Look down at your computer or laptop keyboard. What kind is it? AZERTY or QWERTY? These letters signify of course the top left six letters on the keyboard, AZERTY being on French versions and QWERTY on American and other types.
This is actually one of the most commonly cited Franco-American differences that affects daily life. I know personally: I use AZERTY at work and QWERTY at home. And although I’m adept at using both, my mind and hands must adjust each time.
What if you live in France and you want to type on a QWERTY keyboard? While it can be difficult to buy a QWERTY here (they are not as readily available as AZERTY), there are multiple possibilities:
Switch your keyboard language
First, you should know (though undoubtedly many of you do already) that you can switch the keyboard option and language automatically from the menu on the lower right side of most PC’s as you can see on this screenshot.
The inconvenience is that you have to know the QWERTY keyboard very well as your keys won’t show the right letter/symbols. A cheap way to go around this difficulty is to buy stickers representing your “new” keyboard. The online shop 4keyboard.com offers quite a large selection of keyboard stickers for a few bucks. And they ship worldwide!
Change / Add an external keyboard
One tip for computer manufacturers is to take the Model ID number of a QWERTY-equipped laptop, MAC or PC and try to find a corresponding accessory (separate keyboard) that matches. As you could expect, most of these possibilities are online, with for instance Amazon.fr or FNAC.com (a French electronics store, cross between Best Buy and Borders). However, this might not be the best solution if you like to use your notepad on the move or while watching TV.
Purchase an actual QWERTY keyboard laptop
The French Apple Store offers the possibility of selecting a US keyboard when placing an order online. If you wish to also get the American version software (such as Microsoft 7), you might want to place the order over the phone at 0800 046 046 with one of their friendly reps.
Asus is another manufacturer which makes it possible to buy various keyboard versions. On their French webstore, they only offer refurbished laptops. However, you can call 082 060 0143 (0,12 Euro/minute) and ask if they can change the laptop of your choice’s keyboard.
Sony’s computers (VAIO) can be purchased online in France as well. You can pick the keyboard of your choice once you’ve selected your model. If you opt for the English one, you’ll get a QWERTY International keyboard, plus all software in English. You can call them for assistance at 01 55 69 51 27.
Ask the middleman!
AngloComputer is an independent consulting service helping English-speaking expats in France to select and special-order English-version Dell laptops (Inspiron, XPS, Latitude, even Alienware gaming computers) and desktop computers (with UK/Irish or American keyboard), latest version of English Windows, and English version software (such as Office, Works, Photoshop, etc.).
Here is how it works :
Visit AngloComputer and select the model and configuration you want, along with any options and accessories.
Then, copy/paste those details in an email to
They will obtain a price from Dell for an identical configuration that can be shipped to you anywhere in France and Monaco. If you decide to purchase they will help you arrange payment (credit card or Paypal) and assist you until the computer is delivered to your home. Unlike PCs purchased in the UK, these computers are fully covered by Dell’s French guarantee, including optional next-day repair service.
Final American touch!
Now that you have an American keyboard, why not customize your computer with a US flag sticker! Available on French website Mandellia.fr for 15.99 euros.