Wednesday, February 1, 2012

In defense of the French motorist

Or: A piece of what I've learned from living abroad

When I told my mum I was going to get around the city here by bicycle, she was very worried. She told me to get a helmet (well, she does that all the time, she knows her duties as a mother ^^) and to be "really, very, extra careful, you know how the French drive, sweetheart!"

Well, when you learn to drive in Switzerland, every other country is basically a huge, chaotic mess as soon as you get on the road. At some point you just have to accept that you have to either grow steel nerves or keep away from the steering wheel when you're abroad.

Here in the south, traffic is really approached in a very different way than I am used to.
Rules are used as guidelines and people obey them if they have an exceptionally good day.
Otherwise, the French are of the opinion that every driver has his own head and eyes and should use his common sense rather than blindly follow a set of static dictations.

And what can I say - it works! Yes, traffic is chaotic. People are parking everywhere. Cars are going down one way lanes the wrong way if the fancy takes them. They leave their vehicles in the middle of the street to go and buy some eggs. They honk whenever it seems fit (it does often).

But they are incredibly far-sighted drivers, they know their vehicles, they are patient and they consider everything that moves in the streets a 'partner in the crime that is traffic'. ^^

I have never been stopped for and urged to cross the road (standing in the most unconvenient places) so often like since I've lived here. I have seen a car stop for a ragged old dog who was busy sniffing a pizza box in the middle of the street and patiently waiting until he was on his way.

And whenever I am on a bicycle... I feel safe. Much safer than in Zurich with its speeding, stressed and utterly self centered drivers.
So, yes, even if they take my Swiss passport away from me for saying this: Order is not everything. There are other things than rules that make the world go round.

Drive safe! ;o)


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