This week I’m going to pick up my new German drivers license. I flat out admit, I was lucky when applying for my license. Arizona has an agreement with Germany that I can simply apply and obtain my German license without a 1st aid test, proof of an eye exam, driving school and I didn’t even need to take the driving test here. Not every state has this agreement with Germany and getting a license here can get pretty expensive – up to 2000 Euros for the school (which also helps with the pile of paperwork that you need to get through).
German’s love licenses (any paperwork really is considered a national pastime). In 2nd grade, R will get her scooter license. In 3rd grade, they get a swimming license and in 4th grade they take the all important bicycle license. By 16, you are allowed to buy beer and wine (no hard liqueur until your 21 and they are really starting to card for this now). Then after you’ve learned how to hold your beer, you can learn how to drive at 18.
Most American’s get excited about driving in Germany. The 1st comment is always – You can drive 150 miles per hour on the all amazing Autobahn! Yes and No. Autobahn means Highway in German. And yes, there are sections that do not have a speed limit. But cars here drive in kilometers and not in miles. So when your odometer reads 150 km, your looking at about 93 mph. If I’m being honest, I’ve probably hit that speed on I17 (but not near Camp Verde where the cops sit though, lol).
Driving in Germany is nothing like at home. I often imagine it like one of those very structured dances, where every step is choreographed. It can go fast, but everyone still knows their steps.
Here are some of the differences I’ve noticed while driving here:
- There is no turn on a red light. You can turn only if there is a green arrow, otherwise wait.
- Germans practice right of way. When two public roads cross at an uncontrolled intersection, then right-of-way is always given to traffic approaching from the right. This includes “T” intersections! In the US, traffic on the through street of a “T” has the right-of-way, but in Germany, you must yield to the right, even if you are on the through road.
- Never pass on the right. The right side of the road is for driving, the left side is for passing only. Once you are done passing, get back to the right lane. This is not considered swerving. If someone is driving slow in the left lane, it is (apparently) considered appropriate to sit on their bumper until they move over.
- If the lanes go from 2 down to 1 lane, a zipper is put into effect. Everyone drives up to where the lane goes down, and they take turns going forward. It’s all very polite, and surprisingly much faster to get through.
- When stopping at a red light, stop way far back. There are almost always pedestrians in the walkway, so you really can’t stop there. Plus, the stop light is place in such a way that if you don’t stop farther back, you won’t see it turn green. It really is a simple way to keep cars from stopping in the pedestrian zone, or creeping forward into the intersection.
- When in doubt, put on your blinker. The road turns naturally to the left? Blink. You’re driving out of a round-a-bout? Blink? You’re sitting in the left turn only lane? Blink. Moving lanes? Blink. Claiming a parking spot!? Blink.
- And last but not least – Parking is a huge problem here. Always add 10-20 minutes to your travel time to find a parking spot. Keep 2-5 euros in your pocket to pay for said parking. Plan to walk anyway.
These are just of the few differences that I pay attention to when I drive around here. This is in addition to the different road signs Germany has. If you are interested, I found a good website that explains the rules of the road more in depth. http://www.gettingaroundgermany.info/regeln.shtml