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Breaking the "INTERDIT" rule Print
In other words the importance of not obeing "FORBIDDEN" rule. You absolutely need to know this so you will not be milked and buggered like a mad cow. Don't let greedy people pick your pocket!

Taking a course of French language in France is an ideal opportunity to meet anyone except the people who speak good French. Half way through such a course in Annecy, "Le Paradis Francais", as they call this beautiful town, I made friends with Louise. She was a Swedish aspiring climber. Fed up with slow progress of our French and mumbling classmates we spent every evening doing what we like most - climbing. Like myself Louise was keen to have deeper conversations on social subjects. All of them very interesting but due to our bad French only laconically discussed during our lectures. We shared strong interest in exchanging experience on cultural similarities and differences between our neighbouring countries and on sex. Other times we questioned the efficiency of learning French in our institute. Those days we climbed the whole day. In the end we spent most of our time chatting and cragging* on nearby cliffs called "Le Talabar" and "Grand Jeanne". One day a very peculiar aspect of our cultural differences endangered climbing, which until then was the most often discussed topic. It became a growing problem. Starting from a size of a splinter in our friendship, it swelled to a log blocking further development of our fragile but promising relationship. It was a Nordic attitude to the rules and regulations that I found most difficult to understand, and vice versa. Louise is one of the most inteligent and sexy women I have ever met. She comes from a country where everyone accepts and follows unquestionable rules. Rightly, she pays lots of respect to "Act as Romans do, when in Rome" principle. I'm a rule breaker. Still, I'm not as radical as a typical Pole who believes that laws are made to be broken. During my time in France, and through the relationship with my intarnational classlmates, I discovered that one can look at imposed regulations in a slightly different light.

The French draw a clear line between laws and rules, strictly following the first and happily breaking the latter. This results in an absolute disrespect to anything that is publicly forbidden, often reminded by a big notice board stating in capital letters "INTERDIT". For some people, French rule breaking isn't a very obvious phenomenon. It may require a keen eye to get through French hypocrisy, to notice it. My Swedish friend seemed not to register the French making fires and letting their dogs in national parks, entering military and green border zones or driving their cars through temporarily closed roads. Louise followed regulations, rules, laws and other requests as to public behaviour. For a long time it was a touching subject almost a taboo, spiralling our conversations to manic rows. Whenever I prompted him to think why they might have forbidden certain actions she would put his national skin on and refer to a German style order. "Oh yes!" I responded. We have seen stability and harmony working well in northern European countries. But here in a country of hot tempered people? It is a big failure. Chaos, disorder and confusion rule here. The further north you travel to Germany, England and Scandinavian countries, the fewer of prohibited things you find. The English enjoy their freedom and respect the few rules they have, because their public laws are logical. However, in France if one wanted to obey them all, it would be better to stay in bed, there are so many ridiculous laws.

Now for some good news. There is a way for you my brother. Next time in France, when you see "INTERDIT" sign, imagine that it means more "WATCH OUT, THINK!". I believe, in France, laws and rules are to be strictly followed only by those of little imagination. If you can't see potentially disastrous consequences of making a fire in wild, or if you can't find a safe spot and fully control the fire, then don't make it. If you can't prevent your dog chasing a wild animal, don't let it enter woodlands. If you are too lazy to take away your rubbish and respect nature when camping rough, then don't do it. Use hotels, auberges and campsites. If you have plenty of money to spend, follow the "INTERDIT" system. The "INTERDIT" system is an infrastructure support, which was designed for the French tourist industry to take advantage of people like you. Be prepared though for a bit of disappointment. The system of implicit agreements in France, between members of a cartel, such as the accommodation industry has no equal in Europe, with a rasultant tendency to overcharging. Have no illusions, it will come served expensively and with arrogance.

If you are open-minded and willing to change your views then, keep on reading. On the following pages I will provide you with more detailed guidance. I will explain how to bend French rules so you can appreciate the beauty of the country without having a post purchase dissonance that is how to live there on low budget.

Lets take the example of my Swedish friend. For the last two years Louise has been doing his PhD in Information Technology. Living and studying in Toulouse, she is now occasionally breaching some of "INTERDIT" codes. For Louise it wasn't an easy way. I suppose people in professions where abstract thinking is more required, will find it easier to alter their attitude and accept the idea. Free your mind!


  • French schools are not necessary the best place to learn French
  • French over regulation makes our stay there more expensive
  • Don't be ashamed of breaking the rules, be wise
  • Avoid obeing them, ignore them and play a "dumb blonde" game when caught
  • Respect the people, learn from them and "Act as Romans do, when in Rome"