How do you feel about traffic in France?

How do you feel about traffic in France?

Living as a Canadian expat in France we notice some subtle differences. And other things we just shake our head and wonder, ‘What the heck?"

#1 Line-Ups

An interesting formation at the end of the customer service desk at the local Auchan, I thought maybe it was a one time occurrence but there it was again at the bakery on Sunday and again at the bank first thing Monday morning.

What I am used to in Canada, is a line-up with one person standing directly behind the other, first come, first serve basis, no exceptions. There is never anyone budding in front of you.

In France, however, people will come stand directly beside you and even inch past you. They will check out the people in the line up, and make some sort of mental note. Then someone else will come and stand on the other side of you. The waiting line starts to look like a semi circle instead of a straight line.

Strange, right? Do they have method to this madness?

Some line-ups in France have a sign stating ‘seniors/handicapped priority please’ giving them a short line with less time to wait. I have had seniors cut in front of us without so much as an excuse me at the Intermarche in Capestang, wanting priority. I have more time than money, so by all means. Then the same senior citizen, who was in such a hurry, spends the next 1/2-hour writing a check or chatting with the cashier about the latest gossip. I cannot understand much of it, I just hope the gossip isn’t about me. ![;)](upload://vAqaM5NSC88OTyab1C4uceTV6XS.gif)

The funny thing about the French line-up, with the exception of the senior, everyone knows who arrived first and continues as if they were standing behind one another.

At the bakery or the cheese shop, the semi circle line-up formation might be a way to check out the food before taking your turn, which would actually save time.

#2 The Roundabout

The roundabout is a fast paced circular intersection with an island in the middle, going in one direction, placed at a cross road instead of a stoplight.

Here’s how they work. Pull out when there is an opening, make your way to the centre if you are going to the second or third exit, or keep close to the right edge if the next exit is the one you are taking. The method is very civilized and you have to trust that everyone has the rules down pat. Which in France they sure as heck do!

You must always yield to the traffic in the circle.

It is amazing to see a huge traffic circle or roundabout at rush hour, and the efficiency of it. There are only a few roundabouts in Vancouver, Canada where we used to live but there should be more.

Traffic does not slow down during rush times as much, as roundabouts are used instead of traffic lights, and they do not get backed up like in at a traditional light. It makes for a smooth faster trip with fewer complete stops along the way. The French have this one down pat.

#3 The Fast Lane

Canadians, do you remember the part of your driving test stating to use the left hand lane to pass in? How about slower traffic keep to the right? I am certain most people think this is an option in Canada and not the rule.

Here the left hand lane is only for passing. If you are not passing but drifting along on your way to work, lets say like on Highway 99 going in to White Rock where this is a common occurrence… you get a 400 Euro fine!

The fast lane is not for the slow drivers to make a stand either. Some slower drivers in the lower mainland, subject us to little signs for the rest of us to read, asking us to oblige to the speeding limit. They read, ‘If you are passing me you are speeding’. Damn rights I am passing you! There are 50 cars behind me on my ass and with you going along side of the guy in the slow lane, you are holding up the natural flow of traffic, and clearly going to cause the accident you are trying so hard to prevent. Just saying.

Or a first come first serve society that makes them feel entitled to be in the left lane, just because.

The left lane should be for passing and passing only. If in Canada these were chargeable offences, the traffic would run much smoother.

The highway dance in France is the most beautiful, well organized, civilized, efficiently designed system and I would love to shake the hand of the person that designed it. No better yet, cheek to cheek kiss them! Vancouver could learn a thing or two from the French when it comes to traffic.

#4 Motorbikes in France

If a motorcyclist is on the road, the cars move over the right hand line on to the shoulder to let them by. Imagine that! Instead of the driver thinking, ‘I was here first, get behind me!’ they make way for the motorbike, so they don’t have to pass you veering into on coming traffic. This is courteous from a nation I heard was so rude? Sorry Canada, they win on traffic manners also.

We have had people in the lower mainland pull out in front of us to stop us from passing their vehicle.

Teenagers and young adults are the demographic driving to and from school or work on their motorcycles. The majority of people in France start off with a motorbike or scooter license at the age of 14. With that being the norm, the people of France know exactly what it is like to ride a motorbike in traffic. Most young people have no other alternative form of transportation.

There are many advantages to riding a motorbike in France as opposed to Canada, Alfonz says. You can park anywhere even on the sidewalks as long as people can get by. You don’t stop in traffic, you pull straight up to the red light, and are the first to go. You are not punished in Europe for having a bike, you are rewarded for having a smaller more manoeuvrable road vehicle.

Hey! It could be my kid on that bike one day and I love that the French take extra care of them.

Viva la France!

Thats Hamori!

Norman your new book idea sounds like a good one. Any advice for first time novel writers? Currently I am turning our blog into a book on our family's move to France.

