How is it - to learn to drive in France

Article published on July 30, 2014
Article published on July 30, 2014

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

One of my plans for this gap year was getting a driving license. I started with only theoretical classes, so I went to the school every day, my educational load was for 2-3 hours per day. Theoretical results were getting better and better. Yes, I was stubborn. I was more than just motivated to get everything done until I met my driving instructor. Here my pain starts. 


One of my plans for this gap year was getting a driving license. I subscribed to the auto-school, signed the contract, paid the whole amount of 860 euro the very same day and started my classes. I had a goal and I was hungry to fulfill it. I started with only theoretical classes, so I went to the school every day and spent there 1 hour, answering the questions on the secure behavior on the road. After couple of weeks, I increased my educational load and came to the school every day for 2-3 hours. My theoretical results were getting better and better. Yes, I was stubborn.

Meanwhile, when I felt more or less comfortable, I asked for the start of practical lessons. Apparently, in France before the instructor starts to actually teach you something, he should understand how many classes you need. You are obliged to take an “Evaluation hour”, which means 30 minutes of theoretical oral brief exam and 30 minutes of practical driving. This costs you 40 euro. Nice! My instructor estimated me 36 practical lessons in total.

Important to note that 20 practical lessons are included in the price of 860 euros that I already paid. So he wanted to almost double the price for his services. By the way, each driving class over those 20 will cost you 40 euro.

Teaching techniques

Once you know the way he teaches, you understand why you will need even more than 36 hours. My instructor was an adherent of “step-by-step” method. It means, until you become a master of the steering wheel, he won’t show you what to do with pedals; until you become a master of the wheel and pedals, he won’t move you to the gearbox, etc, etc.

As it was in my case, during 3 (!) first classes I was only wheeling, and he did everything else, sitting next to me. It was boring and long, even for him. I can imagine!

So on the 3rd lesson he started to shout at me and humiliate with such phrases “Are you drunk? Come on, wake up, it’s 4 p.m, are you still sleeping? Do you drink vodka? If you drink, don’t come to the lesson!!!” Those who know me will say without a shadow of doubt that I rarely drink at all, and concerning vodka, well, I tried it only once in my whole life, about 2 years ago.

A series of painful events

I was a lot concerned about his attitude and I thought that maybe I first focus on theoretical stuff, so that I orientate better and feel better on the road, knowing all the rules, etc. So I passed my theoretical exam from the first attempt. It was something to be proud of, as people told me it’s not that easy.

My 4th driving class was some days after positive result came, and I was almost sure my driving instructor will take it into account and stop assaulting me. Unfortunately, I was wrong. It appeared that I have no right to make mistakes while learning driving a car, he laughed at my mistakes instead of preventing it, and it was so disrespectful. Once I made a remark, expressing him my discontent, and got an avalanche of negative emotions back, literally “Don’t tell me your stories, don’t dictate me what to do. With me, it passes only once! Concentrate better on the road”

To be honest, it worked, but not for a long time.

What happened next is that he didn’t appear to the practical class previously agreed by the schedule. He didn’t call me beforehand to prevent he would be late, nor his secretary took a moment to do so, nor there was a secretary at all in the school when I came.

I tried twice to join him by phone on 3:20 p.m. 3:19 p.m. and I didn’t get any answers. Renewing my call at 3:30 p.m., I was notified by the same instructor of his alleged absence, he also said I had just lost my driving lesson. WHAT ?!

We was slightly late to every lesson, but never SO MUCH late. Never so late so that I even doubted I have scheduled this class at all.

Anyway, lack of punctuality of the instructor, combined with a refusal to recognize his school's responsibility, non-attempts to catch the lost hour up as well as to stop these delays can not be recognized as a professional behavior. I am legitimately entitled to expect the performance of the contracted service. 

I thought I was legitimately entitled to expect...

(The end of PART#1)