moments of illumination in the city of light

011 : Richard Nahem Banque Société Générale in the Marais
Born in the late 50’s to early 60’s in New York, Richard Nahem currently works as writer, blogger, and private Paris tour guide Why Paris? Eye prefer Paris- doesn’t everyone? He digs the following Paris bits: 1. the metro 2.architecture 3.museums & galleries 4. movie theaters with old, obscure American films 5. Pariscope magazine: only 40 centimes He is, however, a bit miffed by banks, other banks, strikes, having to speak French, and the customer service in shops: the customer is always wrong. For more info on Richard Nahem you should send an email or visit Eye Prefer Paris.

image: ODDSOCK

“I started screaming New York-style obscenities.”

I went to the bank on a Wednesday during the summer.  Sweating profusely, I anticipated what excuses not to take my deposit the teller might invent today.

I had first gone on Monday, to deposit money for the rent, but the sign said it was closed on Mondays in July and August. I went back the next day, but they were closed for lunch. I returned after lunch with all of my cash carefully counted out, even listing how many 20s, 10s, and 5s there were on my deposit slip. I waited for about 15 minutes since there was only one window open, practicing in my head how I was going to say “I want to make a deposit” in French. My turn came, I said my phrase, and the teller smiled at me and understood. She said “I‘m sorry but we don’t accept cash deposits on Tuesday.”

Flabbergasted, I said what do you mean? and then she said it again. I scratched my head and thought: this is incredible.  Société Générale, [1] the second largest bank in France, doesn’t want my money. I took my pile of bills and put them in my pocket, leaving the bank feeling defeated and bewildered. I tried to imagine if I had gone to the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York and they had refused my deposit, and laughed out loud at the absurdity of the idea.

When I first moved to Paris in 2005 from New York, I was told by a number of friends that it was hard to open a French bank account and that banking in general was a difficult affair in France, to say the least. I thought I was proving them wrong when within 10 days of moving here I painlessly opened a bank account in less than 30 minutes. I told everyone I didn’t understand what they were talking about, and they said wait and see.

So there I was, Wednesday before lunch, back at the bank. I had even remembered to fill out the “special” deposit slip they said I needed in order to deposit “so much” cash. I got to the window and handed the teller my deposit.  She said “I’m sorry, but you can only deposit an amount this large at your own branch.” I looked around for the hidden cameras to see who was playing this cruel joke on me. Alas, there were none. This time I wasn’t defeated or bewildered. I started screaming New York-style obscenities.

I had to admit sheepishly to my friends that they were right, and they grinned that “I told you so” grin so proudly.

referenced works

[1]Société Générale, or SocGen or simply SG for short, is France’s second largest commercial bank, just after Banque National Paribas. The bank gained notoriety in early 2008 when one of its traders perpetrated a fraud which lost the bank €4.9 billion (approximately $8 million).  One would suppose, therefore, that SG would accept all the deposits they could get. {/ref1}

location information

  • Name: in the Marais
  • Address: 5, rue St Antoine 75004
  • Time of story: Morning
  • Latitude: 48.852849
  • Longitude: 2.367511
  • Map: Google Maps



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