Things you wouldn’t know… everything car-related

{image via weheartit}

Did you know that in Europe you can’t take right turns on a red light? I am still debating if this is a bad or actually a good thing. I think there is much less potential for possible accidents with pedestrians, because to be honest, nobody really stops, really stops at a red light anymore and I don’t know how many times I have sworn under my breath at drivers that didn’t give me the right of way.

Did you know that there is practically no speed limit on the Autobahn (except for certain stretches that are particularly windy or narrow)? I know! Doesn’t that sound like a dream? But I want to remind you in this regard that a lot of freeways in Germany have only two lanes, so speeding is really only a good idea if there is nobody on the road (like, say, Sunday morning, 6 a.m.).

Did you know that most German cars (still) have a stick shift (although that might be changing a little bit)? I have to say, the fact that I learned driving on a shift stick makes me think of myself as a better driver. I think you learn much more about your car when you learn how the clutch and the different gears work.

Did you know that driving on the Autobahn, parallel parking and three point turning are all parts of your driver’s education? And did I mention the driving lessons that you attend before the written test? In Germany, you have to shell out around, I’d say, 1000€/$1300 for your driver’s education (practical driving lessons and theoretical classes). I think that is a good thing. Oh, and you can only get your driver’s license when you turn 18 (or it might be 17 now, I am not sure).

Speaking of parallel parking, did you know that (reverse) parallel parking is really not that hard if you learn how to do it correctly? Not to brag, but I can fit in the smallest parking space easily. J’s always very proud of my non-typical female parking skills. Our favorite pastime is sitting on the little porch of our apartment building and just watch the people who are trying to fit the tiniest cars into the biggest parking spots – and FAIL. It’s hilarious and better entertainment than TV.

Did you know that your car has to pass an inspection every two years? TÜV’s (short for Technischer Überwachungs-Verein, Technical Inspection Association in English) are German organizations that work to validate the safety of products of all kinds to protect humans and the environment against hazards. No German-registered road vehicle may be operated on public roads without a certificate from the TÜV. And I am not just talking “smog tested”. The car has to be considered “roadworthy”. That is why you hardly ever hear of  “stalled” vehicles as traffic blocks during rush hour in German traffic news.

Did you know that (stationary) speed cameras are pretty much installed EVERYWHERE? Ok, not everywhere, but definitely where you don’t expect them… like, when you get off the Autobahn and onto the off-ramp or the feeder road. Dangerous. You can drive fast on the Autobahn, but practically nowhere else. Period.

Did you know that gas costs about 2,5 times what it costs in the US (and keep in mind, I am living in California, we have higher gas prices anyway)? Imagine paying well over $7/gallon. People here need a reality check – that’s what gas costs over there.

Did you know that we also drive on the right side of the street? I am saying also, because besides England, every European country has right hand traffic as far as I know. The fact that this does not seem to be clear to everybody was brought to my attention when I  met my Australian friend of 13 years in the US for the first time in 2005 and she kept ranting about how hard it is for her and her husband to get used to the right hand traffic. She asked me “How did you adjust to this?”… and I was like “Huh? What are you talking about? We drive on the right side in Germany, just like people here in the US.”.
Apparently, she had assumed since Australia (and England) has left hand traffic that we had left hand traffic in Germany as well. So, in case you didn’t know: we don’t! :)


I think this is all I can think of for now. Do you have anything to add? Things you particularly like – or dislike – about driving/car stuff in either place?

On a side note: I’d really like to drive a beetle.  An OLD beetle! They’re so vintage! :)

  1. This is interesting. We have a few similar things here in Montreal.

    There are no right turns on red, we are taught how to parallel park and do three-point turns in our driver’s courses (although I think driver’s ed may not be mandatory anymore – it was when I was learning), and we have stationary speed cameras. We also have a law where you must have winter tires on your car from December to March (I think) or you could get a huge fine!
    .-= Cristina´s last blog ..Interesting post about interests =-.

