The part where you are ready to drive in the UK as an American Shamerican

Posted on October 5, 2009 by peacefulyorkshire

yahooavatar15At some point you might not feel like your old ‘American in America self’ after being in Britain a while without driving. You’ll be missing that freedom to escape with Kayne West blaring recklessly– and that ability to tempt fate by speeding (just a little) on the highway. Oh no, you have to crave driving first, and that won’t come for a while.

At first it will be quaint waiting for all those cute red double-decker buses. Or those First City buses that are double the length like big caterpillars in the city centres (how novel!). Waiting in Victorian train stations like Charles Dickens would have done (how charming!).You will be happy to taxi/walk/cycle/carshare/skip/hitchhike (how karmic helping out the enviroment!).

But trust us, there will come a time when you realise how much you hate having to rely on someone else to get anywhere. The overcrowded sticky bus. Or walking to work as you get drenched by torrential mizzle. The stench of mingin’ B.O. of the tube, or the lack of a seat on your daily very over-priced train. One day you will come home put down your reusable environmental shopping bag and say to yourself. “That is enough!”. That will be the point dear readers when I offer you my congrats. Why? Because its time darlin’, time for you to save up some squid and to get your UK drivers license as an American in Britain. That’s right, contact a sweet lil driving instructor, learn how to drive stick and we’ll see you on the roads! (And of course, let us know how it all goes– tears and all!) xx

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Michelle March 29, 2010 at 9:17 am

    The only recurring dream/nightmare I’ve ever had in my life is one where I am driving in the UK, on the wrong side of the road, and haven’t had any lessons.

    I lived there for 11 years but never learned how to drive on their side, because I am kinda worried I won’t be able to transition back to the American side — I think I can change once, with practice and training, and switch my brain over, but I worry that my middle-aged brain will get stuck on their side and I won’t be able to drive in the US anymore!

    If I move somewhere where traffic isn’t crazy, and public transport isn’t very good, I’ll probably give it a try and try to get a licence.

    In London I was always glad that I didn’t have a car – so much hassle to deal with – parking, insurance, gas prices, traffic jams.

    Though I guess they now have car rental programmes where you can rent a car by the hour – that might be useful for Ikea adventures which were always a nightmare – I’d end up buying more than I expected, and trying to tote huge yellow bags whose handles were just long enough to cause the bags to scrape the ground for 2 miles across the North Circular Motorway to the nearest tube station in the rain in the dark (and not the safest-feeling neighbourhood in the world).

  2. lovesahoosier November 25, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Steve!!well put!!

    was thinking about introducing my partner to the British roads.
    what will be best try to teach her Manual and just let her use her American licence ?
    or should i go the proper way by introducing her to our nearest driving instructor. and doing it the right way.
    btw i drive manual car.

    • peacefulyorkshire November 27, 2009 at 9:41 am

      Loveahoosier– Introducing her to your nearest driving instructor would be my vote for helping your American woman take to driving in the UK. Like her, I had been driving in American for years– but the experience of driving in Britain is really different! From the road signage to roundabouts to the tiny roads, it can be intimidating. She probably won’t need too many lessons, but if she is going to be here for good she might as well do the whole obtaining her license process good and proper, and with a stickshift. If she needs any support tell her that we will cheer her on….us three ladies have lots of experience in the ‘learning to drive’ category!!

  3. Steve Shawcross October 12, 2009 at 9:12 pm

    I’m happy to say you don’t have to learn in a stick-shift (“manual”) if you don’t want to, and you can get just an automatic car licence– there are driving-schools around with automatic cars to cater for that.

    I appreciate that automatics aren’t popular here though. I’m afraid manuals are preferred here; because they are more fuel-efficient, quicker off the mark, give you more control, save on brakes and require less maintainence. That’s not meant as a dig at automatic drivers by the way, just the way things are mechanically.

    Miss America is right about the US open road, it doesn’t compare. You have to go into the wilds of Scotland (or maybe Wales) to get the anything like the feel of the open road– such is the consequence of living in a crowded country.

    Yeah sadly learning here is very expensive, as is the cost of motoring full-stop.

    The good news is you can drive faster on UK roads, 70mph limit on motorways! The best advice I can give for roundabouts, is to give way to the right.

    Best of luck for all ‘re-learning’ how to drive here :)

  4. yankeebean October 10, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    I can’t believe how HUMBLING it is to learn to drive all over again 11 years after taking my American test.

    This stick-shift business makes me forget the most BASIC things, like using my turn signal. I mean, for God’s sake! I’m a reasonably clever person, I should have this thing in a headlock…

    My driving instructor just moved to Manchester, too, so I’m kinda stalled (excuse the pun… ooooooooo…).

    Come to think of it, I hope she didn’t move because I’m such an all-thumbs-noob… :D

  5. Carla Young October 7, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    Ugh, I have to start learning stick shift soon…..I’m milking my US license for as long as I can but its almost time..

  6. Debbie October 6, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    I made my husband buy an automatic and only drove that.. I felt that learning to drive a stick in addition to driving on the other side of the road and car and learning all new traffic laws was just too much. I felt that I did so much better because at least I knew how to operate the vehicle. It was still difficult, I always had to think about what I was doing because if I didn’t then my “american brain” would automatically kick in…lol It was worth it though, I lived there a little over a year before I began driving.. and once I did, I felt that I got my independence back. BTW I took one lesson and then took the test and passed…Once I told the examiner that I had been driving since I was 16 and showed him my American license the whole atmosphere changed and it seemed more like a formality than a test. So be sure to let your examiner know you are already a driver in the US. Best of luck … you’ll do fine.

  7. Miss America October 5, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    One thing I love (and will be sad to leave) about America is the feeling of the open road. It just doesn’t compare in England. I love driving here (and even know how to drive a stick), but am terrified of the whole wrong side of the road/roundabout/shifting with the left hand. I guess once I’m over there I’ll just have to face my fears and do it…

  8. Dyana October 5, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    i’ve got my full uk license after spending more than i needed on lessons just to be sure i was totally ready to pass. (and i did w one minor) lessons go for 20-25 an hour, and since i already drove a manual car that was no issue. you just figure out the little things that you can rely on to make yourself feel safe as you drive on the left. like for me, my mantra when pulling onto a road was ‘driver to the centre of the road’. i have yet to try to shift w my right hand!

  9. Michelloui October 5, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Hmmm this is one area where Im pretty ok. I even delight in the idea of a busy roundabout! Im not a car-crazy girl either, I just love the idea of freedom so much that I guess I fully embraced the driving thing. I even took the Advanced Driving Test when I got sick of hubby trying to tell me how to drive! Actually, I highly recommend the Advanced Driving course to all Americans (and all people driving, of course) because among other things it really improves your confidence.

  10. Ashley October 5, 2009 at 9:03 am

    One of my biggest fears is the hole the process is going to put in my bank account! I posted about applying for a UK licence on my blog last week and how expensive it is compared to getting an American licence.
    That’s not to say I’m not also afraid of learning to drive a stick on the other side of the road…yikes!

  11. MCT October 5, 2009 at 8:46 am

    That’s your only fear? Driving with a stick? I would be more afraid of driving on the “wrong” side of the road…. oh, and of course handling the stick mith my left hand and anything else “mirrored” (is this a word I can use in english?)…

  12. I Love This Blog! October 5, 2009 at 7:13 am

    Why why why why why why whyyyy must it be stick? :( The last time I attempted it, I accidentally backed my father’s car into the middle of the street while he was on a business trip and had to ask a smirking neighbor to drive it back into the driveway for me!

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