Category Archives: I survive in Paris


A crowd of fan of 2 persons are harrassing me to write something about the Velib’ in Paris.

If you start surviving in Paris, you should know that there’s one threat for your business: the strike.

It’s famous, French go on strike for any possible reason and I’ve seen it recently, the trigger could be as simple as a rumor!

And one of the strongest union is the railway ( and in Paris, the urban transportation ( Like in Thailand there’s a rainy season, in France it’s a strike season and very often it will be around festivities days: New year, Christmas, Eastern; but I disgress… In fact it has to be a whole new blog post.

Where does the velib’ fit in? Well, when there’s no more subways and buses, there are a bunch of choices left:
You can walk, rollerblade, take a cab (if they are not on strike too), bike if you own one. Finally, if you don’t walk or don’t know how to roller blade and you also realize that a cab is extremely expensive, there’s the Velib’ option!

So what is Velib’. It’s a free biking rental. The bikes are hooked to station like the one in the photo below:

Velib place du chatelet

France has this ability to give options which has advantages and disadvantages.

If you want a fast internet connection you will probably wait ages and never get it (I know something about it).

For the velib’, it’s long to choose a bike but you can pick them anytime, or you can apply to some membership and it will be longer to get the membership but then very fast to pick a bike.

So what we will discuss here is how to pick a bike quickly. Because how fast you can pick it, is going to be the mean of survival during strikes!

The fast ways:

1) Apply for a Navigo card which can be used in buses, subways and RER (suburb trains) . There’s an office in every big stations and it’s a 30 minute job. They can even take your picture with a webcam there. Then, go to the velib website and pre-apply for a membership. I really have to get use to this. My whole life I’ve been applying for things. In France, there’s a new step, it’s pre-apply. Basically, when you register on their webpage, they will send a paper to you that you will fill and post back to them along with a cheque. This mandatory step to a post office is the real apply. Then it will take close to a month to get your membership. Finally you will be able to use it quickly at any velib station. It’s a bip on the bike you want to pick. Fast and easy, long membership.

2) It’s same as mentioned above, except you get a card for the velib only. So it’s a bit shorter and you got to handle 2 cards all the time. I don’t like this. I would probably loose it very quickly. And knowing the pain to get it, it’s easier in France to loose a credit card than a velib card.

The long way:

3) You can use your credit card which you will get pretty quickly from your bank. They are efficient. Problem is, you can’t bip your bike, you must go to the dreadful control panel (upper right in the picture), go through a lot of steps to pay for the bike (caution), choose the bike and so on…

So to show you how important choice of card is for Velib’s at strike time, here’s a little story from my best friend Vincent:

“I go out of my place to pick a bike because of the strike and I could see this guy piano-ing on the control panel and pressing the buttons very quickly. it was the last bike in the station and he was visibly nervous. So, I come to him and ask: ” Are you taking this bike?”. He answer: “Yes! Yes!” while keying faster and faster the required information.

Then I tried to get another bike and I realized I shouldn’t have let the previous one go… There was none. Then i turn in a street and I could see the same situation: A velib station with just that bike and that guy piano-ing fast on the control panel. I couldn’t let this go. I start running to the bike 100 meter away. The guy hear me, turns around to look and come back to his control panel and key the numbers even faster!. Too late. I’m arrived, bip the bike and take it out.

Nico. You MUST have a card for Velib’!!!”

So, if you ever go survive in Paris for a while, go through the pain of applying, pre-applying, applying for a proper Navigo card which does everything for transportation.

Finally, with Velib I got a new game. When I get close to a station, I try to hook it without touching ground with my feet.

It’s tough. The hook is a flat hole and the bike plugs in very tightly. It can’t be done everywhere because plugging it requires a proper alignment with the station. it requires space to maneuver. I’ve find out that standing on the paddle gives a much better control too. I love the Chatelet station because there’s a lot of space. I always plug it right there. It gives me this superman feeling and 30 seconds of fame with 2 passers by who couldn’t care less.

edit: I’ve just find out that they also got a blog.


Filed under I survive in Paris

More paperwork to go to Paris

This is a great news.

I’ve got my papers sorted out. The lawyer office in Paris did a great job and I have it ready well before the announced deadline.
Now, I need to go to the french consulate with a convocation letter and more paper work and get my long stay VISA.

I also need to open a bank account from Thailand… I have to admit I was a bit suspicious here. Wait a minute… Open a bank account? From Thailand?! It IS possible!

