Driving a car isn’t just a mechanical operation. It’s a cultural clash…especially when there are foreigners on the road.
When I started to drive in Poland, I had to relearn basic things…like what the colours in traffic lights mean.
In the UK, green means ‘go’, amber means ‘slow down and prepare to stop’ and red means ‘stop’.
In Poland, green means ‘go’, amber means ‘accelerate because the light will soon turn red’ and red means ‘only 2 more cars can pass, but the third has to stop’.
When I was driving in Poland and I drove through a junction and the light was just turning from amber to red, I would think to myself well, I was definitely the last car to make it across the junction. Then I would look in the mirror and there would be two more cars behind me.
There’s a joke about two men driving in the UK. The Pole is driving, while the Brit is sitting in the passenger seat. They come to a set of traffic lights and the lights turn from amber to red, but the Pole drives straight through them.
„What are you doing?’ asks the Brit. ‘That was a red light!’
‘It’s okay,” replies the Pole. „In Poland we always drive like this.’
After five minutes, they approach another set of traffic lights as they turn from amber to red. Again the Pole drives straight through.
‘That was another red light!’ says the Brit.
‘Don’t worry,’ replies the Pole. ‘This is how we drive in Poland’.
Not long afterwards, they come to some more traffic lights. This time the lights are green, but the Pole slows down the car and stops.
‘It’s green, you can go,’ says the Brit.
‘Are you kidding?’ says the Pole. ‘This is a Polish neighbourhood. I’m worried there might be a Pole coming the other way.’