So no, there isn’t as much bureaucracy as I was expecting. But yes, French bureaucracy still deserves its reputation. I was sometimes requested to send out documents that are only required from non-EU citizens (since Finland has only been in the EU for the last 20 years…), and I had to explain several times why I cannot send a copy of my birth certificate (we don’t do birth certificates in Finland). My advice? Stay calm, stay strong and choose your battles wisely (I gave up with ImagineR, the cheaper metro card for students, since they just wouldn’t accept my dossier, no matter what I did)
It’s useful to have a French bank account, since it can save you some money. I opened mine early on since I needed one to get my ImagineR (which I never got). Sciences Po has some special deals with some banks. My bank (Societe Generale) gives around 120 euros to all Sciences Po students who open an account with them. They are not a great bank, and they charge you for small weird things, but I have not actually heard anything good about any French banks. Some might be even worse. Opening an account with Societe Generale was quite straightforward, and closing the account was easy as well – even though the guy working there thought it was a problem I had used my card the previous day to pay for a 1,80 euro metro ticket. He asked me if I could come again the next day. I said no. And suddenly there was no problem at all. Ok…
Housing (and paying for it)
So housing… most likely you will end up living in a small room quite far away from Sciences Po (unless you are lucky and/or rich). Wherever you end up, remember to apply for CAF’s rental assistance. They give you around 100-200 euros a month, which really helps with paying that high Paris rent. Also, remember that housing scams even happen on the Sciences Po housing website. My advice is not to be too picky about where you live. I am quite happy with where I live, especially since the flat is mouse-free unlike too many Glasgow West End flats.
- Mobile phones: Most of my friends went for FreeMobile. I decided I don’t want a contract and went for Lycamobile… my advice? Just go for the FreeMobile thing, it’s easy to end the contract by sending them a little letter.
- Get la carte Monoprix (that is a supermarket… kinda like French Marks & Spencer’s or Waitrose, so not the cheapest, but they often have really good things on offer if you just have the card)
- Consider getting a job, since it’s a good way to escape the Sciences Po bubble – people are always, always, always looking for English-speaking babysitters.
And some last thoughts…
drink wine, go to the boulangerie, enjoy Paris – living in Paris is not always as easy as living in Glasgow. I definitely feel more at home in Glasgow. But I also think Paris is the most inspiring city I have lived in. In Paris it feels like anything is possible (even if the bureaucrats might tell you differently!)