Saturday, 9 October 2010

A little culture shock creeping in

Busy day, and I was really on to it. I hauled myself reluctantly out of bed, dressed and breakfasted and tidied up.

My clothes washing has to be done in the kitchen sink. It's not easy as a sink is not very large. Then I must wring each thing out and dump it into an old broken plastic crate to transport it into the bathroom, fill the bath with rinsing water, swish and wring and then hang it all out on a little airer to drip outside (hoping it won't rain out there). It drips but never dries out there because the sun only hits my door briefly in the early morning and then it's gone for the rest of the day. It's like going down to the river in the old days, before washing machines and wringers. I use a gel product instead of washing powder as it takes up less room to store and mixes better in a small space.

I don't know how I will cope when I have to wash my bedlinen. There's no outside line and in the middle of winter that won't be an option anyway. I'll have to lug it to a laundromat and wait hours for it to wash and dry. Pooh.

It was pleasant in the autumn sun, walking through the markets to the supermarket and pottering around there. The checkout operator was very friendly and attentive. Some of security staff are starting to recognise me. It's a nice 'local' but selections are limited so I thought I'd go home, unload the groceries and try to discover a bigger commercial centre. I wanted to look for furniture and a TV.

Crikey, the gadgets you can buy for a french kitchen are amazing, and rather specialised (except the electric crepe pan looked really good). But I don't have room for any gadgets and who have I got to cook for anyway? I was thinking of getting a wee TV but when I saw the prices I thought I'd probably be better off doubling my budget and getting something decent in HD. I have no entertainment and social life- a TV might need to fill the void and a decently big one might be good to have during the 4-5 months of 'winter'. I'm considering that but the studio can't accommodate a TV as it is at present. And this is where the culture shock comes in...

As a landlord in NZ I must ensure everything works in the house before the tenants move in. Every light bulb and blind, appliance, key etc. It's very different in France. Here you just rent the space. I have very poor lighting in the bathroom and one specialised bulb has never worked. I was told to replace it myself. That wasn't easy as it is not standard and I had no idea where to find one. I've had to bus all over Cafeolait hoping to find a shop that sells them-expensive exercise so I can wear some makeup and wash at night.

The window coverings are permanently down and don't go up and down so they permit no light at all 24/7. I was told by my 'landlord' if I wanted something that worked I must install my own fittings and curtains myself at my own expense. That's the way it is here. Unless the electricity supply is not connected or the plumbing doesn't work -anything else? you're on your own. Most kitchens don't have an oven or microwave or fridge let alone a dishwasher-just a sink, often not even any benchtop. No curtains are supplied. Every time you move you have to change things. Hells bells what an expense- great for the landlords if they are renting an investment. No wonder people don't move if they can help it. What with changing service suppliers and all it's a major hassle and expense to move.

I've sent a proposal to the professor. I'll agree to upgrade the studio at my expense and stay there if he removes his stuff to give me some room. It would probably be logistically easier and cheaper for me to do that. Unfortunately if anyone wants to stay with me they will have to sleep with me in my bed because there is no bedroom, Hmm. Probably won't be any takers for that but hope it won't put Laura off coming anyway. Maybe we can stay in some cheap hotels together in different parts of France during her stay, as well as my studio (if the professor agrees to my proposal). When my personal effects eventually get here (God knows when) it's going to be rather cramped.

I had arranged a meeting this afternoon with a member of couchsurfing who happens to be a real estate agent. I learnt all the above horrifying details and that my budget was minimal but I would not be able to spend much more than I do. It would be possible to find something eventually but I must kit out all furniture and other chattles and curtains and appliances myself. Oh God (hence my proposal idea). The agent's name is Jerome (yeah, yeah, not his fault though, he doesn't know the story behind this comment- wait for my book to be written). He's affable and tried to be helpful. He called into one of the agencies here with me as he knows them. Jerome doesn't do rentals but will have his colleague look out for something. In the meantime I have an appointment to look at one on Saturday morning next week. Not great but I've got to start my search with something.

After Jerome left I called on 4 other agencies on my own. It's tricky trying to get one's needs across and listen to their explanations of something you have no idea about. I'm picking up some essential vocab and now I know what they need to know from me. I was pleased I managed to sit down and talk with them but they said stuff that was probably important but I could only nod or ask them to say it slower or more simply. They were all good-natured about this- me and my incompetent french but I know a lot of important stuff went over my head- oh minefields! Oh, and they all need a massive fee upon successful completion, except one agency that required I pay 150 euros up front as sole agency. I declined, explaining I needed several agencies to work for me and i hadn't been paid yet.Then they would have wanted the massive fee on completion of the rental agreement.

Oh boy. I love France but for me this whole exercise has been and will continue to be a big financial drain. Am I being foolhardy needing to have my few personal belongings with me when it costs so much for the luxury? Only time will answer that.


Alison said...

No, you're not being foolhardy at all. You need to have some personal connections. And you need some light! The ideal set-up would be to find a nice little studio somewhere with a laundromat next door!
It sounds as if you are hanging in there emotionally pretty well, considering all the 'stuff' you are having to deal with. Keep it up!

Defogger said...

Hi Frances,
Your story is certainly full and exciting. It will make a fabulous book. And I cannot understand why having to share a bed with you would be reason to be put off visiting.:-) Plenty of other things might, but not that. LOL
Hoping we connect on Skype for a chat soon.
Love and hugs

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