My company is leasing a car for me in the next few weeks and I had a 2-hour "refresher" driving lesson today; it was incredibly stressful. In addition to having to remember to stay on the correct, if totally foreign, side of the road, I was also working a manual shifter with my left hand. I thought I was going to drive up on the sidewalk half a dozen times! In addition, streets here are narrow, people park all over the place, and it’s legal to parallel park facing any direction. Then there was the whole "roundabout" thing. Do you have any idea how common they are in this country? They’re used for at least 50% of all intersections where we would use traffic lights. And there’s a well-defined (if counter-intuitive to a Yank) process for negotiating them and don’t forget to signal! Shift, shift! Signal!
The drivers here are already showing every inclination to all the worst American driving behavior. Road getting narrower? Cars parked on each side? No room for two cars to pass each other? In the oncoming car "Nigel" decides to floor it! You can’t get on the brakes fast enough. I also turned into a residential road with cars lining it, only one lane available down the middle, and encountered a big truck coming towards me a block away. He flashed his headlights, so I proceeded a few cars further along and pulled to the curb at a space to let him pass. Nooo – he wanted into that space at the curb and I eventually had to back up (an event I’m sure will feature in the driving instructor’s dreams tonight). Rule #42 – Never flash your headlights nor believe others when they do.
On top of all that, the driving instructor was, well, a driving instructor. Think you’re a good driver? Forget about being in a foreign country – just get into a car with a real driving instructor and be prepared to have all those little "habits" you’ve developed since 9th Grade Driver’s Ed mercilessly pointed out! I was so depressed afterwards I considered blowing off the leased car entirely. Then I had two pints of beer and felt a lot better. Still, I’m not looking forward to next week’s lesson much. I suppose familiarity with the car and more experience will help, but it was still not a great few hours.
More driving adventures to come, I’m sure.