As an English expat it is impossible to win any argument with the Dutch about which country drives on the correct side of the road. It simply can’t be done. It’s not because as a country that drives on the left the English are outnumbered by those that don’t. It’s simply because the Dutch have a very unfair advantage; The dictionary definition and usage of the word ‘right’ as both a directional indication (the opposite to left) and a suggestion that something is correct (the opposite of wrong). In any such conversation our own language is used against us.
Dutchman: “The English drive on the wrong side of the road but we drive on the right side.”
Englishman: “No you don’t.”
Dutchman: “Yes we do. We drive on the right and you drive on the left.”
Englishman: “Well, ok. If you put it like that; you drive on the right side…”
Dutchman: “Thank you.”
Englishman: “…BUT the English drive on the correct side! ”
Dutchman: “No you don’t. You drive on the left side. We drive on the right side.”
Englishman: “Fine! But only in a directional sense.”
Englishman: “Thank you.”
Dutchman: “We drive in the right direction. You drive in the wrong direction.”
It’s enough to make you want to commit road rage.
Once you’ve admitted defeat the conversation inevitably continues with the question, “Do you find it easy to drive on the right hand side of the road?”
This is a very valid question. Learning to drive on the other side of the road can be tricky. It involves having to break your old driving habits. Everything changes. You have to use your mirrors differently. You have to drive the other way around roundabouts. Even the gear stick is on the wrong side. I was quite lucky though. I found learning to drive on the right (directional) side of the road to be quite easy. In fact, I discovered rather quickly that accidentally pulling out toward oncoming traffic once is all it takes to learn which side of the road you should be on and stay.
“Is it different driving here then it is in England?” When this question is asked I’m always tempted to start making stuff up to get revenge for the start of the conversation.
“Yes.” I sometimes imagine saying. “We all drive Victorian automobiles that only go five miles an hour and we still use our arms to indicate. Of course it’s the same!”
In reality it’s not though. There is a difference. The English have hills and there is a very real danger of rolling backwards during traffic jams. The biggest slope the Dutch ever have to deal with on the roads is a speed bump. Plus Dutch roads are straighter despite it being the English who were invaded by the Romans.
Then comes the question that you realize the whole conversation has been leading up to. “Who are the better drivers? The English or The Dutch?”
Answering this question always fills my heart with sadness because I simply have to say, “The Dutch”. I know this will have some of my fellow English expats shouting betrayal and calling the Queen to tell her what I have said but you all know it is true. Sure, neither country seems to know what an indicator is and they both like to drive so close to each other that they can hold a conversation through the back window but at least the Dutch don’t hog the fast lane like they might never find it again if they leave it.