Tidbits on British Life #3 | Driving in England [Wrong Side of the Road]

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!

-Jamie

19 comments

  1. The first time I rode in the passenger side felt so strange! I haven't been brave enough to try driving on the other side of the road though.

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    1. Which side do you drive on in Iceland? I find it so crazy that most of mainland Europe drives on the right side and england on the left!!

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  2. Have you gotten your license over here yet? I still haven't switched. Naughty me! x

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    1. Nope!! I get to 'cheat' for a year with a pass that the air base gives me. I may get a real one though....I want to be able to drive the scooter that Van doesn'y know he is buying for me yet ;) But really, I've never even seen anyone pulled over by the police...keep being naughty!!

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  3. Ugh! I hate driving here! My one year is up so I have to get a UK license now. I've been taking lessons but afterwards, I'm so wound up and stressed. I've been driving for 30 years but apparently I need at least 20 more hours of lessons to have a chance of passing the driving test. Sorry about the rant! I hope you're having a lovely week :D lol. Great post!

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    1. I really hope I can keep mooching off the Air Force and keep my "cheat" driving license they give me!! I think I would probably get real snarky with my driving instructor and he would fire me as his student lol!!!

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  4. I think I would cry. and I would have to drive because I have major control issues on the road. I do want to give it a try at least once in my life though :)

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    1. I did cry and continue to cry haha!! I seriously have just thrown my hands up in the middle of a roundabout and cried. My husband was a little freaked out to say the least!! I guess it just comes with the territory....you have to change and adapt :)

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  5. Oh my god, this takes me back! The driving test in England was MILES harder than the test I took in Missouri when I was 15! Then again, anyone with a tractor can drive over there...

    To date, getting a UK license is still one of the biggest achievements of my life. I repatriated a few years ago but I still carry my UK license in my wallet. Kind of like a badge of pride.

    I'll still never get over that feeling that you describe so well, of driving inches away from a house, building or hedge. Seriously narrow roads. Throw some cyclists into the picture and I think we can all understand why you're a nervous wreck!

    Really enjoyed this post. :o)

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    1. Good for you!! I would carry it with me as well, or maybe even frame it :)

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  6. Hahah. Driving on the wrong side of the road seems terrifying to me! It's been years since I've been abroad but I remember the feeling of "narrowness". Sheesh!

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    1. The narrow roads blow my mind sometimes...I find myself just laughing out loud sometimes over what is deemed a two lane road :)

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  7. No ma'am! I will not be doing this! But I'm so proud of you for having the guts to do it! :) When we are in Ireland next month we are renting a car. It'll be Cory's first time to drive on the left side, so I'm hoping we come out of this alive. :)

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    1. Prepare yourself for riding as the passenger! If the roads are anything like England's, you will be in for a ride :)

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  8. Haha last year i wrote a little bit about driving in Japan! We also drive on the left side of the road :P Maybe you'll find my post as interesting as i found yours! http://www.inspirationsparks.com/2013/08/the-inside-scoop-driving-in-okinawa.html

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  9. It feels like you're on the driver's seat, but there's no steering wheel in front of you, yes? And yes, it's better to gamble that the car heading towards you, instead of the curbs beside you, will move. Good luck in your British driving adventures!
    RookieDriver.co.uk

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    1. Haha!! Yes, the cars will move :) Thanks for reading my post!!

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  10. I agree with you that being a passenger actually seems harder than being the driver. It's just not natural to sit on the left side of the car without a steering wheel! I recently took my driving tests (theory and practical) and passed both the first time! I was so nervous since I had been reading on expat forums and talking to people about how difficult the test is here in the UK. I do think I lucked out a bit and had an examiner that was more interested in chatting than watching faults I was making...I guarantee she missed some of them!

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    1. Awesome!! I don't think I will take the test...but it's good to hear that it is passable on a first try :)

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