Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Das Auto

This post is dedicated to Maureen De Haan, my best friend and roommate from our college days, a German speaker, and the only girl in school to have a poster of a vintage Mercedes gullwing roadster on her dorm room wall. And a poster of Eric Clapton drinking coffee. She's just always been that cool.    Hi, Maureen!

I have a couple of observations about Germans and their cars, at least in the part of Bavaria where I’m living.

1.  Germans drive like they mean it.

They drive fast and decisively and in control. That famed German engineering they put into their cars? It doesn’t go to waste here. From my vantage point, Germans don’t try to text or check their phones while behind the wheel, ever. They’re not trying to multi-task while they drive—there’s no putting on makeup while eating a sandwich while juggling a handheld phone, like I’ve seen on Coast Highway or even on the 405 between Orange County and LA. (Good Lord, I feel like the 405 takes years off my life every time I’m on it.)

Here in Bavaria, you zip from town to town on very narrow, two-lane highways at a high rate of speed, and preferably you’ve had your coffee already, and preferably it was not decaf. I imagine that if you tried to apply mascara, or got too involved in your breakfast burrito, it could be fatal. And I find that strangely reassuring, because it means that pretty much everyone on the road is giving full attention to the road.

 2. Germans are very considerate drivers.

But not in a gooey, overly friendly, “You go ahead of me, honey!” kind of way. No. It’s because (I think) they realize that, by letting others merge into traffic, or waiting while someone backs out of a driveway in front of them, things work better that way. Ultimately it’s more efficient, not to mention safe, to yield to others on the road. I have to say, it’s refreshing.

3. There are a LOT of really nice German cars in Germany.

I know, they make them here. And I know that Germany has been propping up the rest of the EU for a few years now. But, wow, just sayin. If you’re a person who likes cars and car design and everything about cars, like my 16-year old son, you’re in heaven here. He’s the kid who saved up for and helped restore a ’73 El Camino this year. And he’s still talking about that new Mercedes with the gullwing doors that blew by him and David on the autobahn like they were standing still, only they were going pretty fast, so they guessed it must have been going over 200 km/hr. His pronouncement: “We’ve GOT to test drive one of those, Mom. Just for fun. Seriously.” Maybe we will. Just for fun. 

Car porn courtesy of Mercedes-Benz blog


  1. One reason why we germans dont check our phones or make calls while driving is that it is forbidden and the charges are not cheap. Most use handsfree equipment ( i hope i translated it correct) to call someone while driving. You should see my father, hevtakes multitasking while drivingfast to a whole new level ;-)

    It is interessting that you see us as considerate drivers. Maybe we are so used to it (letting others merge into traffic with the zipper principle is pqrt of driving school) that we dont see when it works and only go mad if someone didn't let us in or cut our driveway.