That would be getting yourself some electricity here in France. Now, our house did not have any water, electric, mains drainage or a telephone line. Am I selling you the dream yet? We don’t live off the beaten track or a few roads off the main track. We live on the track. We are the last house in a village of over 500 residents and it’s on a main D road. Positively urban in Normandy terms.
Not only that, the electrical pole is right outside our house and we actually have a pylon in our garden. Not one of those tripod silver eyesores but a concrete one which kind of blends into the environment. By all accounts Enedis come out every few years and chop back the trees as the branches could interfere with the electric cables. I should add that we had a live cable coming directly into our house. How did we know that? Well a big bang went off when Mr Normandy was trying to take a wall down and he had to snip it. Thankfully all his insulated electrical tools meant he is still living to tell the tale.
So in theory, we could have rigged up something that enabled us to have free electric for a lifetime. I’m not gonna lie Mr Normandy did, fleetingly, consider it. Who wouldn’t? It goes something like this “What so the electric coming in is live?” “YES, it’s been disconnected but it’s still live?!” “So, we could have free electric” “YES!” Then visions of us being rumbled and chased out-of-town with pitch forks crossed our minds and we did what the vast majority would do – pay for our electric.
Everyone talks about the bureaucracy in France. It’s legendary by accounts and if truth be told it’s probably one of the major reasons that people are apprehensive about moving here. But I have a different take on it. I can hear all the non locals living here, for many years, shouting “amateur!” “you know nothing!” Coming over here writing your little blog – you’ve been here a wet week. Granted, but I’m going to tell you my take on it in any event.
I think the problem is we just don’t know the process. We don’t know how things work. It’s very different to the UK. It’s simple in the UK. It’s not even the language thing. You phone up, you say I haven’t got X and the company says we’ll arrange for someone to come out. They come. Job done. If there is a chain of events, for that company to carry out, they sort it out. Here, you sort it out. You have to chase up the next stage but you don’t know you have to do that. If you knew then you’d do it. It’s the “I didn’t know I had to do that” element that catches you out. There. I’ve solved it. French ‘bureaucracy’.
My first port of call was to phone *EDF on their English Speaking Line to arrange for electricity. They tell me to phone *Enedis (no English speaking line) as there was never an electrical meter in the house. By the way, this had to be repeated on several occasions to both these companies. It goes like this “there was never a meter” “where’s the meter” “there isn’t one” “there’s no meter?” “no” “where is the meter” “there was never a meter”…
*Enedis are the contractors that carry out the electrical supplies
*EDF are the largest electrical company in France
Mmmm trying to explain this in French was somewhat challenging given that we’d only be there for 2 months. But explain I did. At this stage my French was so bad that I could hear them desperately trying to find someone who spoke English. Turns out a lovely woman called Phyllis does and gives me her personal email address. Hold the phone. Say what? I have a personal email address. For an English speaker. At Enedis. I mean I could put this on Ebay and get some serious bids on it. I kid you not.
Anyhow, she tells me I need to get an account with EDF before they can do anything. What the same EDF that I just spent and hour on the phone to who told me to phone Enedis? Affirmative.
By the way, the problem with the English speaking lines is that, whilst you feel all cosy and fluffy in your comfort zone, you will wait ages to get through and when you do it’s a lottery as to how good the English speaker is. It’s far quicker to speak bad French on the normal line and wait for someone to take pity on you.
So off I go and phone back EDF. I managed (after 1 hour 30 mins ) to set up an account with EDF. By the way, the sense of achievement at doing this is immense. It shouldn’t be but it is. I had to give my French bank details and decide on our Kw (kilowatts – aka power). It’s not like the UK where you can have as much as you want and then they will charge you. You have to work out how much you’re going to use. That’s not an easy thing to decide when you’re new to all of this.
Given that Mr Normandy was at the house and I had no idea what any of this meant – I plumped for the bleu tariff at 12 kw as I couldn’t bear the thought of saying “can I phone you back and we can chat for another 2 hours?”
