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Kategorien/Categories:    ›Lifestyle‹  ›EN‹   –  03.03.2011

Car Talk

They say when you move to a different country and learn a foreign language, you’ve only truly “arrived” once you start to think and even dream in that new language. Well, I don’t know about my dreams, but I recently discovered that I talk to cars… but only in English.

Obama on HPVHold the straight jacket. But, yes, I do admit that I sometimes “talk to cars” as I ride through the busy city traffic. You know; telling them to stay in their lane, or that I have the right-of-way, or that they should watch out and slow down. Well, let’s be fair: I also occasionally say thanks to a particularly nicely behaving car, too.

I wondered what any driver capable of lip reading might think. That’s when I realized that I only do my car whispering in English, never in German. My guess is, I picked up the habit while living in the States – even though I grew up here in Germany with plenty of bike-riding experience from the get go, and plenty of it in traffic to boot.

But here’s the rub: bicycling as a means of transportation is pretty common around Germany. Consequently, German drivers – at least in cities with strong bicycling cultures – are pretty used to bicyclists in traffic (including the crazy stunts they sometimes pull off). We’re granted a certain amount of respectful caution here, if only due to our numbers.

In the States, on the other hand, bicycling still occupies the status of “recreational sport” in most people’s minds. In most areas, the ubiquitous sprawl makes bike-riding a fairly poor choice as a mode of transportation. Consequently, drivers just aren’t very used to bicyclists sharing the roads and often display a lack of respect for their two-wheeled, human-powered counterparts.

At least that was my experience as an avid bicyclist in Florida, where I was more than once shouted at, cussed, and edged off onto the shoulder - not to mention being chased by countless stray dogs. Once, someone even threw an empty bottle at me (he missed). Most of the time I was simply ignored: cars blatantly pulled in front of me or disregarded my right-of-way, as if I was nothing more than thin air.

So is it any wonder I started to talk back at them? Just for good measure, I also developed a pretty defensive riding style. Obviously, I survived. And so, apparently, has my habit of “car talk”.