A German Driverís License SagaÖ

 by Curt McCorkle


The short version:

Because Oregon has only "partial reciprocity" with Germany, I drove for the first year on a temporary permit. But its maximum duration expired.The process of getting a real German license is lengthy -- at least 3 weeks of processing to get set up with the proper forms to be allowed to then take the written test; plus the test is only administered every other Monday.So I have been forbidden to drive [technically, only within Germany] until I get the license. So far, that has been over a month -- and counting (because I failed the test the first time around!). I can now take the test on October 25. So, Iím walking until then!At least I now live in Kandern itself (as opposed to an outlying village, Hammerstein, where I lived last year), so walking to school is a whole lot easier (5 minutes instead of 30 minutes last year!).



The long version:

It all started back in the summer of í03. The school had warned me about the troubles of getting a German driver's license, if my US license was not from a "fully reciprocal" state. Well, it turns out that Oregon is only partially reciprocal. That means that (a) it is a hassle and (b) it is not as much of a hassle as from a non-reciprocal state. [Thankfully, I'm not from a state like... oh, say, Washington, which is non-reciprocal. Then I'd not only need to take a written test, but also a driving test -- which carries the prerequisite and heavy cost of taking driving lessons!] So, having been thus warned by BFA, I inquired of my sending mission, TEAM, if perhaps they could help me get set up with a driver's license from Illinois 1 (which is their US headquarters and which happens to be a fully reciprocal state). Well, their response was discouraging. In retrospect, I should've tried harder -- and indeed, should have found some way to get it done, even without their help. But at the time, I didn't even know for sure that I would get a car. Ah... I was so young, then!

So, I arrived in Germany with a US driver's license from a ... partially reciprocal state! :-(

For the first 6 months, I was free to use my US license. Then, I had to do something to continue to be legal. At the time, I didn't anticipate returning for a 2nd year, so I opted for the driver's permit extension. This gave me another 6 months, at a relatively small cost -- around $30 as I recall -- and no testing required.

Well... then I ended up returning here for a 2nd year. If only I had known, before I left last summer, that the process was so lengthy, then I would have been sure to at least get the ball rolling back in June! But I was blissfully ignorant, and thought that it was just a matter of going into the nearby "county seat", taking the test, and voila! "Here's your German driver's license!" But, noooooo... I discovered too late that there are forms to fill out, government offices that want a few weeks to process those forms, and infrequent test dates. All of these combine to make it a slow process. I haven't driven since early September, now! (Or was it late August... I don't recall anymore.)

So, the consequences of this entire affair -- now that I can assess them -- have been an extra cost of around $100, and a lot of time and hassle. Granted, I have also been forced to study the German driver's handbook and have learned some fascinating things. (Not least of which, you can see here.) But still, one must admit that it has been and continues to be quite a hassle. If I had instead had a license from a fully reciprocal state, then I could've just waltzed in, filled out a form, and BAM! "Here's your German driver's license!" Just today, I took the written test. Alas, woe is me, and Oi Va! I failed it! That is yet another episode in the saga. (But I'm not at all bitter about it.)

Still, I suppose we must look on the bright side of the whole affair. There are many more important things than driving. Many, many more important things. Off-hand, I can't think what they are... but I'm sure they're out there.2

Upon further reflection, here is a fine list of them:

If you'd like to learn some fun German traffic laws, too, then check out my favorite test questions.


1 One might hypothesize that there could be practical difficulties -- and perhaps even ethical ones -- in finding an address to use in Illinois. I'm not sure about that. At least it hasn't prevented signing me up for health insurance based on an Illinois policy.

2 If you're in the sweet spot, you'll recognize a movie quote there. :-)