Driving In Australia

5 min readJan 5, 2021

This is the third extract of Le Guide Officiel…to Becoming Aussie.

Today, I am talking about driving in Australia.

Driving in Australia is much easier than driving in London or in Paris. Mind you, as I have driven all over the world, on the right side and on the left side, with tractors (on the family farm) automatic and manual cars, I feel ready to open an international driving school. Except for parallel parking of course but hey, nobody is perfect.

Generally speaking, Australians are not too aggressive at the wheel and they will not give you the finger or call you birds names when you are trying to merge lanes, unlike in Marseille -where I grew up-, which is always a bonus. Small things like these matter to me, and I must admit that I am a lot less stressed at the wheel over here.

Getting a driving license was easy. In France, you go to the prefecture to do such things. You take a ticket, you queue, you get to speak to someone and you waste at least a couple of hours. Things are completely different over here.

In Sydney, I just had to show my British driving licence and got a brand-new NSW licence within ten minutes at the service centre. They even did the eye test there and then. I am pleased to report that I passed with flying colours despite my ripe age. So far so good.

Having said that, you need to be prepared to face new challenges.

Here’s what I had to deal with the other day:

I was driving with my daughter through the Ku-Ring Gai Chase park, heading towards the Northern beaches when suddenly a huge spider appeared on the windscreen, inside the car. I had no idea where it was coming from. It was the size of a small fist, and to make matters even worse it was a bit hairy. Not a nice sight when you are driving.

My daughter started screaming. I told her to calm down. I couldn’t stop the car in the middle of the road anyway. Luckily, the spider got scared and crawled back to the rear of the car. My daughter didn’t speak for the rest of the ride. She was terrified and thought the spider would come back. It didn’t. When we finally arrived, she was reluctant to get out of the car in case the spider was near her. I eventually managed to convince her, arguing that the spider must have escaped. She didn’t look convinced.

Then I went to open the car boot to get our bags. The spider was resting in a hole next to the ceiling of the car. It got scared and escaped back inside the car. My daughter ran back home and refused to get a ride for the next few days.

But how do you get rid of a spider in a car? They don’t teach you this at school, do they? I ended up spraying the car with insect repellent, leaving it overnight, and cleaning it thoroughly the next day. The spider never reappeared after this. Its whereabouts are not known. I hope it doesn’t appear out of nowhere again…

There is also something I wish someone had told me when we moved here. Here it is:

Policemen. Don’t. Joke.

You see, I have always found a way to avoid fines in France. I remember that once, in Saint Tropez, I couldn’t find anywhere to park my car and ended up finding a space on some zebra crossing. I went to a policeman standing nearby and explained to him that I was very sorry but couldn’t find anywhere to leave the car. Would he be so kind as to not to fine me even if I parked on the zebra crossing? Of course he would, he answered with a big smile. He would even keep an eye on the car while I was running a few errands. I came back a couple of hours later and he waived at me when I left.

I don’t think this would work in Australia because:

1. I am now much older;

2. Policemen don’t seem to have a sense of humour over here. You just need to do as you are told and follow the rules (and believe me, there are many!).

Anyway: now you are warned.

And finally, you don’t do a U-turn down under, you chuck a u-ey instead.

Flat tyre

Parking stories

In Australia, just like in the UK, parking is so complicated that no one understands it. The rules can be completely different from one council to the next, and I’m still trying to find out whether you can park on a yellow line. I’m told that it depends, but I’m not quite sure what on. And don’t forget to read the fine prints on parking signs, even if it makes you more confused. As a general rule, P=hour. As in 1P = you can park for an hour, but please also check the times of the day you can park because it can vary.

To make matters even worse, a single yellow line is not the same as a double yellow line, but never, ever park on a red line, single or double. Red lines are very, very bad.

Mind you, once you are outside of big cities, you usually can park wherever you want, and it feels really good not to have to worry about parking fines.

The friendly Wave

Road rage exists everywhere and, unfortunately, Australia is no exception, even if I find Australians drivers kinder than their European counterparts. That said, you will soon find out that road rage can be easily deflected if you master the art of the friendly wave.

What am I talking about? Well, it’s dead easy: if you have almost run over a pedestrian or not given priority to another car when you should have, all you need to do is have a look at the other person wave, and smile (a contrite smile will suffice, not an all-teeth smile please). It usually does the trick. The tension will de-escalate instantly.

Mind you, when a busy driver didn’t stop at a pedestrian crossing to let me pass and did the friendly wave, my blood started to boil, and the wave did nothing to appease me. I internally swore at him. In French and in my head.

Maybe I am not completely Australian just yet.




I am a French woman who used to live in London and has now moved to Sydney. Engineer by background. Turned lawyer. Turned writer. Wife, mum, friend, ultrarunner