01 September, 2011

It's that time of week

Expat Blog Hop time, that is.

This week's topic is:

What was the hardest thing for you to adjust to when you moved to your new country? What tips would you give for new people arriving?

The obvious answer is of course, having to make new friends.  But, I bang on about that old chestnut all the time, so instead I'll think of something else.


The weather?  No.  Again, too tiresome to read about, especially after we've just gone through the wettest summer on record here in the Netherlands.

Although it was not necessarily the hardest thing to adjust to, driving on the opposite side of the road has been a big challenge.  Not that I drive.  I'm too tight to fork out the thousand plus euros to start again when it comes to getting my driver's license.

Working as a tour guide it would  crack me up every single time a European tried getting on the wrong side of the bus, until my very first trip to the Netherlands where I stepped off the plane and tried to get into the driver's seat of Maarten's car.  He *might* have fallen over laughing at me.  It took me a while to get used to, and then the first day on the road back in Australia I managed to pull up at a round a bout on the wrong side of the road!  And, what actually made me think of this topic as a major challenge:  yesterday evening I tried to get into the driver's seat again!  I haven't done that for about three years!  I'm putting it down to being a tired, pregnant woman.  That'll work as an excuse, won't it?

Then came the next weird concept - giving way to the right.  Hang on, in Australia we drive on left and give way to the right, but in the Netherlands we drive on the right and also give way to the right?  Absolutely doesn't make sense.  Surely the rules should be opposite, right?  Right?!

Instead drivers are always (supposed to be) on the look out for cars and bicycles who will nip around a corner in front of them at any given moment because they have right of way (except in controlled conditions, of course).  Being a nervous passenger (it's the cause of many, many arguments, poor Maarten) I'm always stomping on my imaginary brakes and grabbing whatever I can to brace! brace!  Maybe the fear would go away if I drove, but I think it has more to do with us owning such a small car.  There's no way that it would come out of any crash unscathed.

And then there's the freeway antics!  The tailgating, swerving in and out of lanes, cutting people off, the excessive speed, the horrendous traffic jams.  It astounds me that the road death toll is so low.  Having said that, I think Dutch drivers are all in all more competent than their Australian counterparts.  More vigilant, don't hog the middle/fast lane unnecessarily, can handle more varied situations better.  Until, of course they find themselves on an open road in The Outback....

So, whilst not the hardest thing to adjust to, being on the wrong side of the road has been a big adjustment.

My big tip for newbies (from countries unused to driving on the right side of the road, or from outside Europe), don't panic when a car suddenly pulls out in front of you, chances are they actually have right of way!

What we are talking about

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