The walking bit is very true, I lived and walked just about every part of the place in the five years I lived there. My wife IS Parisienne, so I had the advantage of a great guide, and even now we go a couple of times a year to see the family who live there.

Yet another of my books under development, is 'A Pot-Pourri of Paris' where I investigate the small things of the city, not the big ones. Many moons ago I published a ' Map of Revolutionary Paris' and was amazed at how many of the places still existed in their (almost) original state.

Great City.

No walking Norman,half the fun is whizzing in and out of the traffic.And even late at night theres still a few jams so plenty time to take in the views. Apart from that Paris is a very walkable city

Ah but Suzi, you really should be paying attention to the road! Tut-tut, even though it is one-way! I agree with the route though, but far,far better for a long and intensely satisfying walk - day or night.

Eva, I put two routes you would know second and third on my favorites list. 2nd is Tram No 2 route along the Danube in Budapest, and the other is the tram route round the City Centre in Vienna.

All brilliant memory makers, however Paris is the best of them I feel - but walk it to get the most out of it.

Suzy, Alfonz and I have planned a short get away to Paris when my mom comes to visit. She will babysit while we are away. You make it sound incredible.

Theres a very big roundabout at Nation (Paris) where the drivers stop while going round to let in cars coming in on the right,as in the old way.Needless to say everyone who should be waiting at the give way just zoom straight out.I've only come across this at that roundabout. I find driving in Paris no problem.The best drive of all is at night from the 16eme going east.Along the quai,by the Seine,you pass the Eiffel Tower sparkling away,Place de la Concorde,the Louvre and on the left bank theres the Musée d'Orsay,the Palais de Justice,then Hotel de Ville......its spectacular.You just cant help falling in love with Paris when you see all that.

Jacqueline, Canadian drivers are not the best, sadly. The four way stop procedure is the same as anywhere, right of way has priority. Problem is no one knows who got there first, as they drink their Starbucks, talk on the phone and listening to the radio while contemplating world peace... and yes the person who does not want to wait for the bone heads to figure out that they have the right, just goes for it.

If four cars show up at the same time, then what? hutzpah!

P.S If someone is wondering what 'hutzpah' means in my last comment, it can be explained like this. A man is facing the death penalty for murdering his parents and asks for clemency on account that he is an orphan. That is 'hutzpah'.

Eva, I haven't been back for about a year. Mosaic Books printer is based in Budapest, so I had occasion to go across and talk to them (courtesy of an Hungarian/Canadian friend there, who HAS returned). I usually rent an appartment facing the Danube literally water's edge situated between Margit and Chain Bridges. Sorry but I KNOW I would misspell them if I tried.

I did investigate the possibilities of returning there during a period of serious domestic crisis, which gives an indication of how much I like the place. Unfortunately or fortunately perhaps, the numbers just didn't crunch.

Lake Balaton was better but apparently although buying was a reasonable option, the ongoing charges were not.

Would have been interesting though.

I have driven in Canada and there you have crossroads where no-one has the priority, everyone stops and first come first crosses. It can be a stalemate and the one with the most 'hutzpah' crosses first. In France it was hard to get used to Autoroutes when the person with the indicator flashing first pulls out to overtake without looking in the rear view mirror! Scarey. My worst time driving on Autoroutes is in the afternoon after lunch when on three occasions I have nearly become a lorry, crash barrier sandwich. Braking and hooting and holding the car straight with inches to spare is not fun. Generally, though driving in France is pain free - little traffic where we live and a big incentive for my husband to stay in France, always being mentioned when talking about going back to England.

I find driving around here is relatively safe, the French generally respect lane discipline. However, as already discussed, their actions (or non-actions) at roundabouts leave a lot to be desired. The system of giving way to traffic already on the roundabout goes by the board, and they either charge across regardless, or as has already been pointed out, unnecessarily stop (often for ages). Many drivers around here are elderly, probably blind, and deaf as well., Yet somehow, they still manage to "drive". With no awareness of what's going on around them, and no desire (or the apparent need) to use their rear view mirrors, they are a menace.

Then, of course, there are those (usually young, and often female), who insist on driving on your backside, whilst clutching a phone in one hand and a fag in the other, jostling to pass you (usually in the most inappropriate places), then having got past, slow down to your speed, or even slower, forcing you to drop back.

Otherwise, driving is a pleasure here. There does not to be the same brinkmanship and aggression that I encountered in the UK - the big drawback being the inability to easily predict the erratic behaviour of French drivers (normally a result of lack of concentration, rather than aggression).

So far, in six years, I have been fortunate not to encounter any serious incidents.

