From Business Week:
I know many Americans find it inconceivable that somebody could live 10 years without a car. It’s a credit to Germany’s public transportation system that it’s possible. But still, I wanted to drive, so this is what I had to do:
- Go to an optician and get an eye test.
- Spend Saturday taking a first-aid course.
- Attach proof that I had done this, plus passport-size photo, to the official application form.
- Take a number at the city office that accepts the form and wait to be called.
- Pay $68, the first of many, many fees.
- Wait six weeks for the form to be processed. Enroll at a driver’s school.
- Sit on folding chairs in a crowded room with about 50 other pupils — bored German teenagers and bored older foreigners. And do it seven days in a row for three hours per day.
And then there’s the written test. It has 30 questions, selected randomly from a pool of more than 1,000, so I had to memorize everything. What if I was asked the meaning of a scarlet rectangular sign with a white border? (It designates a parking lot with lights that are turned off in the course of the night.) I have yet to meet a German who knows this, yet my ignorance could doom me to a lifetime of public transportation.