Driving in Germany-Cultural Journey

Germany is not one of those countries where Americans typically have “meaning of life” experiences. There are no tribal peoples that are living like they did 300 years ago, there are no temples or strange religious traditions to observe, and there are no weird symbols in the language. Compared to other countries, Germany is an awful lot like America.

Similar to the US, Germany has a strong driving culture. Germans love their cars. And they love to drive their cars fast. Their country is one of the last countries without speed limits where the roads acquistare la patente di guida. are smooth enough to actually drive fast. There is no such thing as “defensive driving” in Germany. The people follow the rules of the road, and everyone gets to their destination safely.

My introduction to German driving was a quick 2 hour course about the German road signs, priority roads, and other Germany specific rules. After the course I passed the test with 2 wrong (unacceptable for German drivers, they must answer everything correctly) and got my “German license. “

That is until the day that i tried to make a left turn into a side street. For some reason my left turn upset the man behind me, who started honking. And he kept honking. I looked into my rear view mirror to see what was going on. Instead of flicking me off in an angry way, he had his pointer finger in the air and he was waving it back and forth while he was shaking his head from side to side. I could almost hear the “tsk, tsk” come out of his mouth. It was as if I was a child who was doing something wrong and needed scolding. He wasn’t leaning out the window yelling expletives at me, or giving me the middle finger because I was in his way. No, he was condescendingly waving his finger back and forth like I never learned my lesson in school.

I wish that he had given me the finger, or yelled expletives at me. At least then i would have known how to react. No, this was something different. I got so flustered that i forgot about my left turn and continued straight, made a U-ey and later got where I needed to be.

It was so strange to me and I couldn’t get the picture of his finger out of my head the entire day. I had to tell someone to get some clarity so i told my German friend about him. The only clarity I got was “you probably weren’t supposed to turn there”. Not quite the revelation that i was hoping for.

That was not the last of it. A few months later as i was exiting the autobahn I got the finger again, but from someone else! The exit had two lanes. Most people stay on the right lane of the autobahn and then cross the solid white line into the left lane of the exit ramp. I had been doing it, I have seen other people doing it, it was very common. One day I crossed the white line in front of the wrong person. After committing my mistake the white utility vehicle behind me honked his horn. I looked into my rear view mirror and there was some old man waving his finger at me again, just like the first guy!

If that wasn’t enough, few months later I parked on a crowded street. There wasn’t much available for parking and I turned a small spot into my own, sticking out about half a foot into the driveway. There was plenty of room for someone to get in or out. As i was locking my car I hear someone yell at me, “You aren’t going to leave your car there! ” I looked up, “What? ” He leaned over his second floor back porch, twisted his body to look at me, “You can’t leave your car there! You are blocking the driveway! ” I responded, “There is no other place to park, they can get in! ” “You have to move your car! ” He was starting to get really irate and I with him. Yes, I was blocking the driveway, just a little, but that isn’t his business. And what is he doing, going out of his way to tell me how to park. I was so flustered that i got into my car and parked on the other end of the street.

They say that the Germans are their own police force. Germans are a stickler for the rules and will make sure everyone else is also following them. There is a story that is spread in ex-pat communities about a man who was speeding home when suddenly some car just started to follow him. No matter how fast the driver would go, this guy kept right up with him. The driver was starting to get nervous and he pulled over. The other car pulled over as well and the German driver got out. The German went up to the driver of the first car and the German told him, “You were driving too fast back there” and he left.

That is when I got it. Instead of getting completely mad that i had gotten in their way, or that i had prevented someone from getting where they wanted, these drivers were reacting because I was not following the rules. It didn’t matter to them that to me it wasn’t their business, they are German and therefore the rules are their business. To protect their roads, they make sure everyone follows the rules. It is a duty.

After these embarrassing experiences I have re-thought my driving. I am much more careful of the rules and I am a better German driver because of it. I am not defensively afraid of everyone else on the road because, I now own it. I have been getting “the finger” less and less and driving is more enjoyable.

And then I had my epiphany. Someone parked his car in front of my building. These park spots were “resident only” and he didn’t have a pass. He also took up two spaces in a crowded area. Even worse, all of the other spots on my short street were taken. I tried to park behind him, and in front of him, but there just wasn’t room. I got frustrated and parked on a different road. Then i walked home, went into my apartment and pulled out of a piece of paper. I wrote, “This is Residential Parking!! You are not permitted to park here. It is very rude and you took up two spots! ” I attached the note to this car’s windshield and walked upstairs feeling like the German police officer that i had become.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.