April 1, 2012

DIFFERENCES

spring 1

We are so looking forward to our forthcoming trip to Le Grand-Pressigny and once more we find ourselves fantasising about the day that we might up sticks and move there for good.

It may never happen but just talking about it makes us happy.

July1

On of the things I always try to do when faced with a decision is to make a list of pro’s and con’s.  I write the positives on one side and the negatives on the other and see which list is longer.  So the next few posts will be about some of the things on my list.

In both France and the UK we live in a rural area not far from other small villages and larger towns.  Both are considered tourist areas to a degree.

spring 2

1.  Traffic.

In the UK the standard of driving has plummeted in recent years and the volume of traffic has rocketed.

In the UK people have excellent driving skills, they have to have them in order to avoid crashing into the people who drive deliberately badly in order to get in front of you, changing lanes without signalling or even looking, pushing and shoving past parked cars when they should wait or give way – the roads are full of very angry and aggressive people, determined to get there first.

In France the roads are infinitely less crowded than in the UK. If we drive from Le Grand-Pressigny to Descartes we will pass only a handful of other vehicles.  This makes driving around our little corner of France a joy rather than a chore.  Admittedly there are sloppy drivers around – a lot of dithering goes on and you do get people driving too close or in the middle of the road.  But the fact that the roads are much quieter means the impact of bad driving is very much diluted and we notice this especially when we are on the motorcycles.

spring 3

In the UK I have been making the same journey to work for the last 25 years and it used to be entirely uneventful.  There are now 5 sets of traffic lights that were not there even ten years ago and these days I can hardly get to the bottom of our road, which is half a mile away from home, without some potential accident or moment of aggravation.  I feel that English drivers lack manners and consideration for their fellow motorists and I definitely feel safer driving in France.

spring 4

As far as the motorways are concerned, our journey to France is just hell from leaving home as far as Dover.  When we get onto the motorway at Calais all the traffic melts away and from then on, usually, it’s so easy.  Above all, I find driving in France far less stressful than in the UK.

I wonder if other English people feel the same.

34 comments:

  1. You could also be talking about Melbourne drivers or maybe its just any big city drivers.
    I'm about to start my working week with 1 hour and 15 minutes in heavy traffic.
    Leon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leon, I don't envy you "1 hour and 15 minutes in heavy traffic". I suppose it just goes to show that you can get used to anything, even if you don't like it.

      Delete
  2. I think a lot of North American people went to your "how not to drive" schools. It really is attitude — me first, to h**l with you!

    I hope you live to get from France to home again, particularly when driving on the UK side. I suppose driving motorcycles is even more dangerous, wherever you are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bear, we are very careful and cautious about when and where we ride in Derbyshire. At weekends some parts are crowded with tourists so busy looking at the scenery and avoiding sheep that they don't look where they're going. There are several motorcyle fatalities within a 20-mile radius of our house every year.

      Delete
  3. I haven't necessarily noticed that the standard of driving is worse in the UK, rather than as you rightly say the roads are so much busier. Also the pace of life in the UK seems so much faster.

    I like to be at my desk at about 7.20 (we start at 8.35). This always made me feel that I was 'ahead of the game'. Nowadays if i am not at work at this time I feel that I am late! Perhaps this is also age related!

    Enjoy your dreams as they keep us going ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gaynor, timing your journey to avoid the mayhem makes a big difference if you can do it. Unfortunately our days start such that we are obliged to hit the roads in the thick of it.

      I think the practise of shoving your way through and pulling out at junctions in front of other cars is much less noticeable in France than in the UK. Maybe because there less traffic therefore no need to do it. I also notice fewer people texting whilst driving, something that English drivers seem to think is perfectly acceptable - it doesn't count as breaking the law if nobody can see you doing it.

      When we went to London on the bus recently I was staggered and dismayed at how many cars went past us with the drivers texting. From my window seat I could see what they were doing with their hands !! We were going at 70mph and I stopped counting once I got to ten people overtaking whilst texting. It was very worrying, each one was a serious accident waiting to happen.

