Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Living and driving in the UK

The leaves are starting to change.

Now I'm back at home, sitting with my coffee, looking out my window at the cold weather rolling in. The cat sitter has stopped by to return the keys. She took good care of our grumpy cat for two weeks.

It's taken me more than a week to get back into working at the computer but after getting some things done yesterday, I think I'm getting settled back on nicely. Not everything is done, of course, but some.

So far my main objectives are:

  • To get the project out the door in e-book
  • Get it in paper format ASAP
  • Get the author site set up (working on it but Blogger and GoDaddy won’t play ball.)
  • Marketing - research more of what needs to be done.
  • Get set up for NaNoWriMo for the 2nd project of the series.
  • Of course I also have to get my driver's license test passed, my Life in the UK test passed, and my settlement application sent in.

And it's going to be Christmas soon!

I’ve been studying this stupid Life in the UK test with my books and app, highlighter in hand, but they still throw insane statistical curve balls that even British born citizens don’t know the answers to. But luckily I’m use to standardized testing, remembering facts, and knowing what kind of questions to expect on things like this. What percentage of the Scottish population is a minority? How many people in England own their home? What percentage of women in the work-place have children? Etc., etc., etc. If I keep studying and memorizing and highlighting, I should be fine to take this before the end of the year. Maybe November?

The driving is still going to be a pain too. Every time I’m in the middle of a lesson I think to myself, “I’ll never be able to drive here.” If anyone ever wants to feel more stupid, attention-deficit, or incapable of learning basic tasks, try learning to drive in England. I swear, it’s not the gear shifts so much as the way the roads are set up - though the stupid gear shifting confuses me too. For two hours each week, this driving instructor tells me that I’m not keeping things simple, making mountains out of molehills and not thinking about what I’m doing. Well, I’ll tell you why – everything confuses me!

You get to a roundabout. The sign says you’re going to a town that is for the third exit. So, I have to remember which exit to take. Then I have to know to get to 10mph and 2nd gear (Cue the driving instructor shouting things at me like, “Suzanne, is it clear to go? Quickly, Suzanne! Quickly! If it’s clear to go, then go!” Every. Single. Time.) Then I have to get into the right lane, keep screwing with the signals to make sure they stay on (Seriously, did they not consider this when making roundabouts?) Then I have to get over in the other lane when I get half way around (“Check your mirrors, Suzanne! Stay in your lane! Don’t cut the lanes!” The lane markings are usually too faded to see most of the time.) Then I have to take my exit.

Now, even if that doesn’t sound too difficult, I get totally confused once I get in there because between the time that I decided what exit to take and finding the actual exit, 20 things have already happened. I’ve been checking traffic, checking my mirrors, down shifting, up shifting, lane switching, and being shouted at the whole stinking time. I don’t think most Americans would be able to handle this at all but maybe I’m just special.

Anyway, tomorrow the driving instructor’s going to “see where I am” in regards to setting up a driving test. Personally, I think I need a year of driving lessons before I could even attempt one but we don’t have the money to go through all that. I was thinking today that during the driving test, the examiner won’t speak to me, so maybe I’ll be able to concentrate a little better. I get confused driving in Florida in traffic and trying to talk to a family member, let alone being told to do something every 2 seconds while driving on a 10% decline down a hill that is flooded with parked cars on either side. It’s stressful, I tell you.

But when I finally get to drive on my own, I’ll be able to give my full attention and concentration to the road. After driving a Hyundai for our rental car last month, I’ve already chosen what car I want to get. I even bought cute vinyl stickers and a magnet for it over vacation, just to give me some motivation. Now all I need is a license and, you know, money to pay for the car.

Hyundai new i20


  1. Oh, the driving lessons! I can't tell you how many times I came home crying. I thought mayabe it was just my instructor, but maybe they're all like that. Mine was super condescending. I opted to NOT learn to drive a stick. I couldn't handle driving on the other side of the road, roundabouts, AND learn to shift gears. I went automatic. That's all I can drive, but I don't care. :) I know it's hard, but you'll get there. I managed to pass on my second test. Good luck and keep me posted. Also, if you ever want to talk to another American Expat, I'm your girl :)

    1. I'm so glad to have someone else to talk to who has gone through all of this. I have seriously considered chucking the manual shift for an automatic but I'll stick with it (no pun intended) now that I'm months into my lessons.
      I don't think these instructors understand how different the road system is here compared to the US. If we need an exit, we take the exit. No messing around with it. I told my instructor that a lot of what he tells me to do (driving over the middle line of the road, for example) is downright illegal in the States.
      Thanks so much for your support. I'll definitely need it! :-)