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Category: expat reference

helpful hints about living abroad

Ch. 5 teaser

The customer is always wrong in this chapter of French License.  It’s a ‘dialogue des sourds,’ or a conversation between deaf people.

It reminds me of the responses Willy Wonka gave to questions.  He never answered directly, completely, nor with sincerity nor empathy.  He simply strung the asker along, bewildering them with unhelpful words, while leading them into danger.

I love Gene Wilder, but that movie gave me the creeps, his interpretation especially.  I didn’t want Charlie to follow to the end.  I wish he would have told Willy to take a hike with all his shenanigans, and exited out a side door to go back home with his grandfather.  Maybe that’s what I should have done in this chapter.


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Ch. 6 teaser

Ever seen one of these before?  I hadn’t before coming to France.  Know what it’s called?  Neither did I.  I learned the hard way.  I must like learning things the hard way.  If you do, too, you’re ready for the expat experience!  In Bike follies I, the sixth chapter of French License.


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Ch. 7 teaser

On Labor Day, we cover a subject which is most associated with the American worker: the automotive sector.  Car Culture is the name of this French License entry, the longest chapter at nearly 4 000 words.  There’s a lot to say about car culture, past present and future.  US vs. France.  Traditions.  Viewpoints.  Usage.  Fun facts.  And my own personal arc of car appreciation and disillusion.

This chapter could be the start of a book all its own.  There’s no space in the book for images among all that good stuff, so I’m sharing them here.

US car culture

France car culture

La Défense self-driving people-mover:

US cars in France

France cars in US


You’ll want to check out the digital version of this chapter for all the cool links.  Since this is a teaser, I’ll share one of them with you.

If you want to know what you’re watching, read chapter eight!


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Ch. 8 teaser

It’s Sunday before the new NFL season, so of course today’s teaser is about Football.  What’s a fan to do, far from the ‘States, with no TV coverage at his home?  It’s adventure time, seeking a Paris bar to watch, drink and shout.  The game is just a backdrop for our fan’s individual anxiety.  It’s his own personal Heidi game.

Chapter eight of French License also touches on Halloween and Thanksgiving.  Fall is the loneliest season for an American boy in France.

This chapter also has funny animal noises, words that don’t exist in English, and cross-cultural catastrophes in communication.


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Ch. 9 teaser

What the hell is that thing?  It’s written plain as day on the side of that piddly yellow eyesore: “drive without a license.”  What, you mean on the same roads as licensed drivers?  Yup.

Double standards is the WTF chapter of French License.  Glorified golf carts on busy thoroughfares are just the beginning.  There’s an underworld of loopholes, exceptions, outright lack of oversight, and authorised cheats for the game of life.  Welcome to the murky world where the rules don’t apply.

Of course, to live in that world, you must show your face in a toy car like this:

Ask yourself, is it worth the ignominy?

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Ch. 11 teaser

Right is wrong. That’s not a political statement. It’s the reality of driving in France: they look one way before crossing the road.

A 1910 law is still on the books, striking fear behind the steering wheel.  Chapter 11 of French License details this bankrupt (get it? Ch. 11?) and archaic rule of the road.

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Ch. 12 teaser

Ah, seasons!  You miss them in California, unless you live in the mountains to the East.  Our first New Year in France brought snow to our front door.  Then, global weirding made it mild again.  My son and I go outside.  In chapter 12 of French License, a runaway kite leads to a chance encounter.

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Ch. 15 teaser

France has more Radar speed cameras than any country in Europe, maybe in the world.  The fines from these cameras generate more revenues than any other state.  That’s because they flash for the smallest bit over the speed limit, which is impossible for the most careful driver to respect all the time.  In France, the limit can change four times in the space of 1 kilometre.  Radar money, indeed auto money, has become such a big part of the budget of the French state that they have become dependent on it.  So, while the radar cameras haven’t prevented road fatalities from increasing for the last four years IN A ROW, the response has been to release even MORE radars.

What is a populace to do facing this problem?  This chapter of French License sizes up the menace, shows what people are doing about it, and offers  what could be much more effective solutions to increase road safety.

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Ch. 16 teaser

People live a long time nowadays.  Especially French folks.  Lifer is the name of this French License chapter, revealing an unbelievable aspect of the pink permit.  It’s longer than a grandfather clause.  More like a great-great-grandfather clause.

Cultural differences are explored here in the perception of the driving document on both sides of the Atlantic.  One side sees a driver’s license as a necessity.  The other side sees a hunting permit.


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Ch. 19 teaser

It’s the hokey-pokey with the administrationé.  I put the paper in, they throw the paper out.  I put another paper in, and they shuffle it all about.  It’s called the Driver’s Ed paperwork shuffle in this episode of French License.  I liken it to the voyages of this little guy:

Here’s a shuffle that I much prefer:

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