Continental Differences – again…

Thinking about my legal reflections on Napoleonic Europe, differences are very often about philosophy.

This sounds grand but isn’t really. We just need a little more thought.

When I worked in France I encountered roadsigns that seemed to me completely doolally.

Some pointed across the roads to which they were supposed to indicate the destination, but with EU standards that is very gradually improving. By far the most confusing are those signs which indicated, reading from the top of the sign to the bottom – as you are reading now – a first turn to St Etienne  and a second from the top to Lyon.

I too read from the top.

So I, in UK fashion, presumed that that the sign indicates the road as if it had been pushed flat onto the road – thus reading from the top Lyon was the second turning. In fact it was the first – you do read from top to bottom don’t you?

I certainly do – but evidently and logically not for roadsigns. This to me, is hardwired and incontrovertible. And yet just 21 miles away there are people who think differently.

So if you read from the top, the first turning is St Etienne, not Lyon. The upper indication was in fact the second turning, not the first. Not having done my philosophy I took the first turning – wrongly – as I wanted to go to Lyon. EU regulations have now standardised the UK system – although to be fair, in France it seemed to vary according to (the philosophy) of the ‘council’ area. Which is not great for commerce.

And now because of a European standard, none of us read from from the top. Well, I expect we do, Mr Johnson, but not philosophically for road signs.

So even philosophy can be practical….

This is now the European standard. Which we seem to want to leave.

Perhaps, and it is just an idea, Mr Johnson, rather like the bridge, we should now institute road signs that read from the top down – just to confuse the enemy.




  1. Sean Danaher -

    Many years ago (1980) I lived in the US I had a federal but not civilian license and had to use my international license to hire a car. There was no difficulty but the car hire company remarked that Irish signage was far more similar to the US that that of the UK and said there was some 1930s agreement which about 30 countries adopted.

    It was certainly true as Irish and American signs at the time were very similar. I have however been unable to find any record of this with a web search.

    My confusion in France has been more the priorité à droite rule but more and more roads seem to have yellow diamonds where this is suspended.

    1. Peter May -

      There are a few near misses I’ve had as a result of priorité à droite… – (the crasiest part was when it was supposed to apply at roundabouts!) but now it’s pretty much abolished because the French have discovered the delights of EU standard roadmarkings.

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