How (Not) to Be Parisian: Driving Through the City | EUROtoday

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Stephen explains the benefits of going incognito when driving round France.

I confess, I'm Parisian. You might imagine that sounds uncharacteristic. Why confess as an alternative of bragging? Aren't we Parisians all over-conscious of our inherent superiority? Well, sure, most of us are sincerely satisfied that we're essentially the most subtle inhabitants of planet Earth (and possibly the opposite planets too, until there's one on the market with higher eating places). But we're additionally just a little ashamed.

I ought to emphasize that this disgrace solely applies after we're outdoors Paris, in some rustic nook of the nation like Lyon, Rouen, or a kind of different French cities that thinks it's civilized. When we stray past our hometown, typically it's finest to cover our sophistication.

It is now doable in France to decide on whether or not your automobile's registration reveals your approximate tackle. In the previous, Parisians' vehicles bore the quantity 75, the Marseillais drove vehicles marked 13, the Lyonnais 69 and Strasbourgeois 67.

More than a quantity

The numbers, as lots of you’ll know, correspond to the departments, which (France being so splendidly bureaucratic) are numbered in kind of alphabetical order. There are, in fact, exceptions to this alphabetical rule (France being so gloriously revolutionary).

As a pupil, I used to seek out this very helpful when hitchhiking. I spent a 12 months in Perpignan, within the Pyréneés-Orientales (division 66). So if I used to be on my approach house, standing at a roundabout in, say, Carcassonne (in Aude, division 11), and noticed a automobile with a registration that led to 66, I used to stay my thumb out with additional gusto.

Most individuals nonetheless register their vehicles in keeping with their tackle, however as quickly as the foundations have been relaxed, many Parisians determined to put off the telltale 75. Some apparently selected 2A and 2B, the numbers for north and south Corsica. The island has a repute for a scarcity of sang-froid behind the wheel, so the thought is that by registering your automobile there, you’ll discourage drivers from chopping you up on the motorway.
I went down the alternative monitor, selecting a registration that implies I'm from a peaceable, rural division. This has the drawback of upsetting Parisian drivers into bullying me at each junction, however as I solely ever use the automobile to depart Paris, my struggling is short-lived. My technique, you see, is geared toward non-Parisians. The worst factor you might be when driving round the remainder of France is Parisian: instinctively, different drivers will hate you. You wish to pull out of a aspect highway? No one will give approach. You're double-parked for 2 minutes when you purchase a sandwich? Any passing policeman gives you a ticket. In Marseille, Paris's bitter southern rival, they'll most likely simply shove your automobile into the harbour.

Telltale indicators

On the opposite hand, tootling round France with my rustic registration quantity, I’m handled with unflagging courtesy. No one hoots at me if I get misplaced and maintain up site visitors. I wave an apology and so they suppose I'm only a poor, confused peasant. Similarly, in any service context outdoors Paris I conceal my id. My French shouldn’t be excellent, however being Parisian shouldn’t be all about language. Instinctively, if one in all us is saved ready for a micro-second by a receptionist or waiter, we are going to bristle, huff, faucet our ft after which complain – thus, in fact, making certain that the service will get even worse (see above about France being gloriously revolutionary).

So outdoors Paris, I at all times remind myself to tone it down a notch. Life doesn’t must be hurried, receptionists don't must react immediately. Of course, when my trick comes off and I get glorious service due to my duplicity, I congratulate myself for pulling the wool over the eyes of those naïve provincials. A second confession: that disgrace I discussed, about being Parisian, was pure hypocrisy. It had you fooled, although, didn't it?

Stephen Clarke's new Paul West novel, Shit on the Paris Olympicsis out now.

From France Today Magazine

Lead photograph credit score: © MARIE LISS

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How (Not) to Be Parisian: Driving Through the City