In France, the plate is linked to the vehicule. The official colors are white in front and white or yellow at the rear.
The numbering is follows the pattern 1111 AAA 22 i.e. 3 or 4 figures, then 2 or 3 letters and finally the department number (usually between 1 and 100). Beside the plate, the European flag and the letter « F » for France are mandatory. You can then figure out the living place of someone by looking at his or her licence plate : the last number is 75 for Paris, 13 for Marseille, 62 for Pas-de-Calais, 14 for Calvados, etc. Hardcore football fans of PSG (famous Parisian club) and OM (Olympique de Marseille, their sworn opponent) use that trick in order to locate each other when there is a match in town.
After April 2009, the numbering will be like AA-001-AA (2 letters – 3 figures – 2 letters). The departement number disappears, which caused some deputies to protest : they demanded and obtained the mandatory mention of any department number (at owner’s choice). Since the plate is linked to the car, the next owners of the vehicule will not have the choice of this number, I guess…
Are excluded of all plates: I, O and U (possible confusion with 1, 0 and V)
Besides that : SS, PD (fag), PQ (toilet paper), QQ (“ass – ass”), WC, AZF (in Haute-Garonne, owing to the AZF catastrophe )…
Numbering is 3 letters + 3 figures, in red font on white background. The plate is linked to the driver, and follows him/her on the successive vehicules: for example, my parents own the same plate for 25 years, which passed from a 2CV to an Opel, then a Renault and nowadays a Fiat.
The rear plate is provided by the State, and the driver will copy it for the front plate.
The combinations leading to profanities are not issued : ANE (donkey, but also idiot, dimwit), CON (jerk, also cunt), CUL (ass), SEX (…) ; let’s not forget the Dutch ones: AAP (monkey – a racist swearword), DOM (dumb). Initials of political parties should not be issued, either : CDH (Centre démocrate humaniste), MR (Mouvement réformateur), VLD (Open Vlaamse Liberalen en Democraten), VB (Vlaams Belang), etc.
Some unusual plates are still to be seen, these are numberings which are not issued anymore but still used by the driver. A plate not responding to the pattern AAA 111 is more-than-probably used by an old driver (60+ years old), like this one or this one . More on this on Belgian old numberings.
A couple of plates that will make you grin from ear to ear:
RMI = revenu minimum d’insertion, minimum social wage.
GR05 CON ==> gros con, big jerk
FDP = fils de pute, son of a bit**
The site of an enthusiast, with gazillions of photos :
The list of the departments and their number