Hey, did you know that a red circle with a white center means ‘Road closed’?”
“Didn’t we drive past one of those signs earlier?
Thanks to a generous moving package, we were able to ship our car from the US to Germany. I probably would have been happy with my bicycle and public transport, but I have to admit that it will be convenient to have a car when we want one. However, having a car means learning German rules of the road.
Thankfully, we aren’t the first people to find ourselves in this situation. I recommend Brian’s Guide to Getting Around Germany as a thorough and clear source of driving information. Traffic laws, street signs, parking rules . . . he seems to have it all covered. (Of course, it’s always a good idea to use an official source to confirm information you find on a non-official website!)
Reading up on the subject does not, however, mean that we have it all down. Yesterday, we picked up our car in Düsseldorf and drove it back to Aachen. We made it home safely, thanks to some basic advice about the Autobahn: “Stay in the right-hand lane unless you are passing, and watch the cars in the left lane carefully to make sure you know how fast they are going.” It really wasn’t too bad. Actually, the city driving seemed like the hardest because of all the signs. That conversation at the beginning of this post? It really happened.
Besides learning the rules of the road, we also have to deal with driver’s license issues. Depending on which state in the US you come from, you may or may not get to just walk in and trade your US license for a German one. We come from California, which means that we’re out of luck. We have to take both a written and driving test, and it’s common for driving schools to require that you take classes before taking the tests. Thankfully, we can use our US licenses for the first six months we live here.
For now, I will focus on getting instant recognition of the right-of-way signs and memorizing the entire Aachen Stadtplan (map).