Telephone question for French Dopers

How common is it in France for people to keep the same telephone numbers when they move to a nearby town? I’m planning on trying to reach some French friends I haven’t spoken to in a few years, and since they now have 2 kids, I somehow doubt they are still living in the small 1-bedroom apartment they were about to move into when I last saw them right before their wedding. I’ve got his parents’ home number (if they haven’t moved), and I’ve got the main number for the family business, but given how rusty my spoken French is at this point, I’d rather not have to go into long explanations, particularly to receptionists who will have no clue who I am. I did some Google searching and found a listing with his first and last names in the town her parents are from, but even though it isn’t a terribly common last name, I’d prefer not to make a complete fool of myself to a total stranger if it turns out not to be them.

Also, what is the idiomatic phrase for “Is this the _______ family residence?”

Merci beaucoup!


Anyone happen to know off the top of their heads what time it is in Paris when it’s 10 pm in New York?

Sorry to interupt…

Paris is Central European Time (although, due to its geographic position, it should better be GMT), which is six hours ahead of the US East Coast. Since the EU synchronized its Daylight Saving Time switches to the American ones, it’s East Coast Time plus six also in winter.

I can’t really answer the first part of your question since I’ve never lived in France. However, if it is similar to North America, telephone exchanges (here, the first three digits of a seven-digit phone number) are tied to a locality. Thus they would likely have to change numbers if they moved to another town. But why not try anyway?

As for your second question, the phrase I would be something like: “Est-ce la demeure des ________ ?” or “Est-ce la résidence de la famille ______?”

Good luck.

Central European time is 6 hrs ahead of eastern time and that is the time difference all year round except a few days a year because Europe and the US change back and forth to daylight savings on slightly different dates. So 10 pm EST is 4 am CET the next day.

Eva, you might consider just having someone who speaks fluent French try to track them down for you. Things always turn out to be more complicated than anticipated.

Just FYI, that isn’t strictly true in the US, and hasn’t been since at least the 70’s- maybe earlier (I wouldn’t know, I was just a kid). The local phone carrier may allow you to keep your old number, even after you move to another exchange. Companies often did this when moving offices. Our plumber kept his number when he moved two towns away (late 1970s, northeast suburbs of Boston). Ca 1982, I did it on a personal number. I only had to pay a small monthly fee.

The phone company didn’t advertise it in the phone book, though, so I never would have known, if I hadn’t seen it done. I had to call New England Bell and be transferred around a few times before I got a definitive answer. One operator seemed surprised by the request, but the person who finally did it considered it a routine request.

Today, it would be trivial. Permanent and user-initiated temporary call-forwarding is a standard part of almost every exchange. The phone company could set up a minimum fee account in the original town, set it to forwarding, and bill the customer’s normal account. (I’m sure they have a more elegant way to do it it in actual practice. It’d only have to be an entry in their phone-switching database) My lawyer moved from Massachusetts to South Carolina in 2001, and kept his Boston area phone number, including local area code (I think he may have done this through his cellular carrier though)

Just FYI, in case you ever find yourself wishing you could do this. It should be technically possible anywhere in the US, but I obviously can’t begin to guess the policies/fees of every local phone carrier

I’m working that angle, too, except that it also involves catching up with an old college buddy who lives in Paris for whom I no longer have a current phone number, but have his parents’ number. But hey, at least they’re American and speak English. I left a message this morning on what I sure hope was his mom’s answering machine…it was bilingual, so chances are it was. Now if I can just get them to pass along the message, he has met my other friend and would probably be happy to call him up for me, since he’s French-educated and a local call and all.

If not, there’s always Plan B, which is to embarrass the hell out of myself. I actually do OK in basic French, for someone who had 2 years in high school and a semester in college. It’as just self-consciousness on my part at butchering someone else’s language, although in practice I’ve found the French to be quite accommodating if they feel like you’re at least trying. (Except the guy at the train station information desk at the Gare de Lyon after a sleepless overnight train from Madrid; you know, the guy whose job it is to be helpful.)

(P.S. All the places I’m talking about are in Paris or its nearby suburbs, so even if the telephone exchanges aren’t exactly the same, at least it’s not in another area code.)

I don’t think it is really common, but looking at the france télécom site, it’s possible to keep the same number if where you live depends on the same, huh, phone central or something, don’t know how to translate it, than your old place. Well, if you live very nearby in short.
It’s also possible for someone to suscribe to a service allowing folks to know your new number, by a vocal message on your old one.

