20 April 2010

La Réunion Or Martinique ?

Be prepared to be bored. Sorry!
The French car number plate system was always quite straightforward. The notation was along the lines of XXX ABC XX, where the first X’s were numbers (obviously in the range of 001-999), the ABC was anything from A-Z, and the final X’s were based on where the car was registered. In my case the final two X’s were 06 representing the department of Alpes Maritimes.
Then one year ago they changed the system. They allowed people registering or re-registering their cars, or even just buying new number plates, to choose whichever region they wanted and the numbers representing that region would be put in the blue box you can see in the picture.
And what do you think happened? The Parisians, who even the French dislike intensely, have all changed their number plates so nobody on the roads can tell they are from the capital. Since the new plates began, two thirds of capital dwellers getting new number plates have given up their entitlement to the '75' at the end that denotes the city of Paris. Instead, they are choosing numbers from the départements of their holiday homes, family roots or even exotic destinations, such as Martinique.
The simple explanation for the disappearing ‘75’ is that many Parisians have origins elsewhere. But it also stems from the desire to avoid the stigma of being seen as an arrogant Parisian when they drive out of town. In the provinces, a ‘75’ plate advertises you as a city slicker and road hog and can ‘encourage’ car vandalism, car burglary or even arson. The new system is all very simple. If you’re a Parisian and you spend your holidays in the Marseille area, you simply register your car with a ‘13’ at the end to denote that you’re from the Bouches-du-Rhône region where Marseille is the main city.
Similarly, the Times reports that also out of favour are the départements of the inner suburban sprawl around the capital, especially the ‘93’ that denotes Seine-Saint-Denis, home to the immigrant-heavy towns that are occasionally prone to riots. Ninety-three, pronounced police style as "Le neuf-trois", has become code for urban jungle. Even Parisians give "93" cars a wide birth.
The favourite département for changed regional numbers is Le Nord (59), the old industrial region around Lille. Next in favour are the Bouches-du-Rhone (Marseille) region and the Rhone (69), the department centred on Lyon. Then follow the Gironde (33)- the Bordeaux area and Seine-Maritime (76) around Rouen.
The number plate-makers are reporting a new, but lucrative wheeze. Parisians often buy two sets of plates, one with ‘75’ (for Paris) and the other with the province of their choice for their trips out of town, which is legal.
I actually fancied getting my scooters ‘registered’ to La Réunion (number 974), those exotic French islands in the Indian Ocean just off the coast of Madagascar but I wasn’t quick enough and ended up with the rather boring ‘06’. C’est la vie as they say in ‘75’ – Paris.

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