After two weeks in the U.S. and driving on the other side of the road and the car, I returned to the UK full of nerves for my first official driving lesson on Wednesday night. I say “official” because Richard tried to teach me how to drive a manual twice and both times ended in disaster. Those disasters usually involved tears and may or may not have included me getting out of the car and starting to walk home. (We can laugh about it now!) Those “lessons” took place last year when I was still legally allowed to drive in the UK on my U.S. driver’s license (or licence in the UK). So, after I received my FLR(M) visa in March, I went through the process of applying for my provisional UK driver’s licence. Basically, I am starting from scratch and currently hold what is the equivalent of a driver’s permit in the U.S. This means I have to take both the theory and practical part of the driver’s exam to get my full UK driver’s licence – ah, the joy!
So, back to Wednesday night…I was extremely nervous. I had spoken to the instructor on the phone and explained to him my situation, so to have him know my driving background was comforting, but I still felt anxious because of my previous UK driving experiences. Thankfully, he didn’t put me in the driver’s seat from the start. We drove to a quieter road where he explained to me how the manual transmission and gears work. (I realize this is Driving 101, but I’ve driven an automatic for 15 years, so I needed the full lesson.) Next up, it was time to get going and I took my place in the driver’s seat. For the first time, driving a manual seemed to make a little bit of sense to me. We started out slow (really slow) with me only using first and second gear during this first lesson, but he was happy with how I was doing so he let me drive the majority of the hour. I was gripping the steering wheel like I was 16 all over again learning to drive for the first time, but slowly I gained more confidence and he had me making right turns across traffic. This is big, people!
I still have a long way to go, but I feel much better about learning how to drive a manual on the opposite side of the car whilst driving on the opposite side of the road. I have two more lessons lined up and I will no doubt require more that that, but this is a great start and I look forward to gaining some added independence when I get my full licence. I explained to him my goal is to pass my test before the baby is due in late November and he seemed fairly positive that this could be done, even after telling me most people require an average of 45-60 hours of driving lessons prior to taking the exam. (Does that seem like a lot of lessons to anyone else?)
When I returned home from the lesson that night, I was so proud of myself for basically driving no more than 20 MPH and making a few turns! I’ve been living here nearly two years now, and it really is the little things sometimes that make the biggest difference when adjusting to life in a new country. I’m excited to continue learning to drive “on the wrong side of the road”!