Help! Newbie advice badly needed for finding a maison and bank. :-\

Bonjour from an expat newbie.

My name is Dan. 
My wife, Deb,  and I are newly-minted expats.
(Meaning, we have 12-month visas in-hand,
jobs lined up, and have been in France for 6 weeks, now.  ;-)

We have lived in Colorado US for the past 20 years or so.
But with embarking to Aix en  for a 2-3 year stay, we are already finding ourselves in a frustrating logistical limbo.

We're hoping some of you experienced hands can point us in a good direction.

Short and to the point, we're having a tough time with two interrelated things: housing and banking.  (And none of this seems to be about money, really!)

It's like, we can't get into a flat because we have no French credit (or rental) history.
We have a credit score over 800 in the US, but it doesn't seem to matter in France.
I have a letter from my  US employer stating income and job arrangement.
But am told "this is an American document, so no good."  :-(
We've even offered to put 6 months rent down in advance.  That's not helping, either...

We've contacted one of the larger French banks online.
And they haven't even bothered to call back!  And it sounds like without an address, we can't set up an account.

Frankly, our only basic (so-far) command of the French language makes this problem all the harder.

And for both the flat and bank, I get deal-breaker questions like,
"Do you have someone who can vouch for you?"

What is the best way to get out of this purgatory?

We can get a VRBO off-season for 2-3 months, but really desire something more permanent than this.  As the whole process is already unsettling, so all the more need to feel grounded.

Any advice at all is sincerely appreciated.

merci beaucoup,


Hi Dan

I may be able to help you on the housing issue. We run a rentals website focused on ex-pats, with properties you can rent from 3 months to 12 months and longer. Where are you looking to be based in France?

Hi Lavers69,
Salon-de-Provence, Lancon, or maybe even Aix-en-Provence.
We've had "boots on the ground" for some weeks and have a
pretty strong preference for this area.

Hi Dan and Deb,
You are right, US credit counts for nothing here! Other things (such as justificatif de domicile) are just as important here as the credit report is in the states.
You can use your vrbo address to get a bank account - try Crédit Agricole, as they take Americans. You will need to get some documents from your vrbo owner: a copy of his French ID, a copy of a recent utility bill in his name, and a copy of your rental agreement. You may also need an attestation from him that you live at that address (but the rental agreement should work). These combine to form your "justificatif de domicile," very important here, and needed for everything.
You then get insurance on the vrbo (you probably need this anyway) -AXA will do this, as well as others. This shows a further tie to the region, which the banks like.
It will take some time to get your account up and available (count on at least a week from when you have brought your documents and started the process - you need an appointment for that). Then transfer a good chunk of money (we use transferwise, but there are others). Rental agents are not impressed with your rental US history, nor with how much money you have in your US bank. If the money is not in a French bank, it doesn't count.
Here are a few posts about our process: … zards.html … nking.html
It can be extremely frustrating, but there is a way!
Good luck,

Hi again,
You say your French is "basic" - is it good enough to get your bank account going? Many bankers speak a bit of English, so you could get over some tricky moments. You could try walking in, asking for an appointment for an account, and see how it goes.
But if not, you may be better off with a relocation and/or interpretation service. You could ask at your tourist office or Hôtel de ville for recommendations. I don't know if you have an Alliance française or GRETA nearby, but they may have some interpretation recommendations as well. I have heard of, but have absolutely zero experience with them.

Thank you, Julie!

Also looking for a new place to rent if large enough. Please send your details.

Just a note of concern all Europeans need to know:
ECB Proposes End To Deposit Protection … protection

(EU) 8 of the largest banks said to be ready to discuss financial settlements with the European Commission (EC) over a 4-yr probe into allegations they formed a cartel to rig the $5.3T global foreign exchange market - FT

IMF Proposed a Capital Levy – Tax on Money in Bank Accounts & Raise Property Taxes
Can take 10% of any deposit in a European Bank. … rty-taxes/

I got a bank account at Credit  Agricole, showing lease and US ID which is normally social security card. But I was married to a Frenchman at the time so everything was easy since I had a carte de sejour but you should have no problem opening an account. Keep using it:  they put a hold on mine since I did not use for 4 years when I left France and I have to re-show all my ID proof to get money out!.
Are you in Aix already or moving? La Bon Coin is a good place to find housing if you are already there.... try not to go through realtor unless you earn "3 times the rental" ! It's very  hard for landlords to evict renters and agents want a guarantee of income.

Dan, Julie is correct but be aware: you will experience  CONSTANT  frustration dealing with the French system. it is just like that, the paperwork is ridiculous and lunch breaks cut the day so everything takes a long long time, even the basics..... So start meditating now! I lived for years in Provence and everything seems even slower there.
Curious: how are you getting your long stay visa? Mine was through marriage but now I have to re apply as not married to a Frenchman in order to return for long periods.

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