Thanks to all who responded to my question. I currently live in the
US, and I had closed my Canadian bank account years ago when I moved
here because I didn't want financial ties to Canada (and thus have to
file Cdn income tax return each year). I'll try contacting HSBC here
in the US and see what they say.
The reason why I want to open a French account before arriving is
because my US bank won't allow me to wire funds to a foreign account
unless I go physically to my branch. Can't do it online.
I'll be studying, not working in Paris, so unfortunately I won't have
any help from an employer.
Thanks again for the info. Wish me luck!