February 5, 2007

Emotional Moment

Emotional Moment

For the next ten years, I'll drive around with an Irish driving licence. Yes, an Irish one. What makes this so special and emotional? I'll try to explain.

Some time ago I received a letter from the Dutch authorities reminding me that my driving licence would soon expire. Since I always hope that these administrative issues sort themselves out, without me taking any action, I tried to ignore it. Didn't work of course. So two weeks before expiry date, I decided that the easiest thing to do was getting an Irish driving licence. I mean, what difference does it make? It's just another EU driving licence. And flying back to the Netherlands just to extend your driving licence doesn't make sense. Well, those are very valid points, very reasonable, but it didn't take the emotional ones into consideration.

At the Motor Tax Office in Dublin, I had to fill out several forms. Quite easy actually, I would have expected more hassle. But then there was this one question. It read: "Do you want to exchange your current driving licence for an Irish one?" No. Yes. I didn't want to exchange it but I had to. Otherwise it would expire. I hesitated. What does it actually mean, exchanging your driving licence? Do you give up something of your nationality? Your identity? Your driving skills?

I really started to reflect upon my driving situation. Every Monday I wake up to the sound of the lady on the radio announcing yet another "weekend of carnage" on the Irish roads. In Ireland, you can start driving without ever having had a single lesson. A theoretical test is enough. Sure, eventually you'll have to do the practical driving test, but since there aren't enough qualified driving instructors, the waiting list is long and nobody seems to care. Worse, the Irish have an insatiable need for alcohol and many mistakenly think they can combine drinking and driving, something appropriately called "drink driving". As a result, Irish roads are among the deadliest in Europe and road behaviour becomes quite Darwinian where the fittest gets priority - and this rarely is the pedestrian or the cyclist.

This all crossed my mind while filling out that form. Will I start driving like an Irishman? Do I need some pints of Guinness before being able to master the courage and go out there? Nah, I actually don't think so. You can take the driver out of Holland, but you can't take Holland out of the driver! For the next ten years, I'll happily and safely drive around with Paddy in my pocket.

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1 comment:

Ahoj said...


I love the irony in your post, especially about the Irish way of driving cars. Hilarious!

But I'm not 100% sure what "You can take the driver out of Holland, but you can't take Holland out of the driver!" means. What is "Driving Dutch?" Blocking the left lane on a German autobahn? Driving with a joint in your hand instead of a cigarette? Having painted your car orange?

I hope I've addressed all the stereotypes...for some real intercultural aspects, visit my blog "cosmonication.blogspot.com".

Please do keep up the good work, especially your perspective on the Irish.