On the Road with the Europeans

One amazing perk about living in Luxembourg is that we were given a car. Last year we relied on our bikes or the train system to get us everywhere. It was do-able, but nothing beats the convenience of jumping in your warm car to get where you need to be. Plus we are living outside of the city, and getting around without a car in the small town we live in would be nearly impossible.

We are very fortunate that the Luxembourgish drive on the right side of the road and have the steering wheel on the left side of the vehicle, just like in the US. However, unlike in the US, the cars here are tiny. No medium-large size SUV's, at all. No Explorers, no Suburbans, and absolutely no pick up trucks. I am not exaggerating to say I have seen exactly zero trucks on the road here. We live in very close proximity to two car dealerships, and there are no trucks for show at either one. Quite a change of scenery from Texas. What you do see on the roads here are lots and lots of two door and four door compacts, hybrids, and smart cars. Luxury vehicles are very common here in Lux. I've never seen so many Mercedes, Porche's, and BMW's in my life. We, however, can be seen around town in our little Ford Fiesta. (It's actually not called a Fiesta over here, but thats the equivalent of it back home.)

Two things you have to know about our car. 1) It is covered in marketing for Nathan's team. We are absolutely unmissable driving down the road. As if we don't get gawked at enough in person, now we are a definite stare target while driving as well. 2) It is standard. As in, not automatic. As in, change the gears yourself. Did either one of us know how to drive a standard upon arriving? Nope. Were we given any instructions or teaching? Nope. Just the keys. It has made for quite the experience, but both of us are now expertly skilled in driving stick. (Now if only I could master parallel parking...) Learning stick was not even the most challenging part of learning to drive here. By far it was/is continually trying to keep up with the fast moving, extremely aggressive European driving style. But thats another story.

In addition to daily errands, our car transports three or four of us to and from the gym and lunch. It is probably a pretty funny sight. Try to imagine four exceptionally tall people (as the only non-basketball player I am the shortest at 5'8") crawling in and out of a pimped out Ford Fiesta. Just another part of our everyday European life!

A few tips for Americans driving in Europe: 

For any expats, students, or even vacationers considering renting a car, there's a few things you need to know: (These apply mostly to Western Europe)

  • You will more then likely be driving a stick. Fellow drivers have very little patience for you stalling out. Master the skills before you try to get on any busy roads.
  • Don't stop too closely to the car in front of you. Especially on an incline. Standard cars will roll back slightly before they accelerate. And don't be alarmed when your car rolls backwards before moving forward. 
  • If you get pulled over for speeding, you will be asked to pay the ticket on the spot. If you don't have the means, the police will escort you to an ATM to make a withdrawal. This fact should be enough to make you drive cautiously and follow the speed rules.
  • Instead of stop signs they have these crazy things called round-abouts here. Learn how to correctly approach these.
  • Stop for pedestrians! If a pedestrian is crossing you must stop for them. No matter how fast you are going or how inconvenient it may be for you, and it won't always be at a light.
  • Watch out for bikes! Bikes and cars share the roads.
  • Never ever, under any circumstances should you text and drive! Thats a good rule for anywhere, but especially in Europe. Aggressive drivers, sharp winding roads, bicyclers, and pedestrians require all eyes on the roads. Plus you need both hands to shift gears!