It is indeed possible but I’m hitting a wall of Thai administration.

Here’s what I need to open that bank account:

Payslip of 3 last months
A valid passport
A residence certificate
Tax paper

The first 2 documents are easy to get.
Difficulties starts with residence certificate. The person at the bank stated that I could have it from my local authority. I dismissed the idea right away. Imagine that! Wrestling with the Thai administration, explaining them what I need and probably how they must do it too! Yes… HOW they should do it is part of the process.

After a quick and deep thinking, I asked if there’s another way to get it. Apparentlty my condo’s office can issue that document. It will be enough.
This morning I went to my condo office:
Me: “Is your boss here?”
Him:”Aray na krap?” (He is polite)
Me: I’m looking for your manager.
*walks in a room behind and someone else comes in*

I explain the whole thing again. I can read on his face that he has no idea what I want.
He asks me to write my name and phone number on a piece of paper. I take the luxury to include what I want.
My girlfriend tells me: “I got the feeling you won’t have it tomorrow”.

In the afternoon I get a phone call: “This is Condo office. I understand you want a residence certificate”.
I have to admit I started hoping a bit here…
“What is a residence certificate?” ARGH!
I went into explaining what it is, why I needed it and I dictated him by phone what should get into it:
“To whom it may concern, this is to certify that Mr Nicolas de Fontenay lives at Condo soi Ruamrudee since XX/XX/XXXX.
Also print it on header paper, sign and stamp your company’s stamp on it”
Me:”Can I have it tomorrow?”
Him:”Tomorrow not possible!”
Me:”Anytime this week then. I need it badly!”
Him:”I tell you when it’s ready.”
I got the feeling it won’t be this week either…

Funny things about that:
I got to tell what I want. I could as well do it myself. It’s almost like doing a fake…

When I explained why I must have this paper the guy told me: “This is so complicated”.
I agreed with him just to make my paper work easier. Rule1: Do not piss off the person supposed to give you an important paper.
In fact, he kinds of forget that I’m opening a bank account in Paris from Thailand!
This is not going to happen in Thailand before the next 50 years (with some luck).

Now. That’s just one paper.

I talked to the company’s HR this morning about my tax paper:

“I need my tax paper very soon”.
“You can’t. We start the procedure on your last day at the office
You will have it when you will be in France. I’ve already done that for a colleague of yours”.

Blast it. Thailand 1, me 0.

To summarize: If you want to survive in Paris, you got to survive in Bangkok first!
Also, opening a Bank account from Thailand is technically possible but practically impossible…


Filed under I survive in Paris

Surviving in Paris – It’s an art but french know that already.

Dear fellow readers.

From now on this blog will be in english.
I’ve said it before in French, but since I’m going to live in Paris and write articles belonging to the “I survive in Paris” line, I think it has to be written in English.
French are not interested into survival in Paris. They survive since they are born. I got nothing to teach them.

Quite exactly, I’m planning to survive in Paris. The big shock when planning to do that is the cost. The difference is huge between Thailand and Paris.
Now if I want to settle in Paris, I got to pay a 2 month rental as a caution, plus one month in advance.
Then, because a real estate company is supposed to do the search for me, I woud have to pay an additional 2 months rental to them. Plus the taxes!

It looks very very scary at first sight, but as a survivor in Paris, the first thing to learn is that there’s always some sort of schema to help people out.
Renting an apartment in Paris requires an MBA! Because there’s loads of paper work to fill. Proofs of this, proofs of that. Salary, tax papers, there’s also this rule saying that you can’t rent an apartment which rental is more than one third of your salary. Who came up with this kind of rules?!

So, since it’s a lot of money to advance if you are not born in this country, there’s this schema I’m talking about. It’s called LocaPass.
It means the french government pays your apartment and all the costs, including the real estate fees, and you pay it back monthly.

Right now I’m planning to say: Listen Guys, it’s very nice to try and look a place for me, but I think I will be better doing that by myself.
A very nice friend and ex-collegue I’ve haven’t heard of for years just contacted me as the story and horror was unfolding in front of my eyes just a few days ago, to tell me:
“You are coming to Paris, that’s great! I’m in Paris too now!”
Then, as I explained my difficulties:
“You can come to live with me for a while until you find something for yourself.”

I guess there’s someone listening to prayers sometimes.


Filed under I survive in Paris