Since Emily and I are planning on being here in France for a while, we decided that it would be better if we had a car. The public transport system here is amazing with buses and trains that will take a person everywhere and at the very least get them close to their desired destination. There is no real need for a car as long as one has a flexible schedule.
However, there are times when it would be better to have a car. For example, trying to buy carpet would be easier if we could go and visit the carpet store at our leisure and not have to wait on the train. Also, we recently found out that the last bus from Chamonix to Le Tour leaves at 7:42 pm. After that, the bus only goes to Argentiere which is two miles downhill from our home. So, if one wishes to spend more time in Chamonix at night, a car would be helpful.
In light of all this, Emily and I have started the process of buying a car. Our village of Le Tour gets a lot of snow in the winter time and is at the top of a road that is rather steep. We thought it best if we got a car with all-wheel drive, just to be on the safe side. All-wheel drive is not as popular in Europe as it is in the states and finding a car with all-wheel drive is more difficult. Particularly if the price range one desires is not all that high. For some reason unknown to us, car prices in Europe are much more expensive than for the same car in the US. In particular, used cars are a lot more expensive than the equivalent US used car. For example, some of the used BMW X1’s that we have looked at which are 2-3 years old, are more expensive than our car was when new.
Emily and I have been researching and debating which car to get since we got here a few weeks ago. We have looked at BMWs, Volvos, Renaults, Citroens, Dacia’s, and Fords. Part of the problem is that French car websites, no matter the brand, are not set up to tell you whether or not the car you are looking at has all-wheel drive. The website will tell you how much the car costs, how much horsepower it has, which engine you can get, whether it is manual or automatic, and in particular, how much CO2 it emits. For some reason the Euros are very concerned with climate change even though the Donald has told everyone that it doesn’t exist. Apparently the Euros do not trust the world’s foremost climatologist who just happens to occupy the White House. C’est la vie.
We had such a rough time trying to figure out which cars had what we needed, for a price we could afford, that we got frustrated and finally emailed a BMW dealership about 30 miles away. They did return our email and were helpful, but not helpful in a way we could fully understand since their email was in French and sometimes Google translate is not as helpful as one might wish.
Finally we decided to bite the bullet and call the dealership to see if there was someone there who could speak English. Of course that was very scary for us since our French is not what the French would call, “Super”.
Phone is ringing:…”Bonjour.(lots of fast French is spoken by the answering service before a real person picks up the phone), “Bonjour, (in French) this is so and so at the so and so dealership in Sallanches, how can I help you?”
Me: “Bonjour, je suis desole, mais mon Francais n’est pas tres bien. Y a-t-il quelqu’un qui parle anglais?
French guy on the other end: chuckling sounds, “Yes, I speak English.”
I am sure my relief was palpable through the phone. The first guy and I established that I wanted to buy a used car. He then informed me that his colleague that is in charge of used cars would call me back in a few minutes. I don’t have the skill to type what happened next, but the used car manager called me back. Between my terrible French and the English he learned in high school, we managed to set up a meeting! Miracles do still happened and don’t let anyone tell you differently!
Speaking on the phone to a French person was not quite as painful as I thought it was going to be, and fortunately the guy on the other end of the phone was patient. The whole experience has given me a tad more confidence in speaking French, so even if we are not able to get a car out of this deal, at least I will be better able to communicate in the future.
Tune in next time for another exciting episode of, “Emily and Chris try to buy a car!”
Go out and be consistent!