Ready, set, Los Gehts! Or the death-defying feat that is operating a motor vehicle in Deutschland
I know I have only operated a motor vehicle a handful of times since gaining my license 3 weeks ago, but I’m not being dramatic when I assert that German driving seems terrifying. Let’s break down why this is objectively true:
A. German cars are NICE and Germans love them like honor-roll-earning children. Motor vehicles are, like anywhere, symbols of wealth and status, but to a stratified extreme in Deutschland. The first question a father asks his daughter about the boy she is dating is surely not “What does he do for a living?” but “What kind of car does he drive?” In my first week here, I have counted more varieties of Audi than I previously knew existed. The public busses here are Mercedes brand. The public busses. I would be terrified to drive here if only out of fear of hitting someone’s life savings.
B. The streets are both a shared space and a Formula 1 loop at once. Being solidly in the bus-riding category, I can speak to my hours spent on the 611 / 610 loop between Bonn Heiderhof and Duisdorf Hbf. On tight streets, of which there are many, cars park on the right-hand side, essentially turning a 2-way into a 1-way. Cars coming down one way will see a public bus and immediately pull onto the sidewalk so that the bus may take precedence. I do not know why this happens, even through at times it appears as though the oncoming cars have the right away (who knows? Lord knows I don’t). MY THEORY is that private cars recognize the public good in taking shared transportation and give way to a higher purpose (that of the public bus). Or this could be the economist in me…
C. Back to that Formula 1 thing… The stoplights in any place I have ever visited have always turned green for “go”, yellow for “slow” and red for “stop”. (Ok Liz, there’s no need to walk us through these elementary facts of life. Oh, snide reader, just you wait). Here in Germany, when the light is red, before it changed to green, it will turn yellow, essentially telling drivers to rev their engines. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to stand at the crosswalk maniacally waving a flag as if I were starting the race. This is actually because most cars here are manual shift, and that little glimpse of yellow allows drivers to get their cars back into the right gear. Or maybe not, and I just know nothing about cars, roadways, or driving. The latter is likely true.