So let me bring you up to speed on my time in France. Whilst I have visited France a few times in my youth with my family, been on an exchange to the South of France and a week long work experience in Nancy my French is not exactly flowing with vocabulary and prowess. In recent years I have spent short holidays with my family-to-be in the quaint and vibrant city of Strasbourg and now I have finally moved in. Whilst an exciting and slightly intimidating prospect this was for me I could never have anticipated just how complicated and overwhelming it would be. Not only is there a language barrier between myself and my finacé's family but also many cultural and ingrained habitual differences too. Who knew when I should take my morning shower could cause so much disruption?! On the whole however, my first week here have been quite fun. From starting my blog for my 'avid readers' to the adventure of working out how to take a bus and a train on my own.
I am very fond of my mother and father-in-law-to-be and my fiancé's brother, his wife and daughter (and ever the daughter to come – I shall call her The Bump), but as they say 'there ain't enough room in this town for all of us!' Hence my finacé and I are applying full steam ahead in our venture to find a flat of our own. You would think this would be a straight forward process but there are many differences between flat hunting in Britain and flat hunting in France (which are also hindered by our natural bad luck when it comes to getting flats no matter where we are!) So what are these difference I hear you ask! Well, first of all where to look. In Britain there are many good national websites such as www.rightmove.co.uk alongside regional pages such as www.s1rental.co.uk. In France it has been a little more tricky to find websites which advertised the type of flat we want. For instance in Britain to find a furnished flat is as easy as one which is unfurnished or partial. In France they are much more inconspicuous on websites such as www.vivastreet.fr, www.leboncoin.fr and www.seloger.fr. You often have to trawl each advert for 'meublé' as there often isn't a furnished option to tick. Not to mention there are variations on the differences between 'meublé' – furnished and 'equipée' – equipped going from including everything you need right down to the cheese grater, to kitchen cupboards with two hob rings built in and that's your lot. Another thing to look out for is flat sizes. They have classifications of F1, F2, F3 and so on but also T1, T2... these classifications aren't always used and seem to be interchangeable but also on their way out (the F? Numbers are supposed to refer to the number of useable rooms i.e. an F3 would include 1 living room and either 1 bedroom and 1 dining room or 2 bedrooms along with the kitchen, bathroom etc on top. The T? Numbers however, your guess is as good as mine!). The idea of classifying a flat by the number of bedrooms it has doesn't seem to have occurred to the French yet, although on some websites you can search for number of bedrooms and number of total rooms (not including bathrooms, kitchens, hallways etc). The French seem to have a preference to bring the metric system they're so proud of into every situation, in this case they class flats by their meter squared value. There is still confusion however, as some will include the entire flat's floor space, others only the main rooms such as the living room and bedrooms.
As if finding the right sized flat with the level of furnishings you desire wasn't tricky enough, the way you pay for accommodation in France is also quite different. Whilst in Britain the standard protocol is to pay your landlord rent for the property and any belongings within and that's it, in France you get a bit more than that. Nearly all rented property will include charges. These charges usually consist off electricity, gas and water (or whichever is applicable to the property) and if they do not they will always state that they are for the individual (tenant) to sort. This has benefits as it means you often have a standard rate every month with only your telephone, internet, tv etc. to add if you wish. You can also use your water and electricity without worrying about the cost going up (this doesn't however encourage the most eco-friendly way of living). It does mean though, that when looking for flats you need to be sure that you are aware of whether the price quoted includes charges or not. For example, if your budget is 800EU a flat at 750EU may appear in your bracket, but if it has 120EU charges on top you're then looking at a 870EU flat instead.
All in all there are lots of things you have to look out for, when looking to rent in France, that you would never expect in Britain. There are much deeper more important differences than the superficial ones I have mentioned today for instance the differences over guarantors, references, financial background checks, not to mention fitting into the correct economic bracket for a particular flat, but we'll save these for next time.
Hope this has been of some use to you and preferably coherent too!