This also used to be the case in the Netherlands - at least in the 80s/90s when I lived there. It also applied on roundabouts, which used to give me trouble as I'd learned the UK rule for roundabouts,I understand this is true (or used to be) in France. It sounds like a recipe for disaster to me, more concerned with giving the individual a break than the overall safety of the system.
and just couldn't get used to the switch
Every time I raised this I got the 'so you use the same rule as we do, then - priority from the right on a roundabout'...... bloody roommate