Exploring cultures, countries and comfort zones
riving on the left side of
the road while sitting on
the right side of the car
can be confusing to any
U.S. driver navigating the
roads in a foreign country.
So just imagine how scary it would be if
you were a victim of road rage while on
non-U.S. soil! Understanding another
country’s driving laws is challenging
enough, but you also should be aware
of the road etiquette and cultural differences when getting behind the wheel.
Be Careful How You
Toot Your Horn
Drive Like an Egyptian
If you’re driving in Egypt, don’t give
passing drivers the thumbs up sign, as it is
considered an obscene gesture. Instead, a
simple wave and a smile are friendly gestures in most every country.
Take the Cannoli
In Italy, if you see drivers flashing their
car headlights at you, get out of their way.
Flashing headlights is a sign of aggression—they’re not trying to be friendly.
Driving in Italy may be nerve wracking because Italian drivers are typically
aggressive and fast. Pay extra attention to
the road and traffic violations, and carry
money with you, because the Italian police
are authorized to collect fines on the spot.
Ooh La Law!
The police also have this authority in
France, so be mindful of the laws. Unlike
driving in the United States, you cannot
make a right turn in France when you are
at an intersection with a red light. Drivers
on the right side of the road are given priority, so always yield to those merging
from the right.
It’s Greek to Me
While riding around the streets of Greece,
don’t wave or signal to other drivers by
holding up five fingers with the palm
facing the other driver, as it is considered
offensive. Instead, face your palm inward
with your fingers closed in a fist.
South of the Border
When driving in Mexico, ease up on the
gas pedal. While it’s common to go a little
faster than the speed limit in the United
States, it’s better to slow down in Mexico.
Watch out for the topes (speed bumps) and
vados (dips), as they aren’t always clearly
License to Drive
Many countries require you to obtain an
International Driving Permit (IDP) before
you hit the road. An IDP shows you have
a current driver’s license in your home
country, and has translations for several
languages so that the local police can read
it. You can get an IDP at the U.S. consul-
ate’s office or at any AAA location across
the United States.
Carrie Morley is NSA’s
Chapter and Community
Specialist for the National
Speakers Association. She
plans on using public
transportation or taking a taxi on her next
international trip so that she doesn’t have to
worry about offending other drivers. She can
be reached at Carrie@NSASpeaker.org.