Now most people’s mobile phones are surgically attached to their hands. You don’t leave home without it. It’s your little computer, social contact, entertainment centre and if all else fails it can make phone calls. When moving to France, I did not consider for one moment, that obtaining a mobile reception would be a problem. In my ‘moving to France’ to do list, this did not even feature.
France is a first world country and I’m pretty sure people have been rescued in far more remote places than Northern France, with the help of their mobile phone, have they not?
So it was a bit of a surprise when our first landlord (a blog post in itself ) of our rental property, casually mentioned that you don’t get a mobile reception around here. Erm, didn’t think to tell us that? But actually, the locals are so used to this fact that they genuinely wouldn’t think to mention it. Our house in the village does have a signal but there are quite a few villages in the surrounding area that do not.
If you’re buying in France the agent is not going to tell you either but probably not for the same reasons I have said above. They will be fairly confident that you won’t even think to ask. You’ll naturally ask about wifi connections – again, don’t assume speed or connections – so is it really necessary to have a mobile signal if you have a landline?
I cannot tell you how awkward it was when we first arrived, not having a mobile signal. Well I can – firstly, we had transfers to make from our UK bank accounts and also items to purchase for our renovation. Now, whilst I can do this online some banks insist of sending you a text message with a code to authorise your payment. Arggh! With no mobile signal (or very limited) we had to run up to the top of the garden, wave our phones in the air like we just didn’t care, in the hope that the text message would come through in time – run back down the garden to input the code before the time to do that had expired. It wasn’t pretty I can tell thee. A few choice expletives were uttered together with references to the “1970s” and wails of what is this place we have decided to call home?
Not only that, my French bank account also thinks its good fun to play security garden games. In France you pay a monthly charge for the bank to keep your money, issue you a card and if you’ve been very good you can have a cheque book. There is no such thing as ‘free banking’. I had embraced this concept by actually increasing my monthly fee to the princely sum of 2.10 euros a month. I was going native don’t you know. I was going to pay people who had a French bank account. Yeah get me paying our French teacher on line. No I wasn’t. I couldn’t. I would say, that at least 8/10 times the security text would come through a day or so later, in the most unexpected of places. I gave up. I had been defeated. Even Orange couldn’t save me. I now do what the French do – write a cheque. Yes, I did say cheque – you know that obsolete piece of paper that featured heavily in the 80s – yup that’s the one.
I’m now Madam nonchalant about a mobile signal. So much so that I practically shrugged when my car went ‘bang’ with a full load of shopping on a main country lane, I momentarily had a UK thought that went like this – Oh, I’ll phone my husband, neighbour and breakdown provider (in that order). I’ll do that on my phone as it can make calls.
In the UK this situation, even with a fully functioning phone, would have me cursing like a Liverpool docker. Not to mention the unnerving sound of the ‘bang’ which in my mind was either a gun shot, tyre explosion or any other dramatic scenario I could think of. Turns out something in the engine went (cue burning smell). I realised, in like a nano second, that of course I couldn’t phone for help. What was I thinking? Did it freak me out? Nope. Was I all alone on a country lane? Yes. Was the chicken going off and my frozen bounty defrosting? Check. But I figured I’ve got about a 2 hour walk home, hitch hike a lift like the *farmer does most mornings on the school run (sometimes appearing through the fog – bit freaky but hey), or I can pray the car crawls home. It did just that. Thank you oh Volvo one.
Just for good measure, I also have a French mobile – seeing as Orange and my UK phone have stitched me up like a Kipper. My first month they were going giddy with my roaming charges but even they couldn’t penetrate the mobile vortex that is Normandy. Or, the old cynic in me feels they couldn’t, when the roaming charges stopped. It also didn’t help I thought I’d lost the phone, had it cancelled, uncancelled but they failed to unblock the roaming and what not which was…so much fun. Especially when the only way I could see if I had a message on my French mobile was checking my emails on my UK phone. Enter the French one..
Now having a French mobile is essential for getting texts from Orange, Enedis and EDF. All services we required to set up in our new home. Delivery drivers also like to tell you they are 3 minutes away from your house. Who am I to question this logic? The amount of times these companies have asked for my mobile and I have to explain – I do have a mobile but if you phone me you won’t get me blah blah.
So yes, mobile access, it can cause you a lot of dancing, cursing and finally acceptance that this is a test of the mobile fittest.
The picture above is, what suspiciously looks like a huge mobile phone mask, can I get a mobile signal standing right next to this thing? Of course not. Don’t call me, I’ll call you…sometime never!
*Farmer – yes well I think he is. One day on the school run, in the pouring rain, a man appears at the side of the road hitching a lift. I mean its absolutely lashing down. I couldn’t decide shall I stop? Have we room? Will Mr Normandy say “so you picked up a stranger with the kids in the car? The kids are saying but he might smell. He might be a nutter. I’m saying “no it’s rural France they all do it here kids.” Trouble is I slowed right down whilst these thoughts were running through my mind. So the farmer starts running in the rain, believing his luck to be in, at which point I decided nah do you know what we’ve got no room we’re doing the school run. The site of the farmer in my rear view mirror, soaked and all dejected still makes me chuckle. I didn’t do it intentionally. So sorry Mr Farmer – maybe one day I’ll give you a lift.