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cultural difference 8: transportation III

April 14, 2010

Germany is the land of Mercedes, BMW, and Porsche.

But it’s also a country where you can get around with public transportation quite easily, so some people don’t even own a car. And most Germans own a car that Americans would probably consider small.

Okay, okay, most German cars aren’t quite THAT small, but it’s not a rare thing to see microcars such as the smart.

And, of course, German cars most often are stick shift cars, not automatic cars.

Despite rumors to the contrary, there are speed limits in Germany. Within towns and cities, it’s 50 km/h (31 mph) and 30 km/h (18 mph) in some residential areas. On most two-lane roads outside of cities (comparable to highways), there’s a speed limit of 100 km/h (62 mph). The Autobahn has a “recommended” speed limit of 130 km/h (80 mph), but of course many people happily ignore that recommendation. So I guess it’s safe to say that people drive faster in Germany.

If you’re speeding in Germany, you usually won’t be stopped – you’ll get a speeding ticket through the mail weeks after the incident. The German police use radar-linked cameras to catch speeders.

When I did research for Next of Kin, I noticed that getting a driver’s licence is different in the US. Here in Germany, we have drivers’ schools (Fahrschule). These cars are equipped with dual controls, so that the instructor can take over when necessary.

I also heard that traffic lights in the US are different from German traffic lights, but I don’t exactly know how. Does anybody know?

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6 comments

  1. It’s been a long time since I’ve driven in Germany, but I’m guessing German traffic lights go from green to yellow to red and then back to yellow before turning green? In the US, the lights go directly to green after red.

    What prize does the person with the correct answer get??? 🙂


  2. You are right. Maybe Germans need the yellow light because we drive stick shift cars 🙂

    A prize? What, you think I’m gonna send you one of our German cars? 😉

    Sorry, but that’s not in the budget. I’ll have to think of something else.


  3. How does the yellow light after the red light help with stick shift cars? I’ve only driven a stick shift once (about half a mile :-)), so I really have no clue about this.

    Can’t wait to receive the prize. Hopefully it’s not a link to a photo of a German car. 🙂


    • Well, if the light changes from red to yellow, it gives you some time to put your car into first gear, slowly let out the clutch, and prepare to switch your right foot from the break to the gas pedal.

      I think I’ll send you a German good luck charm as a prize. Are pigs thought of as good luck charms in the US too?


  4. Ahh, that makes sense re: the stick shift.

    I guess it never occurred to me to drive anything but an automatic, since I need one hand free to change radio stations. Just kidding. Really.

    Pigs as good luck charms? I’ve heard of carrying a rabbit’s foot for good luck, but that seems a bit creepy.

    My “champanzee” seems to be bringing me good luck. 😉


    • Yes, pigs are considered good luck. We even say “Schwein haben” (“to have pig”) if we luck out. And I hear that petting a pig at New Year’s Eve is supposed to bring good luck for the new year. Not that I ever tried it.



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