  2. If I could drive I would totally drive a Beetle!!
    .-= Emily Jane´s last blog ..On Writing… and Reading to Hundreds of Strangers!! =-.

    1. What do you mean “IF I could drive…”? You don’t drive?

      1. Nope I’m a dreadful scaredy-cat!!
        .-= Emily Jane´s last blog ..On Writing… and Reading to Hundreds of Strangers!! =-.

        1. sounds like you have something new to tackle! *wink*

  3. In New Brunswick, cars have to pass an inspection every single year. When I moved to Alberta I was shocked at some of the cars on the road – I’m not sure they ever have to be inspected! In NB it’s also mandatory to have snow tires in the winter, otherwise you get fined. In Alberta most people use all-season tires, even though I think the winter roads are a lot worse out here than they are back home!

  4. I found when I lived in Germany I didn’t drive too much. Mostly I used public transportation. But we did drive all over on our holidays and then Jack did the driving.
    .-= Maribeth´s last blog ..My Monday =-.

  5. When I deployed, we all had to get training on how to drive in Europe, since we would be driving Germany and Kosovo. Most people failed the exam the first time around. It was HARD! We learned about a lot of the things you mention here – how expensive the driver’s education is, what the age is for obtaining your driver’s liscense, etc.

    I’ve got to say, I always thought most of Europe drove on the “wrong” side of the road. I don’t know what it is – maybe TV? – that gives so many people that impression.
    .-= terra´s last blog ..Adventures in HuskyMutt Ownership, Part 2 =-.

  6. Oh! Love this. I love hearing comparisons about other countries. Living in California I am learning how to parallel park. I learned in Driver’s Ed but quickly forgot as I lived in Texas and never had to use the skill (there’s parking EVERYWHERE there, ha.) But living in the city in California, knowing how to parallel park is a MUST. So, I’m finally getting a lot more confident with it. Oh, and I’ve driven a stick since I was 17 years old. I learned on an automatic, but the first car I bought happened to be a stick. I had to learn how to drive it in two days so that I could drive myself to work! But I fell in love with it, and my current car is also a stick–I will always get sticks. I love the control I feel when driving one.

    PS: I would LOVE to own a Beetle!! An old school one, of course. ;)
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Insecurities, body image, and discovering what beauty means to me. {Part One.} =-.

  7. I love this post, San! I remember as a kid when we were in Italy and my dad was driving on their version of the Autobahn. When he hit 100mph, he woke us up because he was so excited. Just as he was patting himself on the back, a Porsche and an Alfa Romeo passed us as if we were standing still. It was hilariously awesome.

    Like you, I’m a stick shift, parallel parking snob. My mom once commented on my mad parking skills. I reminded her when you parallel park at least 2-3 times daily, you’re forced to become pretty good!
    .-= Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks´s last blog ..Dogged =-.

  8. I have got another one: You are only allowed to pass on the left in Germany whereas here you can pass on either the left or the right side on a highway with two lanes or more.
    .-= Stefanie´s last blog ..A calling. =-.

    1. Very good one – can’t believe, I forgot that one, because I constantly rant about this! I think it’s so dangerous, especially since nobody here uses their turn signals *argh*

  9. Ha, I actually knew a lot of this, as I did have to drive some while I was in Germany, definitely know the right side and no speed limits on the autobahn and I had to practice stick shift driving in a GIANT Mercedes van, I almost cried. A LOT.

  10. this is truly sooo interesting! Loved reading it!
    I for one, love VW’s and want one like now!!

  11. When you fail the driver’s test in Germany, you are talking at least another $500 just for the next test. I believe I paid $27 for my US license plus tests.
    Also, the US is almost 27 times bigger than Germany. Therefore the distances an individual covers here are much longer. Add the lack of public transportation as well as the Americans’ love for big regular-gas guzzling cars, the per capita consumption of gas of a U.S. resident outperforms that of a german driver easily. Just a thought…

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