Hi Eva,

interesting points. We watched Budapest rising from the ashes as it were when we first went there, and saw the changes en route over the years. I love Budapest, sometimes warts and all. It was my first real introduction to Opera (TWO opera houses in Budapest, wow!) Tickets at less than $US5 per head, programmes changing every two weeks was just mindblowing! Re; the male attitude to women, this wa something we just could get round at all. In restaurants the men would treat the women like dirt, sit them there whilst they read their sports pages, or went off to chat to their friends. These guys were not the best looking in the world either, while most of the girls were stunningly beautiful. I couldn't imagine me getting away with this with my French wife even when we weren't married.

Not really up with the Hungarian economy but when we were there last they were developing so fast as to make your head spin, mainly in Logistics as I recall. Great country, and I think with a still great future - lousy politicians and all - and we've ALL got them these days haven't we?

Where have you settled in France?

When I came to France everyone complained that the French sit in the middle lane on the motorway and don't move over to the right lane if there is nothing in it. What I notice in the UK the most is that all the lanes on the motorway are full and it is impossible to even try to break the speed limit as there is so much traffice. (The motorway speed limit is less than in France and in Spain). Even in the country the small roads are full of traffic and here in France I can drive for miles hardly meeting a car. My other gripe about the UK is parking, you have to pay all the time and here you can park for free most of the time.

My son is passing his driving test here, he is doing the conduite accompagné. He had to pass the mutilple choice highway code test which took a couple of months before taking the test. Then he had about 22 hours of lessons and now he has to drive about 3000km with us before having some more lessons (I think) and taking the driving test. But it is expensive, in total something like €1000.

I agree that the French don't know how to indicate round roundabouts which is annoying.

Having two friends who are police motorcyclists some of us had the chance to complete a police driving course some years back, it really was an eye opener not only for the extra skills it taught us but to hear the police comments on the uk driving test and driving schools their main complaint was that driving instructors taught learner drivers to pass the test not to drive, that may sound a bit confusing if you can pass the test then surely you can drive apparently not their idea was to incorporate parts of the advanced test into the basic test, having said that i had the chance to have another go just before i came here and the technic had changed yet again though i do suspect they had incorporated high speed pursuit technics into the course driving everywhere in 3rd gear ready for a quick get away isnt economical for general motoring fun though it may be, police bike in front and one in the rear riding into 3 figures how many people thought we were a gang being rounded up or special force, the course incorporated both bike and car driving skills

My opinion on french drivers and roundabouts is that they do not have a clue!

You approach a roundabout, it is a 'give way', you 'read' the situation and if all is well you can 'slot in' and proceed safely. If intending to take say, 3rd exit, indicate, keep left, close to the island itself. After passing exit 2, mirror and over shoulder check, indicate right move over and exit the roundabout. Obviously if it is busy you will need to stop and wait for a suitable 'slot'.

More often than not the french will drive up to the roundabout. Stop! Then look, then will enter the roundabout, lets say going for exit 3 again. They will keep right no indicattion and will 'sail' round (closing the exit door for those using the 'method' above) and will only indicate (if we are lucky) when they are approaching their exit.

I adopt 'expect them to sale round if not indicating'.

I have had this conversation with a French mate who was a professional HGV driver here. He agreed, but reckoned that roundabouts are a 'relatively new' concept and many drivers here were taught prior to there being any especially out in rural areas. So 'those' drivers will adopt their own take on how to navigate roundabouts. A little like priority from the right in rural areas around here, some adhere some don't. Some will 'blindly' pull out on you, then at the next junction will not slow in case someone pulls out on them! Bizarre!

Drive defensively and 'so as you can stop safely in the distance you can see to be clear' - Roadcraft!

Stay safe.

Norman, If Hungary had a better economy we would live in our home in Budapest, and raise our children there, but it is difficult to remain positive about Hungary's future. I have heard the same analogy of the women throughout Eastern and Central Europe. Many mary outside the ethnicity, probably leaves the men a little bitter at the fate of things.

We have many friends and most of our family in Hungary, and still go back a few times each year. I hope more French decide to go and experience the history and sites. There must be a way to bridge the gap between the two cultures. Our Budapest rental has never had tourists from France staying in it, and is booked up year round. And on the same note our Capestang rental has never seen Hungarian tourists either. I wish I could figure out why. Maybe too similar, stubborn,language too different and difficult for the other to even try? Any ideas?

Eva, no problem, I spent almost five years in Hungary (three different stints between 1992-2009), and I am exceptionally fond of the people there although I admit it seemed easier to get on well with the women rather than the men. This was also an impression gained throughout Eastern Europe, so not confined to Hungary. I do claim friendships there still, although expat.contract worker as I was, have a problem in sustaining relationships I fear.

Get rid of the PRIORITY A DOITE.

However decided to put an overtaking lane on roundabouts? Plus usually a pedestrian crossing.

0800 late for work, 1400 late back from lunch, 1630 late going to collect kids, 1800+ getting home from work quick. The rest kids being the best driver ever, we probably all have the t-shirt, some drunk, some grannies who forget to grow old gracefully, grandfathers forgetting to grow old and the rest megalomanic drivers.