The French AZERTY keyboard
The AZERTY keyboard layout (Image by Yitscar)

French keyboards are a trip. You are probably familiar with some variation on the QWERTY keyboard which, for all its many faults, is at least familiar.

In France (and Belgium), they use a AZERTY keyboard. Some letters—and most numbers and symbols—are arranged differently on the keys. Try to touch-type on a French computer keyboard, and things will come out riddled with odd typos, like having Qs where you should have As, or a comma every place you meant to type an "m."

AZERY is actually not as wildly different from QWERTY as it first appears. There are four main differences:

Thankfully, many cybercafes and some hotel internet terminals will have a QWERTY keyboard you can use (if you don't see one attached to one of the computers, ask at the desk).

If not—and you are a good touch-typer—you can change the keyboard layout preference. Internet cafes are used to this issue, and most have set up the PCs so you can change this preference easily. Look in the lower right corner. If you see a two-letter code that says "FR," left click on it and you should get a pop-up list of alternative layouts. Select EN or US and you're good to go.

Then you just have to try and type without glancing at the keyboard, as that will totally freak you out—you're not actually swapping the physical keyboard, just remapping the software to pretend it's a QWERTY.

(Be sure to put the settings back when you're done for the next guy, who might be French and thigns QWERTY is weird.)

If neither borrowing a QWERTY keyboard or resetting the preferences is an option, get ready for a monster game of find-the-letter hunting and pecking. Here are two helpful hints: