The September 2002 Left Lane

October 2002

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Auto Hell

What does Germany have against cars?

You would think that Germany is the automobile paradise of the world. Some of the most desirable automobile manufacturers come from here: Audi, BMW, Diamler (Mercedez-Benz) and Porsche. There are many beautiful, winding roads through gorgeous scenery. And then there’s the autobahn: table-top smooth, unlimited speeds, slower traffic stays to the right. To an American with synthetic, multi-weight oil pumping through his/her veins, this is nirvana.

Ah, but every Eden has its serpent. I don’t know the name of this anti-automotive serpent in Germany, but I know its primary color is Green.

Dirty Little Secret

Do you want to wash your car? Forget about a garden hose and a bucket of soap, unless you’ve rigged a water purification system for your house/yard to catch the used water. So you can take it to the local car wash, right? Of course you can, except on Sundays and holidays, during “quiet hours,” and when the operator is feeling grouchy (“service with a smile” hasn’t been invented in Germany yet).

What about do-it-yourself car washes? This is also hit and miss, as some places close at the days I mentioned above.

So in general, one of the pleasures of automobile ownership, the chance to lovingly wash your car, is an anathema in Germany.


This serpent has many heads. You can’t just name one thing about Germany—it’s many little things that make it car unfriendly.

Say you want to drive into town to do some shopping. First, it’s difficult to find parking space. Once you do, the parking spot so small that door dings are as common as parking tickets around here. You see a lot of inventive parking here.

Not TÜV Enough

But wait, there’s more, as they say. Suppose you want to upgrade your droopy suspension, or perk up your wheels, or install that free-flow exhaust that will make Porsches cower in fear. No problem—as long as the parts have been inspected or tested to TÜV’s guidelines, the general inspection organization here in Germany. And don’t even think about installing it yourself. The installation has to be TÜV approved as well.

The Bowels Of My Apartment

Parking is a dissertation all of its own in Germany, and I don’t mean that in a good way at all. I’ve alluded to some of the problems above, but the worst right now is the parking garage in my apartment. The entrance is very narrow, so getting in and out is a pain. The parking spot itself is on a lift that goes up and down, but it’s also very small. My little Honda has suffered a host of dings, scratches and broken attachment clips over the course of three years here. I suppose that makes me a terrible driver, but these are circumstances that are seldom seen in America. All I’m hoping is that the Honda somehow survives before going back to the States.

Now I know I’m painting a bad picture of Germany and cars. The truth is love their cars here as much as in America. It’s just for an American, owning a car here in Europe can be more annoying than in the States. We have to adjust a lot of our attitudes and thinking.

Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but that may not necessarily be a good thing.



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