      And yes, the dream keeps us going.....going to work every day for the time being anyway !!

      Delete
  4. Isn't it really about the number of cars on the road? If there are too many, people get aggressive. I know I did when I lived and commuted in the San Francisco area in California. Paris drivers are also known for being aggressive. It's having a destination and not enough time to get there unless you drive like a bat out of hell that causes the problems.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ken, I'm sure you're right. But whatever the reason, I feel safer in France.

      Delete
  5. I never drove in the UK because there was too much traffic driving too fast and I was frightened and convinced I was going to run over a pedestrian because they behave differently in the UK to Australia. Here in France I am now happy to get myself around most places (cities excepted) and love the independence it gives me. The much lower numbers of cars on the road here makes a huge difference.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan, I agree. There are parts of the UK where I feel nervous nowadays, the motorways in particular. Luckily I don't need to do city driving at busy times, if at all, any more.

      The puzzling thing is, the driving test gets stricter and stricter but once they've passed people learn aggressive driving. Also, people who passed their tests decades ago now drive aggressively. Even older people do it - they pull out at junctions in front of you, causing a heart-stopping moment of panic and just stare ahead, avoiding eye contact. I'm sure the same people didn't drive like that in the 80's or even the 90's. It's as if they see other people do it and get away with it so they do too.

      Delete
  6. Driving in the UK was definitely more stressful for me. Part of that stress was being on the "wrong" side of the road in Aberdeen, but once that was mastered I was more aware of the speed at which cars navigated the narrow streets of the city center and hurtled through the roundabouts. I don't find the same to be true here in France. But I must say that the little sans permis vehicles to be a royal nuisance on the roads of France.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Keir, at our nearest town there are now traffic lights at three of the major roundabouts. That was the only way to prevent the numerous serious accidents every year caused by people pulling out in front of cars hurtling round them, or changing lanes without looking. It was carnage but the lights have made them very safe.
      The only bad accident in the last year was a coal waggon tipping over because it was going too fast. Luckily there was no car next to it when it deposited its load of coal on the road !!

      Delete
  7. Couldn't agree more about the stark difference in traffic flow once you get into France. I'm looking forward to your pro's and cons. We've been making lists for ages...yesterday we made another list which we'll put in a folder for easy reference as opposed to a notebook where everything is jumbled. This is our year for getting to know everything we need to before moving.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ken, you are such an organised person !!
      I think it's important to get it right and make sure you're not making a big mistake by setting your heart on moving to France. It must be awful if you move then realise life there isn't what you thought it would be like.

      Delete
  8. I find there are different kinds of bad driving in France and Britain. Aggressive in Britain, inattentive/egotistical in our bit of rural France. And I do see people here texting or (more often) using the phone while driving.

    Statistically, it used to be safer driving in the UK than France (half the number of fatalities for about the same population). Now the accident rate in France has dropped considerably, largely thanks to actual enforcement of drink-driving laws. When we first moved here in 1997, you'd never encounter a French person refusing a drink with "No thanks, I'm driving." It was so common for people to set off to drive home after a lengthy apero session. And I think it's only "la peur du gendarme" that has changed their habits, not recognition that they were endangering lives.

    Still, in our sparsely populated département last year, there was an average of one fatal accident a week. Usually young people drunk out of their minds driving into plane trees on their way home from night clubs at silly o'clock. But as you say, there's so much less traffic here that driving is still a more pleasurable experience! And one thing French drivers do right is that they are generally very respectful of cyclists.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Veronica, when we are on the motocycles we are always that bit more careful after lunch - on the lookout for people who have had the obligatory 50cl's with their menu du jour. As you say, it is noticeably better lately. The police activity obviously works.

      An English friend who has a French husband told us once that she was horrified that the attitude was that a man was a better driver after he had had a couple of drinks. She said her greatest fear was her daughter getting killed in a boyfriend's car after a night out.

