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Moving to France: Appliances and Utilities 0

By Diana Morales

Summary: Moving to France? Advice from Diana Morales, an expat in France, about appliances and utilities.

A) Telephone

In order to have a telephone in your home, you will have to go through France Telecom. As of now there are no other local carriers. Most buildings have telephone lines already installed. If this is the case for you, it will cost less to reactivate it and a technician does not have to come to the home. You will have to provide some paperwork including a piece of identification and a copy of your rental agreement. If a line is not installed, the cost is more and you will to have a technician come to the home.

To pay your phone bill, one option is to have an automatic debit. In order to do this, you will have to bring proof of your bank account to France Telecom when you sign up. Bills generally come every two months and should be paid immediately as they will not hesitate to disconnect you. This is one reason the automatic debit can be practical, especially if you tend to procrastinate. If you pay by check, be sure to include the detachable part of the bill. You can also pay your bill without a check by sending in a copy of your bank account information. The company will then debit your bank account directly, but only for the current bill. Finally, you have the option to pay in cash at the post office, but there is a charge for this service.

The good news is that France Telecom has a help line in English. From Monday to Friday, 9:30am-5:30pm, you can call toll free at 0800 364 775. You can also email them in english at If you already have a phone line and have a question concerning your service, you can call the International Client Service Number at 08 00 05 05 75.

B) Electricity/Gas

Upon signing your lease, have the local gas and electricity supplier come and read the meter so that you are not paying for the former tenant. The company that does this is EDF/GDF (Eléctricité/Gaz de France). Electricity and gas bills can be paid by check, automatic debit or at the post office as with your telephone bill.

C) Water

If you live in a house or if your apartment has a meter, you will receive a bill. But if you live in a building where the water is collective, the cost will be part of the charges as is usually the case. Payment can be made in the same way as your telephone or electricity bill.

Use of the Telephone

Local phone calls are not included in your monthly charges so be careful, particularly if you are calling mobile phones. The cost to call a mobile phone can be as much or more than an international call! All numbers in France are ten numbers, starting with a 2-digit area code. To call outside of France, you will have to dial 00, plus the country code, plus the phone number and if you want to make a collect call, dial 00 33 + the country code. If you need to call information, the number is simply 12. Note, you will likely have to speak french for this service. International directory assistance can be dialed at 00 33 12 plus the country code.

A) Some country codes

Australia 61
Austria 43
Argentina 54
Belgium 32
Brazil 55
Canada 1
China 86
Egypt 20
Finland 358
France 33
Germany 49
Greece 30
Guadeloupe 590
Hong Kong 852
India 91
Ireland 353
Israel 972
Italy 39
Japan 81
Luxembourg 352
Mexico 52
Netherlands 31
Norway 47
Poland 48
Portugal 351
Russia 7
Spain 34
Switzerland 41
Singapore 65
South Africa 27
Sweden 46
Taiwan 886
Turkey 90
United Kingdom 44
United States 1

For a complete list of country codes including regional codes for each, click here.

B) Public Telephones

Most public telephones operate with a télécarte, or phone card, that you can buy at any tabac, post office, or newsstand. The cost is 40FF for 50 units or 96FF for 120 units and they can be used for international calls. Just beware that your units will decrease more quickly. The same is true is you call a cell phone. Occasionally you will find an old coin operated phone in a café or bar, but these are becoming more and more rare.

C) Cell Phones

Mobile Phones have become extremely popular in France in the last few years. Many people even choose to disconnect their home phone and use only a cell phone. This is due to the high rates of France Telecom not being able to compare. There are currently three networks to choose from: Itineris which is part of France Telecom, Bouygues, and SFR. Choosing which one is best will depend on your lifestyle. Rates have gotten very competitive with some plans allowing unlimited weekend and/or evening calls. It is best to shop around as promotional offers are constantly changing. Another option is to buy a phone without a subscription. France Telecom offers the Mobicarte option, for example, which for one flat price you get a phone, a card worth up to 30 minutes of calling, and other merchandise. You can get a similar package with SFR's Entré Libre or Bouygues' Nomad. These are good options for people who don't make a lot of calls but need the phone to be contacted or in case of an emergency. The rates per minute tend to be very high, so if you do make a lot of calls, it's best to go with a long term plan.

D) Discount Long Distance Providers

If you plan on calling home often, you may want to consider checking out some of the discount providers. There are many options and the choice can be overwhelming. In addition, rates change all the time and the provider who is cheapest one month may not be the next month. You should also consider the times you call, which countries, and the length of your calls. If you have a good idea of the types of call you make, a good idea would be to check out www.budgetelecom.com. The site is in French, but with a little help, you will be able to work your way through. There is a space on the site where you can enter all the information about a call including time of day/week and the destination. It will give you a list of providers with the cost from each of them. Fortunately many providers are free to sign up so you can sign up for several. Then you can compare quality as well. Remember, the cheapest provider may not offer very good service.

One thing to look for when researching these companies is to see if you need to make a local call first. For some services, you will call a local number, punch in a code, and then dial the international number. The international call will be billed by the long distance company, but the local part of the call will still show up on your France Telecom bill. If you get a callback service, you will dial a local number, but only for a minute or so. With this system, you punch in a code and hang up. Then the system calls you back, generally with a foreign dial tone on the other end. You are then free to make your international call. You should also see if there is a monthly charge for any services you are considering.

