A-Z of eti­quette

In part two of our in­sider’s guide to life in France, Mark Say­ers has ad­vice on house­hunt­ing, long lunches and the right side of the road

French Property News - - Contents -

Part two of our guide to life in France

Al­though France and the UK are sep­a­rated by a mere 35km stretch of wa­ter, mov­ing to France some­times in­volves more of a cul­ture shock than many new­bies ex­pect. In this A-Z se­ries we take a light-hearted look at the quirky side of life in France in a guide that will be handy for any­one con­tem­plat­ing the move, as well as those keen to blend in with the lo­cals!

D is for driv­ing

In the in­ter­ests of re­search for this seg­ment, my wife posted on a Face­book group of mainly ex­pat ladies liv­ing in France, ask­ing about peo­ple’s ex­pe­ri­ence of driv­ing in France. Usu­ally her posts re­ceive four or five re­sponses. This one got a whop­ping 168 replies (and count­ing) so it’s safe to say that it’s some­thing ex­pats in France feel quite strongly about!

First, the pos­i­tives. For those used to bumper-to-bumper com­mutes on crowded Bri­tish high­ways, the empti­ness of the roads was much ap­pre­ci­ated. Avoid French mo­tor­ways on ‘black’ days in the sum­mer (hol­i­day changeover Satur­days in Au­gust) and you will usu­ally en­joy a con­ges­tion-free jour­ney. Many also com­mented on the fact that you don’t have to slalom your way through the streets in France to avoid pot­holes, and the re­fresh­ing absence of road rage.

For ev­ery­thing else, the gen­eral con­sen­sus is to keep ex­pec­ta­tions low when it comes to other road users in France. Here are some point­ers to help you drive like a lo­cal: Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, French cars do have in­di­ca­tors but use seems en­tirely op­tional. If you do use them, it’s not nec­es­sary to indicate the di­rec­tion you are ac­tu­ally go­ing in. Keep other driv­ers on their toes by se­lect­ing lanes on a round­about en­tirely at ran­dom. Never, ever stop at a pedes­trian cross­ing, even if there are peo­ple on it. Park, or as one lady put it, aban­don, your car any­where you like – on round­abouts, cross­ings, at traf­fic lights, in front of garages etc. The more in­con­ve­nient for other driv­ers the bet­ter. Cau­tion af­ter lunchtime is ad­vised as you will be shar­ing the road with driv­ers who have en­joyed rather more wine than they should have with their menu du jour. Sun­days, in par­tic­u­lar, can be dan­ger­ous when it is not un­heard of to see up­turned cars in ditches. Men, feel free to pull up and pee any­where at the road­side; you don’t even need to hide be­hind your car. What could be more nat­u­ral? Don’t rely on road signs to get you where you want to go as they have a nasty habit of dis­ap­pear­ing half­way through the jour­ney, leav­ing you stranded. Fac­tor an ex­tra hour into your travel time if you are try­ing to get out of a shop­ping com­plex car park – the plan­ners pride them­selves on mak­ing it as fiendishly dif­fi­cult as pos­si­ble. Be­ware of ‘ pri­or­ité à droite’ – de­scribed by one po­lice­man as ‘a stupid rule but a rule’. It is in­con­sis­tently used in many city cen­tres to max­imise the po­ten­tial for accidents. Tail­gat­ing is per­fectly nor­mal, as is over­tak­ing with reck­less aban­don, only to drive slower than the car you have just passed.

Once you’ve mas­tered all that, you’ll fit right in. Bonne route!

E is for es­tate agent

It just had to be, con­sid­er­ing that most read­ers will be plan­ning to buy or rent prop­erty in France. If you are hop­ing to buy, you’ll be pleased to hear that France has one of the most highly reg­u­lated and se­cure prop­erty mar­kets in the world. The pur­chase process is set up to make gazump­ing dif­fi­cult and to pro­tect both buyer and seller at every stage, and there are strict cri­te­ria for those wish­ing to work as es­tate agents, al­though cau­tion should still be ex­er­cised to choose some­one you feel is pro­fes­sional and trust­wor­thy.

Re­mem­ber that buy­ing a house in France in­volves sign­ing legally bind­ing doc­u­ments in a lan­guage that you may not un­der­stand which com­mits you to a pur­chase worth many thou­sands of pounds. I un­der­stand how ex­cit­ing it can be to find a house you love and ful­fil a long-held dream – I’ve helped hun­dreds of

Be­ware of ‘pri­or­ité à droite’ – it is in­con­sis­tently used in many city cen­tres to max­imise the po­ten­tial for accidents

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