03 July 2007

My advice: "go native"

Weather bulletin: It's raining again this morning. Now that's out of the way...

I finally got my QWERTY keyboard. What a long wait! I ordered it on June 7. If I had thought it was going to take so long for the local computer store to get it from a supplier, I would just have ordered one from U.K. Amazon. I would have received it a lot sooner.

The French keyboard is called an AZERTY model. The Q and A keys are reversed compared to a U.S. keyboard, as are the W and Z. A lot of other keys, especially keys for punctuation marks and other useful symbols, are in different places too.

The British keyboard now on my desk

Only if you've ever tried to use a French or other non-QWERTY keyboard to type text — e-mails in an Internet café in Paris, for example — will you understand what a big issue this is.

In a way, it all turned out fine despite the much longer than expected wait. One feature of the French keyboard that was giving me a fit was its small Shift key on the left side and the extra key stuck in between the Shift and the Z compared to a U.S. keyboard. That key is the backslash, so every time I wanted to type a capital letter that involved a letter key on the right side of the keyboard, the little finger on my left hand would press what it thought was the Shift key and I would see this on the screen: \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\p

While I waited nearly a month for my QWERTY keyboard, I finally got used to the smaller Shift key. I decided late last week that I didn't really even need a QWERTY keyboard.

I returned to the computer store yesterday (Monday). Actually, my purpose in going there was to tell them that I didn't want the QWERTY keyboard any more. Partly, I was just peeved that it was taking so long. I had found une autre solution, I told the clerk. That's when he said the QWERTY keyboard had come in last Friday.

Despite the fact that I was in the store three times the week before to ask about the delivery date and was told each time that I would get a phone call as soon as my keyboard came in, nobody had called me. The store is open on Saturdays, so it's not like maybe it came in so late on Friday that there was no point in calling me until Monday. I didn't miss the call either — there was just no call to miss.

I asked if I could see the QWERTY keyboard anyway. I was hesitating. What if it turned out to be a nice U.S. model?

It turned out to be British. And the British keyboard has that same tiny Shift key on the left side. Of course, as I said, I'm used to that now.

When I initially ordered the keyboard, I was told it would cost about 20 euros. When I said I wanted it to be black, not beige, the clerk said that "feature" would cost extra. Last week, I priced the keyboards at the SuperU hypermarket in Contres, and they were in the 20- to 50-euro range.

So yesterday, I expected to hear that the selling price of this British keyboard would be 25, 30, or even 40 euros. It is a specialty item in France, remember. And it is black, after all, and thus rare.

I looked at the keyboard and saw that it was a Logitech model. I explained to the clerk the differences between the layout of a British keyboard compared to an American one. His eyes glazed over (as yours surely have by now). I was hesitating about going ahead and paying for it at that point. It all depended on the price.

So I asked. It's eleven euros, he told me. I expected him to quote a much higher price for such a nice black Logitech keyboard. At the low price he did quote, I couldn't say no. So now I have a nice new British keyboard. Of course, it says "Made in China" in small print on the back.

The jackass that lives out back

If you have read this far down in this boring post, you've gotten to the part where I tell you the lesson I've learned. Which is: Adapt. Go local. Go native, as the British so charmingly and pejoratively say. I already had a French keyboard, and the hypermarket shelves are full of them. I had made progress in getting used to using it. And it's no problem to buy one locally, even if they are expensive.

If you want something that is specifically British or American, order it from the U.K. or the U.S. If — and this is a big IF — you can find a company that will ship it to France, that is. Or do without. Imagine how hard it would be to get a French keyboard in the U.S., especially if you lived way out in the country somewhere.

These are the little things that take up a lot of your time and mental energy as an expatriate.


  1. A minor inconvenience to live in such a beautiful place. I live in Bellingham, WA....itself a beautiful place. But I'd switch places with you in a heart beat.

    My country is at war (an occupation) with a country that did nothing to us.....and we have plans to attack another country that has done nothing to us. I'm so sad and ashamed.

    I no longer feel compatable with the views of my country.

  2. When I was in the States, I got used to American keyboards, I liked the way you type numbers, especially on a laptop.
    But... and that is a big but! how do you type accentuated letters like é or à or even ç? I am sure it doesn't matter for your blog as it is in Englsih, but whenever you have to write to French people?

  3. Hi Ken !

    Amerloque couldn't agree more with the "go native" philosophy. (grin)

    The only time that the azerty/qwerty keyboard issue has really come up for Amerloque was during the purchase of a laptop computer. It's very difficult to change keyboards on a laptop and, if one is planning on selling it along later, one should give careful thought right at the beginning to which keyboard to choose. It might be a bit difficult to sell a French keyboarded laptop locally in, say, Topeka Kansas. (grin) ... quoique ...

    Insofar as purchasing specifically British or American supplies, including food seasonings, mixes, Christmas decorations, and CDs / DVDs, Amerloque unhesitatingly recommends eBay. He has found quite a few honest reputable sellers who supply what they promise. Purchasing American stuff from eBay UK is the best way to avoid the huge crossing-the-Atlantic postal charges, by the way.


  4. Adaptability is one of the greatest strengths of the human race.

    Maybe you'll get used to the rain too. (Ugh)

  5. Jayne, LOL.

    Chris, we watched The Wiz night before last on TV. One of the best lines in the movie was something to the effect that horrible person was the one who "put the ugh! in ugly." That's what we might say about our weather these days.

  6. Victoria,

    I agree with your view of our country- that's why I like to visit blogs like this one.

    Ken, j'adore l'ane--he has beautiful ears!

  7. Hi Evelyn, yes the âne does have beautiful ears, doesn't he? He's the one who tried to trample Collette a few summers ago. I'm careful not to let Callie get into his pen because all we need is for her to get trampled now. She got her stitches out today. Ken

  8. Yikes! You just reminded me that I am going to have to make the keyboard adjustment all summer in the USA. At least my parents have finally purchased a PC --no more Mac stuff!


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