How Internet Came to be in my Flat

Story time, folks.

As you might know, I had no Internet in my flat for almost a month since arriving to France. In fact, it wasn’t until earlier last week that I finally got it. Considering that it was no easy feat for acquiring such an essential piece of technology, I thought that I would recount to you the crazy, nightmarish process of how the Internet came to be in my home.

Without further ado, c’est parti!


Before arriving in France, I had been in contact with the previous assistante who had been living in my flat and working at the school that I’m in this year. She had told me that there would be no Internet in the building, and so right off the bat, I knew that I would have to buy or otherwise rent a box from one of the Internet-providing companies. In fact, the assistante told me how she and the other assistant(e)s had done it the previous year, telling me that they had rented a box through Orange, one of the many providers in France (others being SFR, Free, and Bouygues) and had installed it in her room (soon to be mine). Equipped with all of this information, I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t be too difficult to get Internet in my flat, even though I had never done something like this before during my first year as an assistante.

Boy, was I wrong.

Upon arriving in France, I moved into my flat, met and got acquainted with the other assistant(e)s, and we discussed how to go about getting an Internet box. The two Spanish assistantes whom I talked with said that they had been in town a couple of times, going from boutique to boutique to see which company had the best, cheapest offer since they had arrived in France before I did. That was really nice of them, and I appreciated them doing so. Even though the assistante from the previous year said that they had used Orange, I was open to other Internet providers, especially if they were less expensive.

A few days passed, and we were still struggling to figure out our next steps into getting a box. The problem was deciding whether we should get un engagement (contract plan) or sans engagement (without contract), considering that many of the plans were one-year long and we were only in France for seven, eight months tops. That said, we didn’t find the engagements worth it, and so that caused a bit of confusion and worry.

At the same time, I was in contact with my prof référant and colleagues from my school, who knew a bit about the Internet situation as heard from the previous assistante last year. They did their best to acquire information about it, and so that helped a bit: essentially, I had to go with Orange, reopen the line that had been disconnected the year before, and all was good. Sounds simple, right?


…the thing was, I didn’t know what the line number was; I even searched everywhere for it in my room, but all I found were two telephones (one of them super old-fashioned, from the 90’s or something) and no line number. I asked the assistante from last year about this, and she said that she didn’t recall needing a line number when getting and installing the box. I was definitely confused about that, but in any case, I decided to go into Orange later that week to inquire about it and perhaps get the box right then and there.

I headed into the Orange boutique a few days later with some of the other assistantes. We waited in a rather long line, and then had to wait again in the waiting corner (really, it was just a couple of chairs placed near the wall selling telephones. How wonderful, eh?) to be called up to speak to a worker.

Eventually, we got called and I went up to the lady who would be helping me. Unfortunately, I was not prepared to give her my attestation de logement (housing contract) or any other documents, to say the least. I didn’t have any of them on me, and so I was turned away from asking about the box, let alone getting it. Let me tell you: if there’s one thing that the French love, it’s paperwork- and lots of it. I should’ve known better, but at least they could have been a bit more accommodating on the matter. Bref…

Another week passed, and we decided to head back to Orange to get our box. I had brought my attestation de logement this time, so there was no way that they could turn me away. Once again, we waited in line, then waited again in the corner to be called up to speak with a worker (fyi there’s a lot of waiting going on in France, so it’s good to be patient. Very patient…). We were called up, and I went to speak with the lady who was helping me that day, and let me tell you, it did not go well.

First things first, although I had my attestation de logement with me, I was told that I needed to present my identification card, which for me being not French would be my passport. Shit. I didn’t bring my passport. I even asked if my California driver’s license would work since I had it on me, but unfortunately, it wouldn’t suffice. Again…the paperwork…

Regardless, we continued to proceed with the Internet box situation, anyway. I told the worker that I don’t know the line number for my flat, but she said that it was no problem and logged into Orange’s database using my attestation to look up the tenants who had lived in my flat in previous years. For some really strange reason, the previous assistante’s name didn’t show up at all, and instead all we found was the name of the tenant from two years ago. I told her that I didn’t know this person at all, and she told me that I had to go and make sure that that person did, in fact, live there and ask for the line number. I told her I didn’t have his contact information at all, but the worker again told me the same thing: find the person and ask for the line number. Again, I tried to explain to her that there was no way I could reach him, but again, she *irritatingly* told me to contact our landlady, ask if that person exists, and then ask for the line number.

