The Penrose Triangle of French Bureaucracy

Have you ever seen a picture of that 3D-ish triangle where all the sides sort of overlap and join up in a way that, beyond a drawing, would be physically impossible?

No? Google it – the Penrose Triangle – you’ll see what I mean.

So, now that we’re thinking about impossible triangles, let’s talk about the ludicrously logic-defying paradox that is the french ‘system’ for establishing 1) an address, 2) a job, and 3) a bank account.

Essentials, I’d say, non?

And being essentials, they’re entirely accessible to anyone legally eligible to live and work in France – as long as you don’t mind wading through more paperwork than you can shake a baguette at, of course.

Oh, and then there are just a couple of other teensy stipulations which you’ll need to meet before you’re good to go. Namely:

  1. To get a job, you need a bank account and an address (in France).
  2. To open a bank account, you need an address and a job (in France).
  3. And to obtain an address, you need – you guessed it – a job and a bank account (also in France).

Are you getting a sense of the problem here?

Now, fortunately for me, I was pre-warned of this Illogical Loop of Nonsense so I was actually able to do a little advance research and take some steps to ‘beat the system’.

After months of fruitless job applications (don’t you love it when you spend hours painstakingly crafting an application and then you never get so much as a “no thank you” back? Me too.), I was finally hired by an American Paris-based company who were undaunted by my lack of french address or bank account.

I subsequently managed to open a bank account from the UK using a brilliant little-know service provided by Credit Agricole, one of the big banks in France. The service in question is called Britline and if you’re looking to move here from the UK or Ireland, I couldn’t recommend it more. Basically, it enabled me to set up a fully-fledged french bank account from England before I even moved – and if I haven’t already emphasized it enough with the whole triangle analogy, believe me when I say that makes it a VERY valuable service indeed.

So, I had a bank account, I had a job – I’d won! I had defeated the Penrose Triangle of French Beaurocracy. Finding an apartment would be a cinch now. Someone open the vin rouge.





So very wrong.

11 thoughts on “The Penrose Triangle of French Bureaucracy

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  1. I feel your pain, French bureaucracy makes me want to tear out my hair! Still waiting for a carte vitale after almost four years…apparently they lost my dossier way back when and haven’t made any progress since despite having all the documents! Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think you will! I did get a temporary number somewhere along the way so I am covered (but you need to pay bills upfront…i think?) And luckily the application I made for my husband went through and I’m covered through him generally as well. Phew. I’m envious you made it to Paris – that was my goal too but I was too impatient to have an adventure and ended up near Geneva instead!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh Annecy is pretty much my favourite place in the world, it’s SO stunning in the summer. I stayed in a commune called Verrens-Arvey, similar distance to Annecy and Geneva I think! Kinda near Albertville and Chambéry?


      3. It’s still pretty glorious now, with a winter mist over the lake. You were a little further south than I am but definitely in the same kind of area. I still prefer Paris though!


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