Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I'm officially licensed to drive in Germany! The written test was definitely more difficult than I remember the U.S. counterpart. I crammed for three hours last night and arrived at the base early this morning to tryout my knowledge. First we watched a 50-minute video about driving in Germany. Our TV host was a gentleman who was dressed like an old-fashioned police constable (reminiscent of the one who rescued the Banks children in Mary Poppins). His strict German demeanor demanded immediate respect but it was difficult for me to find him dignified because all of his segments were accompanied by a techno-pop song trilling in the background. It was humorous instead of informative.

After Constable Corny's instruction, I was confronted with 100 questions, a mixture of multiple-choice and match-the-road-sign. I agonized over several distance questions. I made myself feel better by remembering that I was a Communication major so it was impossible for me to be expected to convert kilometers to miles with any kind of ease.

As a test-taker, I try not to second-guess myself too much. I put a little star by questions I'm unsure of and then move on. When I return to my uncertain answers, I'm either very certain of my original response or I realize anything I say will be a complete guess. I went over the test once and then announced to the room (2 other military spouses), "Well, that's as good as I'm going to get!" I then proceeded to the office next door and handed my exam over to one of the proctors.

He graded the exam with lightning speed and informed me that I passed with an 87%. What a relief! I received my temporary license and left the base with a sense of accomplishment and renewed hope that I can achieve anything in this country! Yes!!

I drove to Geilenkirchen so we could have lunch at a little sandwich shop. We ate here during our first week and I still think their baguette is the best I've had since being in Germany. The food was delicious again but we unfortunately sat beside two bratty teenage girls who obviously thought we were uncouth for ordering in English. I became so aware of their staring that I began to think I was cutting my sandwich wrong, holding my napkin incorrectly, blinking at the most inappropriate time. I don't blame this on us being American in a German sandwich shop. I'm pretty sure we just sat beside some bratty adolescents, and that translates in any language.

Feeling ambitious after my driving navigation to Geilenkirchen, I decided I would drive us to the Netherlands to take care of some more household tasks. We accomplished what we set out to do and a bike shop was next on our list. I thought, "Wow, I'll just keep driving! I'm doing so well for my first few hours being a European driver!"

Of course, I spoke too soon. I came within several inches of colliding with a bicyclist as we were leaving the Netherlands. Bicyclists don't always have the right-of-way in Germany, but they always have priority in the Netherlands. The conspicuous bike lanes aren't obvious to my untrained eye. I clearly terrified the poor biker. He didn't even have time to curse me because it happened so quickly. I suppose this is an extension of me getting side-swiped by the bicyclist yesterday. Today's incident has made me very reluctant to drive in the Netherlands. The Dutch are fearless!

We eventually made it to a bike shop and were chagrined to discover that bikes here are very expensive. We putzed around the used section for a few minutes and then decided to call it a day since it was getting late and the time change has caused the sun to set much sooner than we're accustomed.

We'll be trying another furniture store tomorrow in our quest for the perfect king-sized bed. If we can't find one, we'll have to bite the IKEA bullet and go back to Dusseldorf in order to fully-stock our new home.

With the driving test behind me, I feel like I can accomplish so much more, maybe even learn the German language! I'm less hopeful about speaking Dutch. One day at a time.


  1. Hey there,
    there is a IKEA in Heerlen, Netherlands, I think that might be closer to you than the one in Düsseldorf.
    And I agree with you on the bikers, they are scary and in the beginning I was terrified driving in the Netherlands, but now I am used to it :)

  2. We've heard about the IKEA in Heerlen but haven't gone because they will not accept our VAT forms since we aren't residents of the Netherlands. If we want to buy our items tax-free, we must purchase in Germany.

    Hopefully I won't have anymore near-accidents with bikers!!