How to Write a French Check
Moving and setting up a household in another country is a lot like being 20 again. I’ve had to relearn many of the basic life skills I acquired in high school, college and while setting up my first apartment. I never dreamed, after all these decades, I’d be learning how to write a check, operate a washing machine and buy groceries. Mastering these skills all over again felt a lot like stepping back in time. The most challenging task has been learning to write a check.
Checks are still widely used in France
It’s not uncommon, especially when I’m in a hurry at the supermarket, to see someone whip out their checkbook. That’s something I haven’t seen in the United States in years. It’s not a means of payment I’ll be using often. Nonetheless, the occasion did arrive, where I had to write a check from my French bank account to pay a medical bill. I was clueless. Thank God for Google and the many online tutorials. If you ever need to write a check in France, these six steps should simplify the process, especially for Americans.
A step-by-step guide for writing a French check
Step 1: Write the amount of Euros in the little box on the right, just like you would in the U.S. Only, the use of a comma and decimal point is the opposite of how we write figures. You use a comma to separate between euros and cents and either a period or space after thousands. For example: 1 795,54
Simple enough, but be sure to write your numbers in the European format. A one starts with an upswing and sometimes has a line at the bottom. A seven has a line through it. A two doesn't have a loop. A nine looks like a lower case g and a four is just a weird squiggle. I learned this the hard way when I’d write out my phone number at the store and the clerk would ask, “What’s that?”. No wonder I had a hard time inputting French Wi-Fi codes. Those nines that look like a g always threw me.
Step 2: The top two lines are for writing out the amount of the check in words — French words, of course. Using Google translate or DeepL can help if you haven't mastered French numbers, but be sure to include the word “euro” before the cents and join all numerical amounts with a dash. So €1 729,54 would be written: Mille-sept-cent-vingt-neuf euros et cinquante-quatre centimes.
Step 3: Then after the tiny “à”, which means “to” (the payee), you write the name of the person you are paying. This is the easy part.
Step 4: On the right side of the check, you’ll see another “à”. In this case, it means location, not where you live, but where you happen to be writing the check. Just the name of the town or village is fine.
Step 5: Next to the “à” is “le”, which is where you put the date. Be sure to write the date in the European format with the day before the month. So 22/02/2023 would be the 22nd of February.
Step 6: Then sign the check in the lower right-hand corner. Bien joué ! You’ve written your first check in France.
Having to do a mundane task in an entirely new way may seem like a chore, but it challenges my brain cells and stimulates my mind. It’s one of the things I love about traveling and living part-time in another country. In the coming weeks, I’ll share other basic life skills I’ve had to relearn while settling into my part-time life in France, as well as tips for making the process easier.