'Nothing prepared me for the eccentricities of Spanish driving etiquette'

The Local Spain
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'Nothing prepared me for the eccentricities of Spanish driving etiquette'
Photo: anyaberkut/Depositphotos"

In her latest column, Heath Savage, an Australian who swapped the Sydney suburbs for a restoration project in rural Galicia, describes the trials and tribulations of driving in Spain.


In Sydney I had fallen out of love with driving. I was never timid behind the wheel (I learned to drive in California in a car the size of a small house), but gridlocked roads, aggressive driving culture and expensive, elusive, parking turned me off.

One of my roles as a community services manager entailed coordinating development strategies across four centres, about 45 minutes from each other in the west of the city. Four centres that covered over a hundred suburbs, as well as the Blue Mountains! So, I spent a lot of time in my car, or looking for somewhere to park it.

Adjusting to driving on  the right held no terror, I was simply thrilled to find that there is very little traffic where we now live, though the flocks of sheep and goats are a novelty. When we tootle around in the little red Peugeot 108 we swapped for our gas-guzzling SUV, negotiating aforementioned flocks, potholes, dozing dogs, and the odd jabali, I am once again enjoying myself behind the wheel.

An international permit was necessary before I acquired my Spanish license. Easy-peasy. Acquiring the car was a little more complicated. Decent pre-loved cars cost far more in Spain than they do in Australia.  So, we opted for a new car, on a fairly tight budget, as most of our money was earmarked for renovations and sustaining us until we could earn.

Due to a dodgy knee that I acquired in a violent encounter with a French hooker ( I played rugby when I lived in Belgium, wash your mind out with soap this instant and go and stand in the corner!)  I prefer to drive auto transmission. This meant a bit of a wait. The wait extended when EU emissions legislation dictated a recall of the model I ordered, meaning we couldn't collect our car for almost six months.

The dealer gave us some goodies for being nice ladies and waiting patiently. Peugot kindly gave us a 2019 model instead of the 2018. I drove home from Monforte in our spiffy red coche ( which we named Pabla) feeling like a teenager who just passed her test.

We had driven around with many friends, so knew our way around a bit. Still, nothing could have prepared me for the, shall we diplomatically call them “eccentricities?”, of Spanish driving etiquette.

Using the inside lane on roundabouts appears to be taboo. Indicators? Optional.

Parking diagonally across two spaces/disabled spaces/pedestrian  crossings appears to be mandatory, as does driving home p***** after lunch!   I was stopped once, and the bemused officer of the Guardia asked me to blow again into the breathalyzer, convinced that, at 4pm, NOBODY could possibly blow 00! 

Abandoning one's vehicle in an eccentric spot, for an indefinite period seems to be fine as long as the hazard lights are on. My personal favourite is the “emergency" stop in the middle of the road, to chat to someone in an oncoming car.

The laid-back demeanour of local people, on or off the road, is something I have come to treasure.

They seldom fuss or hurry, until they find themselves driving  behind another vehicle; when it becomes imperative they get up close and personal, and eventually pass, preferably on a blind bend.

We are adjusting, day by day, kilometre by kilometre, on the winding country roads of Galicia that take us home.




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