The glaze over bit. Permission to scroll if you couldn’t give a fig:-
For most homes you’ll need a mono phase. No idea what that is? You and me both. We had a 3 phase coming in which is really more for agricultural properties. You also have to decide on your usage as you can only change it twice a year. Although EDF told me this, the same EDF that told me untruths. The trust element of our relationship is not in a good place. Turns out I did good. The amount of Kw and the tariff. Great.
Not quite. I now have to phone back Enedis and find my friend Phyllis. She doesn’t know I’ve put her on ebay. Also it turns out that Mr Normandy had applied for a connection but hadn’t sent the appropriate form back. I’m at our rental house that has no internet or mobile reception. We had to rig up a dongle on a 16ft pole and put out the window to try and get internet. It did not work. Luckily I find the form in a box near the computer and don’t have to start knocking on farm doors for a printer.
On this form you will need to enter your EDF or supplier account number. Are you keeping up or have you spun off the roundabout yet?
So here in Normandy, you cannot get electric without a supplier like EDF but you can’t get electric without getting the energy contractor, Enedis connecting you. Which comes first EDF or Enedis? I don’t know. I did it. I went round and round and round on the roundabout and did it.
So, we now have an EDF account and an Enedis client space. We have a date set for September (it’s July). So I have to phone Enedis again and get cross in French. Funny how you can find words and arguments when under pressure. Our rental (2nd) finished in September you see. I didn’t want to move into a 3rd rental – mmm how did that work out for me?! I generally laid it on thick that we had kids, one had asthma it was cold blah blah.
However, this lady was not having any of it. Even when I played the race card. Sorry. Not sorry. Even though someone else had said it would be August we resigned ourselves to the fact that Mr Normandy would continue works with the petrol powered generator.
But guess what? Enedis turn up in August?! No warning, nothing they just turn up. In August “oh nothing gets done in August” they all say. Well, Enedis come out and give you a temporary supply of electric that’s what happens in August. I was there I took the picture. Another sweeping statement on forums.
Prior to that we had messages on my French mobile (a must as soon as you get here) saying they couldn’t find the house. They also left a message to say they were coming out to a house name that is about a two miles from us. Even the Mairie’s secretary who listened to the message was confused. Thankfully she put them on the right track.
Enedis the company I have a love/hate relationship with come out and put a temporary box out on the road. Hooray! We have temporary electric supply. I take a picture. We had to pay for the call out which was about 200 euros plus you must have the temporary box (approx 200 euros) ready to go. Again, in the UK you wouldn’t expect this. You’d expect the electrical company to come prepared wouldn’t you.
If Mr Normandy hadn’t purchased the temporary box, then they would have just turned back around. Which, you guessed it, would mean another call to arrange another appointment to get Enedis to come out.
Some weeks later, I notice that we have two accounts on the EDF bill. One which is nowhere near us – the two mile address I spoke of earlier. The other address is similar to ours but not quite – they always put route du and then our road rather than just our road. But the route du is in the next village. However, this is really entry level French problems and is only worthy of half a shrug.
I spent many an email/facebook message telling EDF to cancel the incorrect address. They tell me it’s Enedis who open that and around I go again. Eventually they close the account with our address rather than the incorrect one. Cue wails.
What they had done was, in fact, correct. Enedis open a temporary account with EDF and there is another permanent account with your correct address (or very similar address to your real one). Once Enedis have finished with your temporary supply they close this account leaving you with your permanent account. This caused problems for me later on which was of my own making.
So, in August we had a temporary supply and even though it sounds a right hassle which it was, it only took a month and approx 8 hours of admin time. We then had to arrange for a permanent supply. This is my next post as, quite frankly, this has worn me out just writing about it.
I hope that gives you a little insight on how you go about getting an electrical supply into your home in France and well done if you read it all!