Okie dokie. Driving in England....geesh.
Before we moved to England, Van and I would try and be funny and would drive on the left hand side of the road through our neighborhood, saying "I'm in England, I'm in England!" And we figured it would be totally easy. It seemed easy. But there is fantasy and there is reality. And reality is a bummer. If this post is written 3 months ago, it would probably make you never want to drive in England. But I have learned a few things so far and will be bringing Van into the conversation since he seems to feel right at home driving on the other side of the road!
I can't speak for Van's first driving experience, but even my first passenger experience was frightful. After the 9 hour flight to London, my brain was definitely not running on all cylinders and when we arrived at the car, it was a strange experience to hop into the passenger seat that 9 hours ago was the driver seat. As we left Heathrow and immediately began to drive around roundabouts the opposite way, my brain started to just go haywire. It was terrible. And when we got on the highway, I was a nervous wreck. My body was actually physically reacting to not being in control while sitting in the former driver seat. It was weird. When we stopped at a gas station, my hand automatically reached for the gear to put the car in park (and being a manual, you can't even do this!). And when we reversed, I automatically turned around to back us out. I'm telling you, my body was so confused!! At one point, I just burst into tears, out of exhaustion, confusion and a whirlwind of emotions. I was so happy to make it to our hotel and get out of the mindbender!
It did get better and easier, not driving myself just yet, but riding as a passenger. The roads are incredibly tiny and when you are sitting in your former driver seat about to hit a hedge, your body automatically wants to turn the wheel and get you out of there. So it can be a constant struggle as a passenger. I honestly think that being a passenger is harder than actually driving. Whenever I drive Van, he is acutely aware of everything on the side of the road. I have to remind him that he has to adjust. So I guess we balance each other out in a way :)
Since Van is the main driver of the family, I have asked him for some tips for driving in England and this is what he gave me:
"Stay as far right in the lane as possible. Don't be afraid of hitting on oncoming car, they will move. The hedges and curbs on the left won't."
Doesn't that just put your mind at ease!?? He's just a straight shooter. And he replaced the tires and wheels on our car when we bought it, so maybe he's trying to keep them protected :)
While driving on the other side of the road, obviously, everything will be opposite for you. Exits (or slip roads) are now on the left. When you drive onto the major highways (or motorways) you are coming from the left side. When you pass a car, it feels totally strange. The fast lane is now the far right lane. Right on red doesn't exist. And, you have to get your brain to start looking right first. Even typing these differences is making my brain jam up!!
I never imagined driving to be such a challenge. I have been driving and enjoying driving for so long that I never imagined it would be any different in England. Well, it is. But it's just another challenge that can be overcome with the right attitude and major courage!