When you’ve lived in a foreign country for a while, it’s easy to forget how strange certain things were on arrival. For me, this is the case for car horns. It was only on a recent trip back home to Australia that I realised just how rarely we beep compared to Creoles. I was in the passenger seat with my dad at the wheel and someone cut us off at a turn. One second later, I realised that I hadn’t heard a beep, as I am so used to in my everyday Reunion life.

Far from fitting the stereotype of relaxed tropical islanders, Reunionese drivers jump at the chance to beep that horn no matter the reason, place or time.

Here’s a list of the occasions where we honk the horn in Australia: 1) to warn other drivers or animals of danger. And, that’s it.

According to driving laws, a car’s warning device (the horn) can only be used for warning other road users. In fact, if you decide to toot at the slow driver in front of you, you could regret it. Illegal use of the horn can result in a fine or having points deducted from your driver’s licence. Of course, Australians aren’t perfect and you can occasionally hear a honk or two in any city.

But there really isn’t any excessive honking, and it’s not just because of the strict law enforcement. Most people would never toot in residential areas, as well as early in the morning or in the evening.  It would be too impolite.

In comparison, here’s a list of occasions I’ve observed Reunionese drivers honking:

1)         to warn other drivers of danger,

2)         to show their frustration at real or perceived injustice,

3)         when someone is driving too slowly or has taken longer than 0.5 seconds to start at a green light,

4)         during traffic jams,

5)         after a wedding,

6)         during election campaigns,

7)         when you drive past someone you know,

8)         when you arrive at someone’s house to signal your arrival, and the list goes on and on. 

Now, I really do try my best to be accepting and non-judgemental of others. And I would probably just shut my mouth and accept this issue as a cute example of cultural difference if it wasn’t so annoying. Why on earth does a group of twenty cars always have to start beeping right outside my house just when I’m trying to get my son to sleep? And do people seriously think that beeping during a traffic jam will miraculously cause the traffic to start moving again?

Occasional tooting never hurt anyone, but I just wish I didn’t have to hear it all the beeping time.


foreign – étranger
car horns – klaxons
to beep, to honk, to toot – klaxoner
at the wheel – au volant
to cut someone off – couper la route a quelqu’un

according to – selon
driving laws – le code de la route
driver’s license – permit de conduire
to warn – prévenir
traffic jams – embouteillage

wedding – mariage
and the list goes on and on – la liste continue encore et encore
non-judgmental – tolérant
annoying – énervant

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