Barbara Geier: Calling all leftists
Driving on the wrong side of the road – and by that I mean the way it’s done in the UK – has always been something I firmly rejected. Steering wheel on the right side of the car and driving on the left. No, sorry, unthinkable for me. This means that even after decades living in London, I had never driven a car on the city’s streets. Until now. It’s done. I survived – and realised that, apart from the wrong side of the road matter, the UK way of driving might be more my cup of tea than the German one after all.
I’m still not convinced about sitting on the right when driving, don’t get me wrong. But as a naturally nervous driver, one thing I always felt a bit uncomfortable with in Germany is the, let’s say, in-built aggression/confidence with which driving is often done in my home country. People tend to insist on their right: it’s my turn now and I’ll go even if it wouldn’t hurt me giving way to another car or slowing down. No budging. On London’s streets, there’s more leniency and there has to be, I guess, in such a big city with so much traffic. If everyone always insisted on their right, there would be no end to the crashes.
I also discovered that flashing one’s light doesn’t always have to be a sign of annoyance, as I know it to be in Germany. Where it’s not unusual that, when you’re on the left lane overtaking someone on the motorway, some ‘Raser’ comes up from behind telling you to move over, pronto please, by flashing their light because you might be overtaken but still be too slow. On my first London driving adventure, it was the other way round: I slowed down to let someone turn onto the road even if I didn’t have to (learning from my environment!), only for that person to flash their back lights to say thank you. I was delighted.
After one instance of inner city driving in the UK, I can, of course, not make any valid comparison with German drivers who are, just in general, very good drivers, I find. Thinking back o my driving lessons, that was one of the most thorough and detailed training I ever received in anything. And from the perspective of an urban walker in London that every day hears the scratching sounds of people handling their gears or whatever they’re doing – something you don’t hear in Germany – I would venture to say that when it comes to technique and how to handle a car, there seems to be a bit of German ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’ after all …
Barbara Geier is a London-based freelance writer, translator and communications consultant. She is also the face behind www.germanyiswunderbar.com, a German travel and tourism guide and blog that was set up together with UK travel writer Andrew Eames in 2010.
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