June 20, 2011

Demander Le Chemin

My most recent job in France consisted of me driving to various businesses and giving English lessons to the people who worked there. The actual teaching part was 36 times better then when I was working with the French public school system, because my adult students were interested in learning English and I didn’t have any discipline problems.

What I didn’t like about the job was the getting to and from the various offices, scattered throughout the region.

While they did provide me with a car, I had never driven in France before. I thought this wouldn’t be a problem, as my cell phone has a GPS device on it.

I was wrong.

I got lost regardless of where I went, at least the first three times I went there.

I blame it on the French GPS constantly giving me the following bad directions:

Prenez la sortie.”
Translated as: Take the exit.
To me, an exit is where one actually turns off the freeway and finds oneself upon roads with stoplights (or in France, with roundabouts).
When presented with the option of merging onto a new freeway, or taking an actual exit, I took the exit.
The problem? To my GPS, une sortie was not always an exit. Sometimes it was, and sometimes it meant merge onto a different freeway.

Turner à droite/à gauche.”
Translated as: Turn right/left.
To me, turning right/left involves turning onto a new road, going perpendicular to where I was going before.
When at a stoplight where one could turn left, turn right, or veer to the right, I took “turn right” to mean turn right.
My GPS, however, often told me to turner à droite/à gauche when she really wanted me to continue on the same road I was already on, which happened to be veering to the left/right.

Sortie imminente.”
Translated as: Exit imminent.
To me, an exit being imminent implies it is the very next exit.
My GPS liked to tell me "sortie imminent" when there were still 2-4 exits off the freeway before mine.

Clearly my GPS is a drama queen.


  1. Roundabouts are so much better than stoplights !

  2. Roundabouts scare me. There's a neighborhood in Atlanta that has them, and they freak me out. Not sure how they are supposed to decrease accidents, especially when there's a huge tree in the middle that you can't see around.

  3. I think your GPS and my GPS are related.
    Because yeah, what's with the French 'exits'?!

  4. Vivian: I agree with you, but only for France because the lights are timed and not censored. Eff that. The best solution is to have lights with censors so you don't have to wait 5 minutes when nobody is there!

    Joshua: Roundabouts are pretty scary! I had never drive one before moving out here. I found roundabouts with multiple lanes especially scary and confusing. I'm never sure when I'm supposed to go.

    Also good point about the tree. In France most of the roundabouts have weird artwork in the middle.

    Sara Louise: I'm glad to know my GPS isn't the only one!

  5. Hi Laura,
    I've just found your blog and am loving it! I'm currently a language assistant in ile de France (attempting blogging, but enjoying reading others more). I wanted to ask you how did you find a way into teaching English in business situations? Can you give me any tips/companies to try?


    PS. I have my English car here and driving can be rather hell-raising. I'm not crazy to drive into central Paris, but still... oh, and I find roundabouts crazy, even though there are hundreds of them in the UK, it's just weird doing it on the otherside!

  6. Victoria: Thank you and welcome! I actually found a company who was local to the Lille region who was hiring and gave them my French CV. I had an interview and I guess they liked me so they hired me! I had a bit of a problem getting a work visa, so I unfortunately can't work for them now that my assistant's visa is up, but if you're British then you shouldn't have a problem with that! Best of luck to you, with a job and on the roads!


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