      Delete
  9. I think a lot of it has to do with the amount of traffic and the changing attitude one of your other readers already mentioned. The: "Me first, and to heck with anybody else". For 5 years I commuted from Suffolk/Essex border to the Isle of Dogs [E.London] and the A12/M11/M25 was pretty terrible.
    I'm with you regarding the motorways here in France, in general much better than the UK. Although the A1 between Paris and Lille and Autoroute du Soleil which are heavily used are often pure 'enfer'.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Antoinette, I'm sure you're right, it isn't just the increase in number of vehicles but also a change in attitude. I sometimes wonder if car advertising is unhelpful, stressing how safe cars are if you have an accident, giving the impression you can drive like an idiot and get away with it.

      We always avoided the Autoroute du Soleil when we did our big touring holidays, preferring to take our time on the ordinary roads where it is safer.

      Delete
  10. I never drive in England -- it terrifies me because the roads everywhere, whether in the country or on the motorways are busy, busy, busy. As others have said, the roads in France are much less congested and in our area congestion is very rare -- except for the holiday weekend in France in late July when the best policy is to go no where in a car if you don't have to! The one thing, though, that drives both my husband and me up the wall is the tendency of French drivers to drive up your backside if they think you are going to slow or for what ever reason...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Broad, I agree with you there, it's very annoying, unnecessary and dangerous, especially when you're on a motorcycle. Some French drivers are hopeless at overtaking - dithering about when it's safe to go or leaving it until it's too late and causing havoc.

      We have got into the habit of slowing right down and waving them past. It annoys them no end but diffuses the problem.

      Delete
  11. we have the same favourite advert..... quite wonderfully timed don't you think?....that dog's face!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. John, the dog is the star, the expression on its face is priceless. Full screen is needed to see it properly.

      Delete
  12. When we lived in S.Africa Nigel always used to say how bad the drivers were compared to the UK. After moving back to the UK he then used to say how the driving in the UK had gone down hill!! I agree, generally driving in France, so long as you stay away from Paris, is an absolute pleasure. Have a safe trip over. Diane

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Diane, obviously I have never driven in South Africa! But the standard of driving in the UK used to be better than it is now, I'm sure.

      Delete
  13. Hope you have a lovely visit. I love driving on the quietness of French roads, but then I love everything about living here!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Vera, to hear you say that is no surprise and music to my ears !!

      Delete
  14. I agree that the roads in the UK have become very much busier, even in our quiet Mid-Wales, but it's still easy to drive miles on minor roads and see virtually no cars, and even easier up here in the Scottish Highlands. :-) I've never driven in France because we always take our campervan and I don't drive that, but I'm not sure my DH enjoys driving in France as much as you do. At least he never looks terribly relaxed whilst doing so....

    I'll be interested to see some more of your pros and cons.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perpetua, I know there are places in the UK where the roads are quiet and wish I lived there !!
      And I don't think I'd be relaxed driving a camper van either !!

      Delete
  15. I can't be of any help comparing driving in the countries. I'm terrified to get behind the wheel in the UK given that we don't drive on the same side of the road! But, I think this one on your list looks clearly like a vote for France!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mitch, I agree, this definitely puts France on the positive list.

      Delete
  16. Years ago I took a lot (and I mean A LOT) of driving lessons and took four tests. I was rubbish and terrified of accidents that might happen, particularly if I caused them. I would not want to be the cause of someone else's death of injury and in retrospect I'm pleased that I never got into cars and motoring. Your motorbikes look great though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Phil, I passed my driving test in 1976 when there was much less traffic on the roads. I think I would be terrified if I took it now.
      I took my motorcycle test in 1993 and by then the roads were much busier and I WAS terrified, so much so that I nearly chickened out on the day. I think the examiner felt sorry for me because it had chucked it down with rain all day and I was soaked, my boots were squelching and I just wanted to get it over with and go home.

      Delete
  17. I think the other factor these days is that nearly everybody needs to drive. In the past, people who didn't want to get behind the wheel of a car just didn't. Now they don't have much choice, if they want to go anywhere. And then so many people are just in a big hurry. They can't be bothered to be careful...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ken, I'm sure you're right, that is definitely a factor. We all need a car to survive these days.

      Delete