Our French Life

The One Where I Get Ram Raided

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I set out to write about things to do in Vire, Calvados or Vir-ray as my brother-in-law calls it. I actually prefer this version as it sounds all posh like.  Well firstly, it’s not to get ram raided by another car in the supermarket car park. This happened to me yesterday in the E.leclerc in Vire. So firstly, if you are out shopping be mindful of the kamikaze parking that goes on here. Everything is different. Logic. Common Sense. It’s like living in an opposite game show where the rules keep changing. I love France and the French people are, by and large, very nice but how it all works (even accepting it) can feel like you’re living in a pantomime. I mean the whole way in which we think, in my view, as Brits is the complete opposite to a French person.

I shall give you a few examples about how absolutely different (and I may have written some of this before so bear with) things are. Okay, here goes:-

We start of with no points on our driver’s licence and if you’re naughty they get added on. In France you start with points and if you’re naughty they get taken off. Totally opposite.

In the UK, you can get breakdown cover if your car breaks down. Here it is covered on your car insurance and you have to phone them. Also the policy may specifiy that you are only covered outside a 30km radius from your home, unless you specifically ask for 0km. Like why would you even think of not being covered the moment you left home? Who comes up with that logic?

In the UK you will stop if a pedestrian is waiting to cross. Here they get annoyed if you do that. They want to save you and them the embarrassment of looking at each other. I’m not sure why as staring is a national past time. They will frantically wave you on and proceed on their own terms.

If you have an accident in the UK i.e drive off the road, knock a pedestrian in the air it is your fault. It’s driver error. There is no excuse for knocking anyone over. Here it’s the pedestrian’s fault – yes really! I’ve read comments on forums and rarely does the driver get blamed for driving like a lunatic. It is always some how the fault of the person crossing the road. I saw one crash in the local paper whereby a mum had managed to take off and land her car on its roof, in icy conditions with her two young kids in tow.  The comments consisted of “oh yes it can be very icy on that stretch.” Not what an earth where you doing 1) actually out driving 2) driving like you would normally when it is icy.

People are very tactile. We are not. We have always found greeting someone a bit awkward. Like do we hug, an air side kiss, semi pat on the back?. Maybe we should have some etiquette. Clearly there are rules here but also people touch you to get their point across. For instance, when my son got into trouble at school, the head cupped his chin in his hand and squeezed his faced. It was a gesture to say it will be okay. However, I was totally taken aback by this. No teacher in the UK would touch a child in this manner they would get sacked and the child would be screaming “assault!”. Very different. I’m not saying that that’s okay either but just different.

If a car flashes you in the UK it’s to either say thank you, or it’s letting you out of a junction. In France it’s telling you there is something wrong , you’re a tosser or don’t pull out as I’m driving. Dangerously opposite to us.

Coffee – we drink large cups they have doll’s house versions

We would expect tracking to be done when getting a new set of tyres as like what would the point of getting new tyres without tracking? Here why would they even do that unless you ask?!

Here they’ll charge you €8.50 for a new cheque book – to write cheques from your account in addition to your banking fees. We don’t get charged to take our money out or have fees like this.

People use their cheque books even though they get charged – see above. They prefer that over using their card which is far cheaper?


This way to Panto season

I could go on and please feel free to add your pantomime list of differences which are the total opposite. Maybe this is the same for any person who lives in a different country to that of their own. Or is it a European thing? Maybe a Dutch person finds living in France a breeze as the systems are similar. Maybe an Italian is like what do you mean paperwork – you call this paperwork?!

So yes,  I was rather pleased with myself yesterday. I was on schedule with the weekly shop. I’d managed to get modelling clay in Action (massive tick) and had successfully navigated my way around E.Leclerc all in good check out time to be home by about 10.45am.

can opener
One of these is needed in a French car park.

Prior to getting into my car, I heard a massive bang. A lady had let go of her trolley which had then careered down the slop hitting an unsuspecting shoppers car. The alarm went off and everything. She merely took her trolley, pushed it back up and starting loading her car up. No head hanging in shame. No embarrassment. Nope. Nothing. Ironically I thought to myself, this place is not good for my car.

So I get in and start the engine. I had parked in a bay (naturally) and as soon as I started reversing, I can see a car has parked opposite me to reverse in. He is blocking the parked cars on his side to do this. Come to think of it he has driven down the wrong way of the parking bays to do this. So I need a can opener to get out. Great. Cursing away I edge out, right hand down as I then need to straighten up to go left out of the car park.

This chap can’t wait for me to drive off and proceeds to just reverse into the back of me. He’d already made it very tight for me to get out. So not content with this, he thought he’d give my car a bashing as well. I knew there was no avoiding it as I couldn’t go forward. I was stationary with my brakes on. I was already edging out of  a give way to the traffic leaving the supermarket. My beepers are going mental. All I can do is sit and wait to be hit. Bang.  I get out cursing like a docker. He gets out grabs my arm and says “in France you go out of the parking that way” and gestures to the right. What the way where it’s no entry and I would be driving into oncoming traffic you muppet? Clearly I can’t think to say that quick enough. So I said something along the lines of that route is forbidden. Plus what’s with the touching me?! I repeated again – I can’t go down there and you must wait for a car parking space.

Anyhow some woman leaps to his defence. Like what’s that all about? I’m thinking – yeah that’s it all gang up on the l’anglaise never mind it wasn’t her fault at all. He reversed into me but in true French logic it’s my fault. This is because I’m not going where he intends for me to go. Yes, in French land that makes sense and has relevance.

I park up in a space and he parks up in my space. We toddle on off into the supermarket to fill in the form for accidents. He looks like a pro at this I might add.  I want to add comments but he’s not keen. He was quite nice and after I looked at his age (80) he did look rather well on it. How do they do it? Look young the old men here? Must be the Normandy air and their casual approach to prangs in the car park. He was very sweet with me and my accent. Afterwards my inner Croydon mind was questioning whether he wanted to stitch me up like a kipper.  No he was nice. But they can be a fickle bunch. No he was nice.

I did manage to say a little bit in my emergency french brain bank but even if I were fluent, I have found lots of French people talk over you. If there is a dispute there’s a lot of “let me finish” and then when it’s your turn no they’re not listening that’s if they haven’t already talked over you.

Well it turns out (having spoken with my broker) that it’s a machine that looks at all claims. So it doesn’t matter about comments, photo’s etc unless it goes to court and most car parking claims are 50/50 even if I was stationary at the time. So in theory, I could have been in the supermarket and it would still be 50% my fault just from my being there! Or am I now getting carried away. Are my rose tinted French glasses beginning to discolour?

There wasn’t much damage to my car nor his really. I did think why are we even bothering with this but again, it’s quite hard to think on your feet in these situations. As ever, we wished each other bonne journée and away we went.

You have been reading Our Normandy Life!





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