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France Facts: You have to give way from the right, except when you don’t

France has many things that are confusing to foreigners - la bise, bureaucracy, andouillettes - but one of the most complicated and confusing rules is priorité à droite.

France Facts: You have to give way from the right, except when you don't
Photo: WIkicommons/François Goglins

The rule of priorité à droite – give way from the right – is well known but also widely misunderstood.

Said to have been originally introduced to make life easier for people driving a horse-drawn cart, it is still enshrined in the highway code, and regularly confuses non French drivers (and sometimes even some French ones).

Essentially the problem with it is realising when it should be applied and when it should not.

The rule that you must give way to any traffic approaching from the right applies on all roads – except those that have other markings or signage in place.

So in practice, most roads have their own road signs or road markings that tell you who has priority.

The ones that don't tend to be smaller rural roads which is where priorité à droite applies.

Except there are some fairly major routes that don't have alternative markings – such as the Arc de Triomphe roundabout – so the rule of the right applies again.

Simple, no?

Well no not really – here is a full explanation of how priorité à droite really works.


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For members


France Facts: Paris once had a ‘strike square’

The French have something of an international reputation for being fond of a strike - but did you know that Paris once had a Place de Grève (strike square)?

France Facts: Paris once had a 'strike square'

But in this case the French did not name the square after one of their favourite activities, in fact it was the other way round.

The Place de Grève, in central Paris next to the Seine, was the place where unemployed workers gathered, seeking casual labour.

Over time grève came to signify a group of people who were not working.

After the French won the right to strike in 1864 – 20 years before they won the right to form a union – the word attached itself to workers who were choosing to without their labour, rather than people who were unable to find work.

These days the French are quite fond of une grève, and between 2010 and 2017, the number of French strike days was 125 per 1,000 employees, according to a study by the European Trade Union Institute.

As a comparison, the UK, Germany and Sweden had 20, 17 and 3 respectively. 

The Place de Grève still exists, but in 1802 it was renamed the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville and houses the very impressive city hall of Paris.

The square's other claim to fame is that it used to be where public executions took place, and saw the first public use of the guillotine when robber Nicolas Jacques Pelletier was executed on April 25th, 1792.

And France has seen one or two strikes since 1864.