At this point, it was beyond help. Angry and feeling utterly helpless, I left the stand and returned to the other assistantes, who were waiting for me, and I told them what had just happened. They were not happy as well, and I just felt so bad that things went terribly wrong. I think there was some sort of miscommunication while consulting with the worker, considering that my technical French isn’t up-to-par (and the fact that I get nervous when speaking to professional people), and in a way, I felt like I let everyone down. I was also quite miffed at how bad service was, since the lady who had assisted me didn’t even listen to my dilemma about finding and contact this mysterious tenant from two years ago. Frustrated, I didn’t want to deal with them again that day, and so we left.

By then, it had been two, almost three weeks without Internet in our flat. I continued to ask my prof réf, colleagues, even the previous assistante about finding this damn line number and how to get in contact with the tenant from two years ago. Our landlady had no idea who the person was, so that was very helpful (*ahem). In the end, one of my colleagues offered to accompany me to Orange to get the box, which I was super grateful for.

Once more, for the third time, I returned to Orange. Things this time went a lot smoother than last time: another worker assisted me (and a super nice one, to say the least) and we happened to find the line number for the flat by logging into the database again; turned out, the number was right next to the name of the tenant from two years ago (#fail). I had all of my documents with me this time (passport, attestation de logement, my bank’s RIB) and soon enough, I got the box! Seriously, I was so happy, and even though I had to wait about 72 hours before it was activated and that I could set it up then, things were looking up.

Two days later, I received a text saying that the box was ready to be installed. I was slightly surprised that the message came earlier than expected but in any case, I tore the package open and proceeded to follow the instructions on how to set it up. It was very straightforward and once everything was connected, I turned on the box, and waited for it to boot up.

However, after a few minutes of loading, the box read that it “failed to synchronize” and to please “check that everything had been connected properly.” I was very positive that I had correctly followed instructions, and tried several more times and continued to get the same “error” message. I got several other assistantes over to help me, but again, it still didn’t work- and we had no idea why.

The next day, I went into Orange (fourth time) where I told the lady who was assisting me (the nice one from last time) about the weird box situation. She took the box, did some things to it, then gave it back to me saying it should be good to go. I got back to my flat, plugged it in again, and it still didn’t work! At this point, I had no idea what was going on or what to do about it.

After some asking around, I came to the conclusion that there was something wrong with the line number that was used to activate the box, as well as a problem with the cable in our flat. I told all of this to my prof réf who called up a technician friend and said that he could come in and fix the cable at no cost. I ended up speaking to the technician on the phone and scheduled an appointment to have him come in and fix earlier the following week.

Next week rolled by, and the technician came in the morning to repair the cable. The whole process took no more than ten minutes and as soon as the box was hooked up to the outlets and everything, there was Internet! I was beyond elated; I thanked the technician, signed off saying that he came in to fix it, and happily went along using the Internet for the rest of the day. Also helped that I didn’t even need to pay for anything, considering that normally, it would cost about 50 to 70 euros alone!

…and that’s the *long* story of how Internet came to be in my flat. It was a long, agonizing month, but I’m glad that it’s here to stay for the rest of the year. Thank god.

Until later, à bientôt!


— Rebecca


5 thoughts on “How Internet Came to be in my Flat

  1. That sounds horrendous – the French are truly unsympathetic to foreigners at times! I’ve never had to set up internet/bills myself in France but am pretty glad to have avoided that bureaucratic hurdle. At least your colleagues were able to help you get it all sorted in the end 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was definitely not fun; you’re very lucky that you haven’t had to deal with it on your own- did your flat already have it included? My colleagues did their best to help me, and it was much appreciated in the end!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I really am – I think it’s tales like yours that really remind me of how lucky I was to have dodged that chaos! The first time round my school had just installed wifi before I arrived (the previous assistants went to internet cafes/ used the wifi at school instead) and this time round my shared flat came with wifi set up already, a definite bonus. Colleagues are absolute lifesavers, their knowledge of French admin sure comes in handy!

        Liked by 1 person

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