The grass is always greener on the other side - especially when it comes to driving. I figure that many U.S. car enthusiasts are thinking of my home country Germany as sort of a promised land of driving. Not only is it home to the invention of the car itself, but also to many awesome manufacturers like Mercedes, BMW or Audi. Our driver’s education takes at least half a year and of course we have our beloved Autobahn, where you can take your ride to the max whenever you like - as long as the speed is unlimited. That’s all good fun.
Like everything in life, driving in Germany has its downsides too. I’ll emphasize that in a separate article. This text is based on the intention that you, my cherished reader, think that driving in Germany is a helluva lot cooler than in the U.S.
Is it though?
Let’s have a quick comparison
Like many things in the U. S. of A., driving is honed to a perfect every day usability. It is connected to marvelous things like drive-ins and drive-thru’s for restaurants, banks and pharmacies.
I can understand if that sounds boring and quotidian for you, but bear in mind that simple things like that would be outrageous in Germany.
Of course, we have drive-thru’s at our fast food places, but believe me: Germans only use them with caution and wariness. It is in the most audible and brisk way that they order by intercom. There is no time for crazy talk like “hello” or “how are you”. A German in a drive-through always gets straight to business.
Then they pay cash, or maybe if they feel reckless by card. That of course contains receiving a card reader on a long spiral cord where they can punch in their debit card pin, so nobody can lure, when they confirm their transaction over 7 Euros and 11 Cents. Swipe your card and go? Nein!!
It is of course obvious, that the most part of drive-through-food gets eaten after parking neatly into a space nearby. Eat and drive? Only when it’s really inevitable. For that matter, the classic drive-in, where you park next to a menu and get served by a waiter or waitress coming to your car, so you can sit and eat, while the restaurant’s employees are despisingly looking at you from the inside, would be much more appropriate in Germany. Then, of course, a German would much rather sit in a restaurant rather than to stare at it. I’ve seen people asking for silverware in a German McDonald’s.
With all human needs like nutrition and the choice of a reasonably entertaining, yet impeccably informative radio station fulfilled, it is time to head on to the Autobahn. Aim for the right direction, floor it and off you go.
An Autobahn almost looks like your normal interstate highway. Technically, there’s not much difference, but the sensation is very unequal. In Germany, nearly every bit of Autobahn is crammed in between ugly bushes and not too healthy looking trees that were planted on ridges adjoining the pavement. Apart from a bridge or a tunnel here and there, your view is dominated by a tunnel of dirty green.
That is a good thing, because you really need your focus to be undistracted if you want to come out in one piece. When you want to go fast, you have to care for your own safety as well as possibly endangering or being endangered by others who might be going even faster than you. If you get tailgated by an Audi flashing its high beams at a 150 mph, you better get out of the damn passing lane! That’s not very uncommon, to be honest. After all, it gives you the possibility to easily cross through the entire country within a day with time to spare. On the other hand, it quickly gets tiring. There is a lot of traffic on the road most of the time. If you really want to go fast, you must either foresee hard braking every minute or two, because some Dummkopf decides to pull out right in front of you, or you have to wait for a quiet Sunday night possibly at the time of a soccer game.
In the U.S. however, things are somewhat different. First of all, drivers are way more chillaxed, so you can eat your Wendy’s, Taco Bell or Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburger without having to worry that some Hanswurst in a rush spills your... whatever custard actually is.
Then there’s the fact that even large Interstates are crossing different parts of actual civilization, even if they take a detour to bypass crowded areas. Those byways have lovely names like “Cherry Blossom Turnpike” or “Grandview Highway” instead of just boring-ass numbers. There are buildings and things to look at on most of the crossroads - things, we Germans miss out on, when we’re rushing through our tunnel of crude greens. Probably the greatest thing about a U.S. interstate: the signs just before the exit ramps that tell you the choice of fast food in that town.
I’m lovin’ it!
Then of course, long-distance-driving in the U.S. needs to be comfortable, since you can easily spend the most part of a week on the road. Apart from roads and driving itself, there’s another thing - perhaps the thing – I love the most about it: The gas stations.
But that is something for another day.