Another option is to buy a pre-paid calling card. You can usually find them in small phone shops and they are sometimes advertised in the FUSAC. They often come in various increments and will tell you the cost of a call per minute to several countries. Sometimes when the card is empty, you can no longer use it, but some will allow you to recharge them with your credit card by calling a local number written on the card. This is usually an automated service with a choice of languages.

Overall, these services are worth the extra hassle. Just be sure to shop around, even when you've already chosen one.


A predecessor to the internet, the Minitel dates back to the early 80's and was actually quite avant-garde for the time. Unfortunately, it never developed internationally as did the internet, but it is still in use in France. The Minitel plugs into a regular phone line and with it, you can access various information such as job advertisements, telephone directories and ticket information. Cost is per minute and can be quite expensive, although the first three minutes are free

If you don't have a Minitel at home, you can find one in post offices, France Telecom offices and in many cafes, restaurants and hotels.


Any television in France will be able to receive 5 regular channels. During part of the day, you will also be able to receive Canal Plus. However, you will need a decoder to use Canal Plus during prime time when it mostly shows newer films. All channels show programs from various countries and almost all are dubbed into French. Occasionally there is an exception on Arte where movies can sometimes be seen in their original languages with French subtitles. If you want more channels, you will have to get cable which you can only get if your building is already hooked up. This should not be a problem in larger cities and suburbs. With cable, you will be able to receive programs in their original languages, including BBC World, BBC Prime, CNN, and MTV all in English.

You should know that there is an annual tax for having a television whether it is owned or rented. The cost is the same for any number of televisions at one residence, but if you have a second home, you will have to pay a separate tax for that residence as well. As of January 1, 2000, the cost of this tax is 751FF for a color set of any size, and 479FF for a black and white set of any size. This money goes towards funding France's two state run channels, France 2 and France 3.

Internet Use

Probably the most important thing you should remember before subscribing to the internet is that local phone service IS NOT INCLUDED! Though most providers offer a flat rate for unlimited usage, your phone bill can be sky high if you spend more than a few hours surfing. For expats, it can be surprising how many hours are spent on the computer, especially once you discover the convenience of email to your friends and family overseas. Fortunately, there are many options now and some providers will allow free telephone access for up to a fixed amount of hours per month. If most of your internet time is spent on email, you may want to consider installing Outlook Express. This system will allow you to read and respond to all of your mail offline and can save you many hours of phone usage AND busy signals. Finally, you may want to consider cable. With this service, you can bypass your phone line and France Telecom.

A) Providers

Wanadoo www.wanadoo.fr 08 01 10 51 05
AOL www.aol.com 01 43 16 44 44
Compuserve www.compuserve.com 01 36 63 81 22
Club-Internet www.club-internet.fr 01 47 45 99 00
Freesbee www.freesbee.fr 08 25 34 13 42
Calvanet www.calvanet.fr 01 34 63 19 19
Easynet France www.easynet.fr 01 44 54 53 33
EUNet www.Eunet.fr 01 53 81 60 60
France Pratique www.pratique.fr 01 05 06 79 27
IBM www.ibm.net 01 49 31 67 80
ImagiNet www.imaginet.fr 01 43 38 10 24
Internet Plus www.iplus.fr 01 44 61 80 00
Internet Way www.iway.fr 01 41 43 21 10
Micronet www.micronet.fr 01 43 92 28 82
PlaNETe-PC Internet www.planetepc.fr 01 43 98 22 22
World-Net www.sct.fr 01 40 37 90 90

B) Internet through Cable

One option is to have your internet service provided by a cable company. The most well known company that does this in France is called Lyonnaise Cable, with an internet service called Cybercable. You can get more information on them through www.cybercable.fr or by calling 0 800 25 80 00 or 01 53 44 89 99. You can ask them questions directly or request a brochure. There is a long waiting list to join Cybercable and service may not be what you are used to. However, with the growth of the market and competition, it is likely service will quickly improve. Any of you from the United States will remember when AOL first announced unlimited usage and all the problems that caused. Cybercable, as well as other regular providers, are simply going through the same process.

France Telecom also has a cable service called Wanadoo which you can phone at 0 801 300 300 or try NumeriCable which you can call at 0 801 10 10 10. These two companies may not be available in all parts of France yet.

C) Web Cafés (Paris)

Cyber Cube 5, rue Mignon, 75006 or 12, rue Daval, 75011

Cyber Café 47, avenue Wagram, 75017

WEB 3 Espace Internet, L'Emporium 11, bd de Sébastopol, 75001

UGC WorldNet Café Forum des Halles , 75001

Riva Multimedia 4, rue Quatre Septembre, 75002

Le Web Bar 32, rue de Picardie, 75003

Café Cox 15, rue des Archives, 75004

Net Coffee 27, rue Lacépède, 75005

Orbital Quartier Latin 13, rue de Médicis75006

Cyber Restaurant 42, av des Champs-Elysées, 75008

Bistro Internet 40, blvd Haussmann, 75009

Gaumont Parnasse 3, rue Odessa, 75014 74, blvd du Montparnasse, 75014

High Tech Café Centre Commercial Tour Montparnasse 66, blvd Montparnasse, 75015 (above C&A)

Planet Cyber 173, rue de Vaugirard, 75015

Web Side Story 6, place Saint Pierre 78100 St. Germain en Laye

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First Published: Aug 27, 2001

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