Right now, the main thing occupying all of my free time is studying for the driver's exam. I love Germany, honestly. But sometimes, as a carefree, relaxed American, you have to wonder about people who create life here. Take for example, the driver's license written exam.
I vaguely remember my study materials for my state of Connecticut license. It was a small book from the DMV with rules, regulations, and a few pictures. Looking back on my Driver's Ed class, it was more of a social event than anything else.
I honestly cannot imagine trying to get my driver's license here as a teenager. Even at 18. The driver's exam here already seems to me to be more like a high-level high school or even college exam when it comes to the sheer volume of information you must know. I have a triple advantage working for me: 1) I have been driving for over 10 years, 2) I have taken the watered down American version of the German Driver's exam on base, 3) I drove here for almost five years. I feel that I have a good basic knowledge about driving in Germany. I rock at the basic driving rules. Give me a diagram, or better yet, one of their adorable pictures, and I can tell you who has the right of way without hesitation. I am highly confident with my knowledge of signs as well. I remember studying over 100 signs while trying to get my license on base.
Where I have more trouble is on the mathematical equations, the questions concering driving a car with standard transmission, the weight allowances for driving with a trailer, and some of the environmental questions.
The study materials are a series of worksheets that are set up like the driving exam. Each sheet has 20 multiple choice questions, and you have a little card with the answers. There are, in total, about 1600 questions and answers you have to plow through in order to adequately prepare for the exam. I swear it wasn't like this at home!
Here's a smattering of questions, the answers, of course, are what I wish I could write:
1) You are holding a driving permit class B (regular car.) Your car has the following specifications:
- empty mass - x grams
- permissible total mass- y grams
- permissible towed load- z grams
Which trailer are you allowed to tow?
Answer: Why on earth should I care? I will NEVER tow a trailer!
2) At which intervals must you submit your car for an exhaust test?
Answer: Not my job. That's Jörn's job. If he can no longer maintain my car, I will no longer be living in Germany.
3) What are frequent causes of traffic accidents after a visit to the discotheque?
Answer: Um, I am almost 30 years old, married, and hopefully soon a mom. My visits to the discotheque are LONG GONE!
4) How is the intoxicating substance in hashish broken down in the body?
Answer: Hashish? Hashish? Hello! Please refer to my answer in question #3.
5) What can help save fuel and reduce pollution?
Answer: By paying attention to the fuel consumption of a motor vehicle when buying it. My response- my two cars that are waiting for me to drive are both enormous gas guzzlers, one gets about 11 miles to the gallon. But, they are so fun to drive! My two requirements when I buy my next car are horsepower and a very large engine.
6) How many liters of water are polluted by a drop of oil?
Answer: This is my favorite question because it is the most often repeated question in the study materials. I know that we all should protect the environment, but I am trying to prove that I am a safe driver. Knowing this answer will not mean I do anything to protect the environment.
Besides the lovely questions that do not apply to me, there are terms that an American-English speaker struggles with.
Why must I be careful following a Lorry?
Where can I not park near a sunken kerbstone?
How can I put my luggage in the boot of my car when my boots are on my feet?
I am completely amazed by the level of preparation required for a German driver's license. It would be wonderful if it really made for better drivers, but I think that driving in Germany is much simpler because it is in the nature of the people here to follow the rules. The test preparation is keeping me quite busy, but I am so excited to think of the day when I can legally drive here!