Becoming French bit by bit

Melbourne's Eastern Freeway - merge left sign
Driving in France can be a challenge for new settlers. From remembering to drive on the other side of the road, or having to obtain a French licence, to trying to understand the bizarre give way to the side road on the right rule, there’s always something new and surprising. “It’s not like that in Australia,” I’d think, shaking my head at the bizarre French ways.

Let’s take indicators. I’m not sure what happens after someone gets a French licence; I suspect the document somehow causes the electricals in their car to fail because indicators never seem to blink. For years, I’ve sworn with the windows up at other drivers in France who don’t use their indicators. It’s actually been a great way to learn French insults, with French passengers providing me with a nice swag of options to yell at people (still with the windows up) when they fail to use their indicators.

“In Australia, we use indicators,” I’ve said, many times. Righteous about our use of indicators, I’m well aware that here in Melbourne, we’re terrible drivers. This visit home as confirmed this more than ever. Borrowing my dad’s French Renault, the first thing I checked was the blinkers, and I was happy that there were no electrical faults. The blinkers worked in a French car!

Yes, in Australia, we use indicators. In Melbourne, we use them to indicate that we’re going to move into the overtaking lane, then drive slower than the car in the left lane. On the Eastern Freeway, we use them to indicate that we have to merge right about a hundred times when that temporary left lane ends. There’s no reward to stay in the left land when the lane keeps running out. It’s a punishment, in fact, as it’s up to the slow-lane driver to merge into the faster lane. So, what happens? Everyone hogs the fast lane on the right and chooses whatever speed they like. It’s smooth sailing over the there because the lane remains intact for the entire length of the freeway. The only hurdle is having to overtake the slow movers — via the slow lane, which may also be clogged with a mish-mash of cars going at different speeds. It’s a bit like horizontal tetris.

For the first time since I moved to France, I found myself thinking: “It’s not like that in France”. Road logic in France has one up on Australia, and I feel a bit French by preferring the French way. There’s no road tetris in France. If you want to overtake, you move into the fast lane and ignore the speeding car that tailgates you until you’ve overtaken the slow traffic and moved back out of the fast lane.

Melbourne is my home town and I will always be endeared to it more than any other city in the world. I love being home and experiencing all the wonderful aspects of living in Melbourne. However, I’m thinking of staying in the slow lane to get to places the fastest.

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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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One comment on “Becoming French bit by bit
  1. Lesley says:

    After the discipline of the Institute of Advanced Motorists in the UK, we were astonished at the lack of use, use and danger that are the indications on roundabouts here in France!

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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