23 September, 2014

Learning to Drive in Denmark

Around 15 years old, driving on a family camping trip
I took my first driving license when I was fourteen. My mom took me over to Nampa High very early in the mornings before school, and I sat in a class with other fourteen to sixteen year olds to learn the theory of driving. Some mornings I would drive with an instructor in a car with two other kids I didn't know. They swore a lot, but that's beside the point, which is that I got my license.

If I want to drive here in Denmark, which I do, I am required to exchange my US license for a Danish one by way of passing a driving test. I could simply take the test and hope for the best, but a failure and consequent retaking is expensive. Therefore, I have signed up for some theory classes to improve my chances of passing the test the first time.

Once again, then, I find myself sitting in a class with other students, non-Danish speakers of all nationalities, to learn the theory of driving in Denmark. We sit at narrow wooden tables that are covered in doodles and swear words in a third-floor room above the pedestrian street. There is a small fridge full of Coke. A few students are only exchanging licenses from their home countries, but the majority are taking licenses and learning to drive for the first time. A high percentage of the students, including previous license holders, have already taken and failed the test at least once. 

Our instructor is a kind man and true advocate for foreigners trying to pass the test. As the test is visual with audio, it used to be that you had to bring your own translator. Now they actually provide the audio in English, but those who are not proficient enough still struggle with the speed and terminology. The instructor is not allowed to preview the actual tests, so he does his best to anticipate and prepare us accordingly. 

I've attended several classes now, and I don't think I could have passed without any study. The different signage and rules combined with the British terminology make it just confusing enough to invite failure. Terms such as 'shark's teeth', 'give way right', 'standard of the carriageway', and 'built-up area' were all missing from my lexicon. I hope that knowing I have 'absolute give way duty' when I cross a 'pavement' or 'cobbles' will help me pass my test. 

Now I'm off to ride my bike. 


Wissli said...

You will probably not like hearing this, but in Switzerland I just had to show them my Idaho drivers licence and they gave me a Swiss one...pure and simple! It may be different now, that was 26 years ago!! I did think at the time that was a bad idea since the rules of the road vary a bit there. At least they drive on the right side of the road...right? ;)

Potato Woman said...

Oddly enough, I'm still allowed to drive. They've given me a three month license which I can renew as long as there is proof that I'm in process of getting the real license. At the very least, it's an interesting cultural experience, but I am actually learning things. I'll be happy to get my Sunday nights back, though!