After three and a half years in a place, you get a false sense of familiarity. You’ve settled into your job, your home, your daily routine and (of course) the ambient local dialect; the accents are much more intelligible and previously unfamiliar words are now familiar. But then you decide, “Hey, I should get my
driver’s license driving licence,” and suddenly the world goes upside-down again.
In a few weeks I’m taking the theory (written) portion of the UK driving test. Studying for it has been a little frustrating and, occasionally, very amusing. Below are a dozen examples from the practice tests on Theory Test Pro. I’ve grouped them according to six themes that vary with respect to my source of amusement or frustration.
Theme 1. British terms that are just inherently funny.
To begin with, there’s the puffin (and pelican, toucan, and zebra) crossings:
These animal names are supposed to be mnemonics, and while I actually do find most the other ones vaguely helpful, “puffin” (pedestrian user-friendly intelligent crossing) is just not. I have this image of a bunch of guys sitting around a conference table with a list of animal names, trying to squeeze out a very awkward acronym and, well, succeeding.
Want another funny term? Well, there are many, but how about the ‘immobiliser’?
Theme 2: Elements of British culture are charming, and this shows in their test questions. The best examples are the questions about sheep and horses:
(The correct answer, fwiw, is to stop. Posting this one on Facebook led to a rather long comment thread, including comments several people who had experienced this exact scenario. There are a lot of sheep in this country, people!)
Okay, this next one isn’t exactly ‘cultural’ (or maybe it is, I don’t know), but I find it similarly amusing that obtaining a UK driving licence entails having to learn the maximum speed limit of wheelchairs and scooters:
Theme 3. The actual rules of the road. These are less funny, and more flabbergasting. One is that Brits use the handbrake a lot more than Americans do; in fact, more than the foot break.
Okay, but the rule that really gets me is this: there is no right-of-way rule in the UK!
Theme 4: The UK has some weird road signs. I won’t even get into the fact that a red circle means the same thing as what a red circle with a line through it means in the US. Here are just a few of the tougher ones:
Theme 6: What? Lastly, there are questions that are just flat-out perplexing:
My husband‘s guess for this one is that you’re not meant to signal to the pedestrian (which is what my incorrect guess was), but rather that you’re meant to signal to the hypothetical car that is behind you; the hand signal is meant to warn that driver that you’re slowing down unexpectedly
Please leave a comment if you actually understand what’s going on here.
And please wish me luck on my test.