Sunday, April 24, 2011

British and American differences part 4: Driving in Florida

Everybody knows that Brits drive on the left hand side of the road and everybody else drives on the right.  Let’s get that one out of the way before we even start.  Having said that, not a lot of Americans know that there are many major countries where they also drive on the left, places like, urm, Nepal, Trinidad and Tobago.  Okay, I admit it, driving on the left is just plain strange.  But regardless, I intend to continue my theme of British and American differences with a blog post about driving in the Land of the Free (aka the USA), specifically, driving in Florida.

Disappointingly, apart from some old people, certain black people, and a few weirdos, nobody drives those enormous American cars that the world became familiar with in tv programmes such as “Starsky and Hutch”, “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Dallas”, which, if you were a Briton born in the mid sixties like myself, were your main source of information about American culture.  Americans generally drive pretty similar cars to the Europeans nowadays (many Japanese models especially), which is kind of a let down.  I suspect that one reason is because the American car industry rivaled the British one in terms of producing poor quality vehicles, so most of their cars were in reality more crap than classic, and they fell apart years ago.  Plus those American cars needed 10 gallons of fuel just to get started and travel to the end of the driveway, which isn’t much use in the modern world. 

Despite all the similarities however, there are a several areas where there are British and American differences, certainly here in Florida.  For one thing, Americans are particularly fond of their trucks.  Especially their pick ups.  Big open backed things.  I am not convinced that all their owners need them for work purposes, they seem to be as much an expression of manhood and lifestyle, but you will see many of them on the roads.

Americans are fond of their bumper stickers too, which indicate everything from religious and political affiliations, to places where the car owner likes to eat, their favourite sports teams, and sometimes just jokes or plain silliness.   

To be a true Floridian, however, you need to forget four wheels altogether and buy a motorcycle, preferably a Harley with chopper handlebars and a dropped seat.  As you’re not legally obliged to wear a helmet down here, you might as well just dispense with long trousers too, and a jacket – heck, I saw a guy riding a motorcycle the other day who wasn’t even wearing shoes!  He was barefoot, in his shorts and cut-off t-shirt, cruising beside us on two wheels, indifferent to all the skin and brains that he might lose should he be unlucky enough to be parted from his machine while in motion. 

I am still waiting for my first sighting of a start naked motorcycle rider, it is probably only a matter of time… 

(ps If you like this British expat in the USA blog and you are a facebooker, please consider going to its new facebook page and clicking the ‘like button’.  Ta.)


  1. Haha, I can only imagine how weird it would be driving on the other side of the road, so I feel for you. And while people might not all have huge cars in Florida, they sooo do in Texas. It is always weird to me coming back home to see all the monster trucks on the road. OH well, it is their money being spent on gas, not mine :)

  2. The thought of driving on the other side of the road absolutely freaks me out.
    I'm not certain I would ever get used to it!

  3. "everybody else drives on the right"
    Great, now come back here to the UK and insert this concept in the brain of your comrades, since I've failed to do so!

  4. A stark naked motorcyle rider, ouch, I hope not :)

  5. What to you call someone who makes allegations?
    An alligator!!

    Sorry, but that joke is so bad I felt obliged to pass it on :)

  6. @TexaGermaNadian - glad to hear that you made it back to Texas ok after all your partying! :-)

    @Romina Garcia - Well, you just gotta go with the flow. Lose concentration though and the consequences could be serious!

    @Patti D - Well they have to follow the law, Patti, they can't just make an individual decision! :-)

    @LindyLou - Gainesville is somewhere that I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen! hehe!

    @David Agnew - I should ban you from commenting for that joke! ;-)

  7. Dear Paul, excuse me but you left out one major country that drives on the left (correct) side of the road...Australia!!! And thank god for it's hard enough negotiating the many chaotic roundabouts here in U.K. and getting used to the high speeds (even through the hedgerows) least I'm on the bloody right side of the road!! Also I recently found out when we visited that Malta is the only European country to drive on the left side...although they still drive like does the rest of Europe. Robx
    p.s. In Australia a lot of 'real men' drive 'utes' which is what we call your pickup!

  8. I've now driven longer in the USA than I did in the UK and I would dread going back, but at least UK'ers know how to drive in the rain.

  9. Lots of trucks and motorcyclists in Florida and the U.S. yes - it also equals lots of accidents regards trucks, tractor trailer trucks, and motorcyclists - very silly to not properly protect oneself when riding a motorcyle. In South Africa we drive on the left too, just like the Brits. In South Africa we call a small truck a bakkie (pronounced buck-ee.)