Last year I finally learned to drive and I haven’t looked back since. Aside from making reversing a little more dangerous, I do tend to accumulate a lot of insurance claims. Having reached the maturity level of most seventeen year-olds, I took to the open road the same way the Titanic took to iceberg dodging, badly. I’m not a bad driver, although the disconcerting shrieks from passengers and my girlfriend’s need to cling to all available surfaces might tell a different story. Apparently taking a village roundabout at 40kmh is considered a little foolhardy. Whenever I attempt to prove I’m death proof, I remind my passengers that I’m simply attempting to fully integrate with German society. In Germany, the daily commute is made much more entertaining by seeing how fast and how close you can drive behind the car in front, like some automotive reimaging of the Human Centipede. With the summer holidays coming up, and with many of traveling through Europe, you may come into contact with a German driver. Therefore, I have compiled an easy to use guide on how to drive like a German.
It started with a class
So, to fully understand the German driver, it’s important to understand where they begin. This is similar to how we better understand Darth Vader by watching Star Wars episode 1, except without anyone’s childhood dreams being stopped on by the fat feet of George Lucas. The German driver’s formative experiences are through the Fahrschule (driving school), where young minds (and me) are exposed to training so extensive, it could only have been thought of by a German. Before you even think about thinking about sitting in a car, you have to complete a set number of theory class hours. From my experience, this consists of sitting in a room with a mass of teenagers and being shown the most boring PowerPoint presentation ever devised. I imagine the process is similar to how marines or mentally broken down by a drill sergeant and then built back up as supreme fighting machines. Another, more geeky comparison, might be some kind of Jedi academy. Sadly for my driving instructor, the lessons were in German, and I failed to understand the bits without the pretty diagrams. I did do a lot of smiling and nodding though. Finally, when I managed to get behind the wheel of a car (10 hours of theory later) instead of the expected Schumacher/Jedi prototype, they got a bemused British bloke who kept stalling at traffic lights. Somehow, I passed.
Give in to the hate
Once out of driving school, the fresh faced German driver might buy a car or possibly borrow their parent’s. I selected a VW Up, which is a challenge to drive, if only for the fact my knees tend to be pushed up somewhere near my ears. If all German drivers had to suffer the indignity of my humiliation chariot in their first years of driving, they may not end up the way they are. However, at some point one of their family members, friends or local Audi salesman (kind of like the first two but with shinier shoes) will allow them to drive a car that entirely corrupts them. To continue the Star Wars reference, Audi, BMW or Mercedes are basically the driving equivalent of the dark side. Once under the spell of this triad of evil, the average German driver suddenly begins to do things that no one taught them in driving school. The fearful thrill of driving 200kmh on the autobahn is a highly addictive experience and only the strongest make it back to driving a comfortable Skoda. To quote a very wise man ‘Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate; hate leads to buying an extortionately expensive Audi A8 and blasting passed fools at potentially deadly speeds’. At least I think that’s what he said, but I might be misquoting.
Congratulations! You’ve got a well-paying job and can afford to finally buy a car from one of the aforementioned triad of evil. Well done you! However, you are now Darth Vader. This is all well and good but it does mean at some point you will become 90% husky breathing apparatus and have to chop off the hand of your first born son, but hey, swings and roundabouts. Having become the Lord of the Sith you can drive as fast as you like, weave unpredictably through traffic and at every opportunity, bully other drivers with your force powered flashing headlights.
The rest of us
So the Sith Lords of the Autobahn have achieved full power, but where does that leave us mere mortals? Well don’t worry; all that Jedi training I mentioned in my second labored paragraph will come in handy. This is mainly because navigating the cities of Germany requires you to predict exactly what some nutter might attempt at any one time. I’m not joking either; you really have to have force like powers. The driver in front might not like the direction they are going and attempt some kind of high speed U-turn. Perhaps they don’t like the speed restriction and decide instead to simply make up their own. I was told by one guy that breaking the speed limit and getting caught was an acceptable extra tax he was willing to pay. If the crazies don’t get you, it’s fine, urban planning will. I have begun to think that the German government is attempting to thin the herd by constructing roads based on survival of the fittest. Why have roundabouts when you can have crazy crossings with cars coming at you in all directions? Want to turn right at a pedestrian crossing, just make sure you don’t kill the pedestrians who can also cross the road at the same time. Generally driving in an urban environment is akin to an elaborate game of Frogger.
So, what have we learned?
Well, first of all we’ve learned that when a blogger runs out of ideas, they can always rely on comparing any topic to Star Wars. Second, if you can’t drive like a Jedi, you have no business driving in Germany. I don’t care how many times you’ve watched Jeremy Clarkson wax lyrical about the Autobahn, that doesn’t count…because he’s an obnoxious knob. We also know that the Sith rule the German roads. Ok, I give up. Let’s be honest, I haven’t actually imparted any knowledge at all. In fact I might actually have made you stupider, and for that I’m sorry…nah, I’m not sorry, I’m a Jedi!