Life in the Not-so-fast Lane

Eleanor Roosevelt once said you should do one thing every day that scares you. While I’m not sure I could handle doing something scary every day, in principle it sounds like a good idea and I try to keep it in mind particularly when there’s something I don’t want to do because I’m afraid.

So today I said yes to something that I find terribly frightening and a little dangerous: I agreed to drive the Mr. to the station to catch a train, which meant that I had to drive back ON MY OWN.

Deep breath.

Driving is a little scary for me. I was never the most confident driver, and living abroad in the UK for the last 5 ½ years not driving has made me even more shaky once I get behind a wheel. I’m confident enough in the countryside, and in towns that I know; but put me behind the wheel in an unfamiliar city and I freak.

I’ve already been driving some in Würzburg with the Mr. guiding me. I find it very helpful to have him tell me which lane to get into, where I need to turn, etc. but I am still adjusting to the narrower streets and unfamiliar signs. Actually, the signs I can cope with as many of them are the same. It’s the incredibly narrow streets that are a b*tch.

Here’s the thing: MOST of the streets in Würzburg, Hoechberg, etc. are fine to drive on, but then – seemingly randomly – the road you’re on changes, and you’re suddenly trying to navigate with cars parked on the side of the road AND oncoming traffic. Yikes. It requires familiarity with your car’s dimensions (which I don’t yet have) and the experience to know when you can squeeze through and when you need to wait (which driving in Indiana certainly hasn’t prepared me for). I have a strong inclination to simply avoid any of these streets that get really tight, which the Mr. of course thinks is ridiculous (he won’t think it’s so ridiculous when I scrape into five cars one day and swipe off their mirrors….)

Anyway, apart from the narrow roads, driving here feels a lot like driving back in the US. One other major difference which is taking some getting used to is that on smaller, more residential streets, usually any traffic coming from another side street from the right has priority and you have to yield to them. It’s annoying because it’s not marked by a sign at each intersection the way we would simply have a stop or yield sign; you just kind of have to pay attention to stripes painted on the street, what signs have said further back, etc. to know whether or not this system applies to this road at this point. The Mr. didn’t initially believe me when I told him this system doesn’t exist in the US; he wanted to know what would happen if someone stole a stop or yield sign – how would you know what to do? I answered that nobody would steal one because doing so would be very stupid, very dangerous and illegal. He didn’t seem very convinced.

Thankfully, my trip to the train station and back went smoothly. The navigation system in our car features the voice of a calm and collected English woman (comforting) who tells me how many metres (uh, not so helpful…) to go before my turn. The reward for my courage today was a trip afterwards to Toom, a sort of German superstore with groceries, clothing, etc. but focuses mostly on the groceries. It’s interesting what you can learn about a culture from visiting one of their supermarkets. At Toom, for example, I spent ages looking at their chocolate and candy aisles (yes, that’s meant to be plural). And the beer section is overwhelming. Actually the drink section altogether is pretty impressive, but you can tell Germans like their beer from all the aisles (again, plural), of beer. And don’t even get me started on the meat aisles….

I know it probably sounds silly, but I’m pretty proud of myself for agreeing to drive the Mr. today. I initially said no (actually, several times), but Eleanor’s famous words came to mind and hey – what’s life without a little endangerment – er – danger 😉


About bittenbythebug

I love travel and have always been fascinated by other cultures. Back in 2004, I began my life as an expat in Edinburgh, Scotland. Fast forward 5 1/2 amazing years later to 2010 and the new chapter in my expat adventure: Würzburg, Germany.
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4 Responses to Life in the Not-so-fast Lane

  1. Bonnie says:

    Good work! I’m really glad you got some solo driving experience in today. I hope you bought lots of yummy things at the supermarket. I have visions of aisles of chocolate. Don’t tell me if that’s wrong; I want to keep the dream.

    • Thanks, Bonnie. I tend to spend an inordinate amount of time browsing the chocolate and candy aisles. If I have the time, I will seriously spend a solid ten minutes AT LEAST just looking at everything and dreaming I’ll buy one of each. Yesterday, I bought a Lindt chocolate bar with 52% cocoa. I’ve decided around 50% cocoa is the magic percentage for me as it’s not too creamy/milky then, but also not too bitter.

  2. cliff1976 says:

    You might find Brian’s Guide to Getting Around in Germany ( helpful. I know I do, even after living here for 6 years, since we don’t have a car and only rent one a few times a year. Particularly those red-blue-circle-cross/slash parking signs — they confound me every time.

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