too (Cops, Dude, Where's My Car?, Jerry
Then there's the stereotype of France which Americans
harbor unconsciously. French people all seem to have a
similar story of how some Americans came to visit,
carrying with them every modern convenience (like
toilet paper) in the belief that here in France, all
they would find would be chamberpots and donkeys
pulling vegetable carts. The fact that I too had this
impression makes me feel both embarrassed for all
Americans and closer to my fellow Americans that I've
I've noticed that small changes in culture can have
profound significance on the psyche, while at the same
time the world looks more and more homogenous.