A straightforward French government website!

French logo on French websitesIf you’ve ever tried to look up information such as how to get married in France, buy a car in France or register for work in France, you’re probably familiar with the pointlessness of many French websites.

For starters, you’ll probably need a good grasp on French, with very few sites offering alternative language options. You’ll also need to have a high level of patience to navigate the sites which are typically over complicated and confusing. For example, one of the associations I have to be member of in order to pay my taxes wrote a letter telling me to go to their website and click on the link that says “My payments” (in French). The site had no link. After scouring the options for a good ten minutes, I found the link — with a totally different name — that took me to my previous payments. Well, it would have, except the site had no record of any of my payments, making the entire thing a waste of time.

This is typical in France. Don’t expect to find any equivalent to those British ‘Plain English Campaign’-inspired government websites. No. Expect opening hours that aren’t updated regularly and confusing, ambiguous text for even native French speakers.

With this in mind, I was amused when my friend Chris got in touch to say:

With the exception of the [French] website below, I’ve yet to find one that is intuitive. Even French friends struggle with French websites. They are pig to work with, especially government websites, even when they are in English, like the Australian French consulate website, which refers to other pages when you want more information and eventually lead back to the page you started on. Our friend recently tried just to find the opening hours of the Grenoble Prefecture and continually went around in circles.

Anyway, this French government website is in six languages and exceptionally easy to navigate. What is it you ask? The website for paying speeding fines online!!!

(Chris, I hope you don’t mind me quoting so much of your email. I couldn’t have said it better myself!)

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I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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4 comments on “A straightforward French government website!
  1. Lesley says:

    I am at a loss to understand why EDF are adding a charge for two years ago to this year’s bills. €20 / 30 for every customer is not small change.

    • Wendy says:

      Indeed. And last night on the news, there was a report about airline fuel taxes that were put in place in France in 2007 (from memory) to combat growing fuel prices. This year, as prices have dropped, the tax has increased. How does that work?

  2. Diane says:

    So, so true! My prefecture’s website is the most confusing thing I’ve ever seen and I just thought maybe it’s because I’m American and not used to how the French do things. But nope, my French husband said the same thing. Nuts, right?

  3. Wendy says:

    Totally nuts, Diane. I gave up again a few months ago when I had to pay my French tax online, opting instead to hassle my accountant who did it for me. And I’m in IT!

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced professional writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Read more...

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