Adapting to drive in another country is not always easy.
One has to adapt to:
- Different rules
- Different signaling system
- Different driving styles of the other drivers
- Different police
Imagine you are driving in northern Switzerland, where people pretend to speak German.
It’s after midnight, and I’m driving well below the speed limit, since I know there are many radars around.
Suddenly a car overtakes me, and – surprise – it is a police car.
Between the blue lights on the roof there is a digital display that starts flashing the words “bitte folgen”, which is German for “please follow me”.
As many expats, I have the inclination to interpret things around me from behind the lenses of my native culture.
Therefore, I think that “follow me” mean “don’t overtake me; go as fast as I go”. I will do that as long as this police car doesn’t turn or pulls up.
Then they pull up and the text on the roof disappears. Good. I proceed.
Soon enough, they’re behind me real fast, they overtake me and their car is in front of me flashing “follow” again. Now it’s clear they want me to stop.
Their English is not very fluent but I appreciate the effort. I’m in their country in the end. Nothing special happens, they were just surprised that I was driving 10 KPH slower than the limit. We say good night to each other.
I know it’s narrow-minded, but I can’t help thinking of their colleagues in my native country, one with the highest levels of crime in Western Europe: they have other things to do. But here it must be a boring night (as usual).
Weeks later, same place, same time in the night. I’m driving again a little below speed limit.
A car flashes lights behind me, meaning that the driver wants me to drive faster. I ignore them.
Then a display on the roof lights up – again. It says “Bitte STOPP”. Please stop.
Yes, the officers wanted me to drive faster!
This time I pull up immediately. After checking the tires, a policewoman stands in front of the driver seat, while her colleague directs the light of his torch on the hands of the person sitting on the passenger seat.
Much better English this time. Question: “You were driving slowly. Have you drunk alcohol?”
“Not at all.”
“Ok thanks, good night.” End of the story. No alcohol test. They get off, leaving me speechless.
All this is surreal for me.
After they’ve left, we start laughing, grateful for being given the blessing of getting to know different cultures.