Lisa's week: Keep left!
So, you’ve taken your German left-hand drive car, which you are perfectly familiar with to drive on the “right”-hand side of the road, and you’ve decided to cross the English Channel to get a taste of England. What now?
Many people ask me how difficult it is to change from driving on the right to the left and I always tell them that it’s not a problem at all. But for sure, there are some things to be aware of!
I told you last week that I was crossing by Eurotunnel and when you come off the train, you are naturally fed directly onto the motorway and therefore find yourself on the correct side of the road. I think this makes those first few minutes much easier as you can just follow the cars in front of you and not worry about making a lane decision. I always have to smile at the two signs on that first stretch of road warning drivers to “Drive on the Left!” I often wonder how many people see that and panic just a little. Just a note: there is no equivalent sign in France!
I sometimes say that the main way I make sure I’m always driving correctly is that I, as the driver, need to be near the side of the road – the curb in cities and the hard shoulder on the motorway. If I’m right there in the middle, as I would be in Germany, there’s trouble to come!
I find that motorway driving is far less aggressive than German motorways whereas city driving in the UK is fast and quite stressful. It’s really important to indicate clearly (and not just at the last minute like you might in Germany) if you want to change lanes or overtake and you will often find that the car behind you signals that they are giving you space to pull out. I miss that a lot over here! Motorways are also very focussed on exit or junction numbers. Traffic reports will be very clear about jams or problems between the specific junction numbers and if someone gives you directions, you might find that they refer to them too. For example the photo I found to accompany this week’s write up is the Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham which means that I’m almost home - think you can see why it’s been given that name! However, I also know when I’m going home, it’s Junction 6 northbound on the M6 where I need to exit in order to drive through the centre of Birmingham.
Of course, much of our road system is controlled using roundabouts. Some roundabouts have many lanes and even traffic lights so it’s important to concentrate on being in the right position to leave the circle. If you don’t get it right first time, just continue round again until you can leave safely! You might have heard of the “Magic Roundabout” in Swindon - link to Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magic_Roundabout_(Swindon) - and I have to admit that even I feel a little intimated by the idea of it.
Be careful when turning out of small roads or car parks! This tends to be the time that you forget that you should be driving on the left and you might naturally pull out onto the right-hand side of the road. You will definitely give yourself and everyone around you a shock if you do! This also applies at night where you might find yourself driving automatically.
Last but not least, we like to say a very British thank you if someone lets you through, leaves you space to pull out on the motorway or gives you the right of way. Just a little wave of the hand or a flash of your lights is enough to let the other driver know you appreciate their gesture. It’s all part of the road culture!
So, don’t let the idea of driving on the left stop you heading over to the island to take in the sights. It’s really not as bad as you think!
What is Lisa's week?
"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"
Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday
Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?
Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?
Episode 4: The sound of London
Episode 5: Not just a last resort
Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise
Episode 7: Title talk
Episode 8: The Union Jack
Episode 9: Why Thursday?
Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?
Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!
Episode 13: Up in the Highlands
Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends
Episode 15: Pie in the sky
Episode 16: Through the tunnel