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French Drivers’ Code: The Agony

Last, I wrote about the stress of studying for the French driver’s code test. It’s one of the most aggravating tasks I’ve encountered since living in France. Now, I can attest to the agony of failing it.

Yes, I failed the test, along with my two American friends who, like me, are suffering through this ordeal.

French Drivers’ Code Test Day

The day of our test started out stressful. Not only was it raining when we left Uzès, but we had to squeeze into our driving school instructor’s tiny car for the trip to the testing site in Nimes. We were three good-sized Americans,  the driving instructor, and a teenage student driver on her first lesson.

Thankfully, the instructor was at the wheel. Not so on the way back.. which is another part of the nightmare.

 

Dread or Fear???

 

We should have known the day was going downhill when we spotted the testing site-building in Nimes.

french drivers school

An interesting architectural feature, don’t you agree?

 

French Drivers’ Code Test Day

When we arrived at the test center in Nimes, we waited for what seemed a lifetime before being admitted to the classroom for the test. During the wait, our translator joined us and introduced himself. He’s French and is married to an American. His English is perfect.

 

Beforehand, we’d agreed to share one translator. We were cocky enough to think we could read the questions in French. After all, we’d practically memorized every online question and answer – 800 plus.

Big mistake.

French Drivers’ Code Test Day

The first question on the test, I knew I’d never seen the video or the question before. I was told the test is taken from the same 800-question online questions I’d studied.

By question three, I was in pure panic. It was up to listening to and understanding the translator if I would make it. 

Unfortunately, the translator had his own problems. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, he sat at least six feet from us. Plus, his back was to the screen. The presenter read the questions and answers on the screen to all the attendees in French. Since our translator couldn’t see the screen to read the questions, he had to repeat the question from memory if we didn’t get it. Multiple choice questions and answers. It was impossible. 

Did I mention the handheld device I was given to enter my answers? It had buttons for each choice of answers, A-B-C-D; a “Correct” button; and a “Confirm” button.

Heaven forbid you mess up. If so, the test questions are rolling past, and you’re left wondering what planet you’re on!

By the time we reached thirty out of the forty test questions, I was in a daze. My friends were glassy-eyed.

Bottom line, it didn’t go well.

French Drivers’ Code Test Day

I’m not sure how we got back to Uzès. The student driver took over the wheel with the instructor beside her and three Americans in the back.

 

You can picture what happened next for anyone who knows the Pont Saint Nicolas route from Nîmes to Uzès.

Here it goes. A two-lane road winds and curves around rocky cliffs overlooking a formidable gorge. If you safely navigate the valley, there’s the Pont Saint Nicolas bridge. It’s one-way, not because of how it’s marked but because of the harrowing switch-back turn to get to it. Next, there’s a narrow road banked with giant plane trees (sycamores). The Tour de France often takes this route for the fear factor. 

The instructor had to grab the wheel several times l before we headed into a stone embankment, the river gorge, or a tree. If you dare to watch it, this video shows the reverse route through Pont Saint Nicolas- from Uzés to Nimes- minus the plane trees. 

French Drivers' Test
French road banked by plane trees.

 

The good news is that we survived. Plus, I made friends with the driving school instructor. She and I discovered we can communicate with each other. Her English is better than she thinks, and my French… well, she can figure it out. Hopefully, she’ll be my driving instructor… if I ever pass the code test.

 

French Drivers Test. Gimme A Break!

Day trip from Uzes to the Cevennes

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2 Responses

  1. I absolutely love your writing. Currently researching whether virtually moving to a new state or taking the test would be the better plan.

    1. I thank you for the compliment. I love to write as if I’m speaking with you, so I love our conversations! You’re asking a tough question. I’ve heard of issues with actually getting the French license after you’ve turned in one from a reciprocal state. Mostly just time delay. But taking the test if you don’t know French is a nightmare! I suggest you check out some of the French drivers groups on Facebook . Bonne Chance!

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