I would say:
Est-ce que la famille _____ habite bien ici?

Hope you’ll manage to find your friends!

Have you tried finding them here: Then click on “pages blanches” which seems to be the “normal” telephonebook. French dopers correct me if I am mistaken.


I don’t know enough about the French telephone system to address the OP, but I can correct this:

Unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet. The Autumn switch-over happens at the same time (last weekend in October), but the Spring switching is still not coordinated. In EU it’s last Sunday in March, whereas in the US it’s the first weekend in April. (Another related tidbit I found: All EU countries change at the same time (GMT 01:00) - but in the US each timezone changes individually, at 02:00 local time) (cite)

So, there’s still one week of confusion. (Admittedly much less confusing than when different parts of Europe adopted DST differently though).

Yes, that’s exactly what that website is. As a matter of fact, I can’t believe I didn’t know about it. I tried a few of my friends and family and sure enough, they were listed. (You also get a popup map that shows you very precisely where they live. Scary.)

BUT, the locality is a required field, and so the site won’t be of much help if you don’t know where they live.

Oops, my reply was to Nils.

OK, I stand corrected, thanks. I thought both switches were fully cordinated to the American ones now, because I remember that’s what was given as a reason when the new switch dates were introduced a few years ago.

Eva Luna it’s unlikely that they have the same phone number after moving. I recently moved from one place to my new home (about 5 miles) and am unlucky to be attached to a different central (CAA in French) so I have to obtain a new number.

In France it’s usually possible to tell where someone lives based on their number but it’s being changed as to prevent racism (people getting turned down job offers 'cos they come from the wrong part of town.)
f you like I can give them a call for you and explain who yo are and pass on your contact details…

On the top right you can choose an English language version. Well you can’t search all of France at once but at least you can search region by region. Just click on “Guide” next to the field “Dept district or region”, then choose “mark one region” and then you can choose between 23 region of France, without having to name a particular town.

sailor, you were right; things are usually more complicated than they seem. I just called his parents’ home number and got an answering machine, the kind with the prerecorded message, so I don’t even know for sure that it’s still their number (although they had lived in that apartment since their kids were born, so they are probably still there. It’s in Créteil, and their business is nearby, and so I don’t know any reason why they would move. But you never know.) So I left the message, explaining who I was and leaving my home phone number and apologizing for my bad French; I’ve stayed with them twice, so they should remember me. I would have left my e-mail address, too, but I forgot that I have no bloody idea of what you call the “@” in French, so I broke down in nervous giggles. Hopefully they’ll figure it out.

Then I called the family business; it’s 7 pm there, but the whole family is a bunch of workaholics, so I thought they might still be there. (Bonus; it might actually be a family member who remembers me, rather than a receptionist.) It didn’t even ring; I got what sounded on this end like a busy signal. Twice. Very odd, unless they’ve sold or disbanded the business, which I guess is possible. Unfortunately, I don’t have the name of the business, just the phone #. Maybe I can use the Yellow Pages and find it that way; it’s a manufacturer of automatic garage door openers, and there aren’t too many of those in France, apparently. Or is there such a thing as online reverse directory assistance in France?

Next step: the French White Pages. Oh well, at least if I reach a stranger, they’ll get a good laugh…or maybe in the meantime I will be able to reach the other friend in Paris. Plus I have his wife’s work e-mail, if she’s still working there…wish me luck, and additional brainstorming will be welcome!

Woohoo! Partial success!

Via the French White Pages, I found a number in his wife’s parents’ hometown. So I called it, and got an answering machine, but it was definitely them! Both their names, and his extremely charming wife’s voice on the message. So unfortunately they weren’t home, but I think I’ve established contact and at least managed to stutter in somewhat comprehensible French that I’d like to see them the first weekend in December…(my difficulties are usually in understanding, not in making myself understood). Plus transmitted big hugs to them and the munchkins.

Thanks Sailor, Thanks Schnitte,

Sometimes it just hurts my head.

Again I apologize for interupting.

Cool :slight_smile:
There’s a French reverse number lookup. If you need it let me know…

Thanks, Ponster, I think I’m OK for now. I’ve found the French friends pretty definitely, and the American friend’s parents have apparently passed on my contact info. Unfortunately, he’s living in Zurich, so I don’t know if I’ll see him this trip unless I can convince him to visit Paris that weekend. Not enough time to go there, too!