Sunday, 15 July 2012

German Driving License in my Hand ...


It has been one hell of a journey since summer last year.  To think of it, way before that when I started inquiring over the German Driving License process in a local driving school.  I went to one of the most reputable where I live.  The experience left me disheartened.  The lady whom attended to me answered everything possible there is with her limited knowledge of how to convert a Malaysian license to a German one but what upsetted me most was when she referred to her colleage, a driving instructor on how many lessons should I take.  In Germany, there is no hard or fast rule to this.  It seems it difers from school to school.  This instructor, without even checking my background (18 years of driving experience) took a look at me and quoted 45 lessons.  A freshie takes approximately 30 lessons onward so what is it about me that needs 45 lessons?  And so, I left that at that ... and did not proceed further till the following year.

My hubby mentioned there´s such a thing as taking your license intensively in a holiday package deal.  I did a quick search online and true enough, found one I was comfortable with.  The lady I spoke too sounded normal.  The whole process is in English which is a big plus and she is willing to do it within 2 weeks excluding the theory.  The only thing is, it is in Hamburg - Germany´s second biggest city up north.  And quickly too, we made arrangement, went there to do up my theory which I passed thankfully after getting all my first aid test, paper translation and eye test done up.

The practical lesson went well the first day.  I took 2 lessons after arriving at her driving school myself.  She is not up to picking me up from the B&B I was staying which I initially thought was normal but it was not apparently.  Fine.  Second day came the real shocker.  She started raising her voice.  Oh well.  And we had 2 lessons that day too.  By end of the lesson, she asked if I am keen to take an evening extra lesson.  I jumped at the chance because I had time to kill plus I wanted to get as much practise as possible.  That evening, we did a round around an industrial and housing area outside of Hamburg.  She apparently had to pass something to her mother and had use our route to do up her chore.  Which is also fine by me.  But then later while on the way back, something happened that shook me.  I was driving as usual when I spotted a traffic light ahead with its red light blinking.  It is new to me so I did what I thought was normal.  I stopped the car.  And she SCREAMED. And took over the wheels and swirl it aggressively towards the curb at the right side of the road while stepping on the gas pedal HARD.  Can you imagine my shock when it happened?  I didn´t know stopping a car can be such a big no-no especially so when I am in a driving school car where everyone would or suppose to have noticed.  Also, it was a 50km zone, means the car are all going slow.  Who would hit me from behind?  Driving school car are all insured so well here so what´s the big fuse?  We got out of the car, I was clearly shaken ... she noticed and apologized quickly.  I told her, her behaviour is unacceptable and reminded her why I am paying her then.  The next day, I called her early in the morning to cancel that days driving lessons.  So that she got the message that is it NOT right.

After that incident, she was more polite.  But her actions, putting her hand on mine to demonstrate how to change gear in a rough manner ... it is her way of letting go frustration, something to that effect.  At times too she would curse on drivers on the road which I try to turn on a deaf ear.  Its an emotional roller coaster ride for me each time I am to start my lesson.  But I told myself it will be short.  In a weeks time, it will be over and thats it. 

On the day of my exam, she puked.  SHE, the teacher and not the student taking the practical exam PUKED. 

I had to move the car to the side to calm her down during my last lesson just before the exam.  Amazing.  I failed of course.  But by any mean, it was my mistake.  I missed a stop sign because the examiner actually took me to this junction with more than 10 signages lined up one after another.  Why the hell did he do that for?!  He also failed me because I was driving 5km slower than the stated speed limit. I did´t get that because I always thought, it is fine as long as you don´t go above that speed limit.  It seems one is endangering oneself and is hogging the road.  Stupid reason if you ask me.  And a whole lot more from the list like I was not stepping on the gas pedal confidently.  When you are at 40-50 using 4th gear, how much gas can you step on?

I took it again, had to go all the way to Hamburg to get it done and I failed the second time.  This time round, I do question the reason behind failing me.  I was on a main road leading towards the autobahn on the right.  Parallel to me is a cyclist but since I am faster, the cyclist was 100 metres behind me by the time I reached the turning junction.  The examiner said, by right, I should stop for him although he is faraway.  And for that, he failed me.  I find it confusing because, my very nice driving teacher told me NOT to stop in such circumstances especially when one is on the way to autobahn.  Cars behind could have hit me from behind.  So who is right and who is wrong???

Last winter, I decided enough is enough and do not want to see her face anymore.  I applied for a school transfer application via a new driving school I found in my town.  It is a fairly small school from the first one I went too, but bigger than the one I used in Hamburg.  His online credential seems good.  What I really liked was, all the photos of his students whom had passed the exam - all bearing a huge smile.  The teacher too looked pleasant and importantly, it is a HE.  My driving teacher was a HE back in Malaysia and he was so cool.  Perhaps a women instructor are more particular over small details such as how to hold the gear knob, at what gear should you use when you touched xxx line when you´re at junction and at what degree should your steering be etc (which I am super uncomfortable btw when I was with her) ... so yes, all this stupid stupid details.  This new instructor is super cool without fusing too much over unimportant things.  And by doing so, I got comfortable in his car so quickly and soon, I was driving like I owned the car - he said :-)

He does not scream but explain to me what my mistakes are.  He would stop the car when necessary to show me some signs if I am not certain off.  And he compliments me when I get them right.  I think that is important to instill confidence in a student.  It is strange that I also need them after having driving back in Malaysia for upteen years.  Driving in Autobahn in his sun-roof Tiguan was fantastic feeling too.  Perhaps I am use to a VW, with hubby Passat almost a similiar feel to the Tiguan. And of course, the traffic here is not as horrendous as in a big city.  Perhaps too it made a difference that the town were I live marked the roads very well and it helps.  I did 12 lessons with him in addition to 15 lessons I did in Hamburg.  27 lessons is not too bad compared to the 45 quoted by the first school isn´t it?  Plus, I´ve also gained driving experience in Hamburg so it does make a difference.

And so at last, I passed.  With flying colour and no comment or feedback on what else I need to improve on when the good news was handed to me.  Fantastico.

All and all, getting a good instructor is important if I may add or any of you whom plans to get your license done here in Germany. So now yeah, my freedom is finally in my hand ...

p/s : this is not the ´good´ news yet ... :-)

p/ss:  this card is from hubby. he was happier and jumping higher than me btw  ... :-)

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