Brits in the Bay

Learn the Lingo: Driving Edition

Alexis MonoogianComment

Once you get used to being on the wrong side of the road, driving here in the Bay is not quite as challenging as expected and can even be rather beautiful. Many things seem to be universal like German cars not being fitted with indicators and people spending more time looking at their phones than the road but there are still enough differences for us to put together this driving edition of Learn the Lingo, enjoy!

Highway 1.jpg
  • Freeway – Motorway. It will have anything from 4-8 lanes and you will freak out, maybe, or maybe that’s just me, I learnt to drive in Scotland where 2 lanes is a luxury.
  • Gas – Petrol. It comes in 87, 89 and 91 octane levels which is lower than the UK and that is apparently important to know. More important is that the unleaded is in the black pump and you really do need a US bank card to pay for the petrol in an easy manner. Don’t panic though, the attendants are able to take your UK card but you have to do some weird kind of pre payment and you can’t pay at pump which is how most petrol stations here operate.
  • HOV Lane – High Occupany Vehicle Lane - This is a carpool lane, it will tell you on the sign how many people you need to have in the car and what hours it operates. I have no idea if babies and children count or how they know who is in your car as I haven’t seen any cameras or anyone policing it but after 2.5yrs living in Germany, if there’s a rule, I follow it!
  • Intersection – Junction
  • On/Off Ramp – It’s the slip road and yes you are supposed to use them to get up/down to the speed of the new road, but no, no one does.
  • Parent & Child Parking – Just kidding, these spaces don’t exist!!
  • Parking Lot – Car park
  • Pavement – The road surface
PED XING on road.jpg
  • PED XING – or XING PED as I read it. No this isn’t road signs being handily written in Chinese for the Chinese speakers of the area like a very jetlagged me thought when I saw this on the road on our first morning here. In my defence, I had been up since 3am with a jetlagged 4 year old and a 3 month old baby. So, in case any of you find yourselves in the same situation it just means there’s a pedestrian crossing coming up, nowhere near as exciting!
  • Red traffic light – Stop. Well unless you’re turning right and then you can go if it’s clear. Well that’s unless there’s a sign that tells you that you can’t turn right on the red light which means stop. All clear?
  • RV – Recreational Vehicle – Motorhome, campervan aka the Brits in the Bay dream!
Vintage RV.jpg
  • Sidewalk – Pavement
  • Stick Shift – I’m sure you’ve all seen this in the movies but it’s how they refer to a manual car i.e. Can you drive a stick? If you get asked this, try not to give them the eye roll or comment on automatics being glorified go-karts…
  • Trolley – Tram
  • YIELD – Whilst this brings to mind ancient knights on noble steeds demanding your surrender, it’s just the equivalent of the UK Give Way signs, so no need to shout “Never, never shall I yield to thee” from your car, you can just give way, it’s fine.
Monty Python Black Knight Yield.jpg

For a great article on things to watch out for when driving in the Bay take a peek at this Survival Guide by Hamish Reid but be warned, it may up your nervousness a little!