How to Drive in a New Country

Driving is not my favorite activity. Whenever we go on a trip as a family, my husband is always the designated driver. I just don’t like driving places where I’ve never been, having to follow directions, and maneuvering around unfamiliar places. Even though I don’t enjoy driving, I’m a very safe driver…I’ve never gotten a ticket, have never been pulled over, and have never been in a car accident…knock on wood! So, when we knew we would be moving to a European influenced country, that meant that we would be learning a whole new way of driving! Let me take you on a journey of how to drive in a new country and some tips that worked for me.
Another known fact about me is I’m a worrier…or at least I used to be. I’ve gotten much better after living in another country, but that’s a different story for a different day! As we were preparing to leave the States for New Zealand and there was just so so much to do, I was worrying about having to learn how to drive in a new country. But really, there was just so much to do, that I couldn’t waste my time and energy worrying about something I couldn’t control. So, I tucked that worry in the back of my mind and let it sit until we officially moved.
Once we landed in New Zealand, we had arranged for a shuttle to pick our family of 6 and all 18 of our suitcases up and it dropped us off at our Air BNB for our temporary time. Once we had our rental car, I willingly let my husband chauffer us around. He had a week before he had to start work, so we took that week to set up our banking, phones, buy a car, start looking for a home, and settle in. I was a happy camper riding shotgun and helping him navigate and learn the New Zealand way of driving.
But, then that week was quickly up. And he had to start real life again and so did I! I had to suddenly learn how to drive on the opposite side of the road, with the steering wheel on the opposite side of the car, and the turning signals, windshield wipers, and gears all switched around. Here are some tips that helped me survive this fast learning curve:
Put your big girl pants on and toughen up. Seriously, there was no way around it, I had to learn this new way of driving. There was no sense in worrying and stressing over something that had to happen. So, I embraced the challenge and took it head on.Be a shotgun driver and learn from watching. That first week was a huge help as I learned to drive from the passenger seat. I could get a good sense and feel for how to drive, without actually having to do it! I was the navigator as I read & listened to trusty Google Maps. Helping up front was a great way to get me used to the New Zealand way of driving.Google Maps is your friend! Oh boy…I can’t say enough amazing things about having a talking map at my side! This little life saver was heaven sent and got me everywhere I needed to go! I always knew that if I took a wrong turn, Google would reroute me and get me to where I needed to go.Follow the signs! New Zealand has these great blue signs with white arrows that are low to the ground. They point to the lane that you need to be turning into. As long as you keep your eyes on the correct signs you’ll be fine!Pray! I always said a prayer before I went somewhere so that I would always be safe and have the clarity to drive well.

There are lots of unique signs and different traffic ways in this country:
“Give Way” means to yield.Blue Signs with white arrows point to the correct lane you should be in.Merge like a Zip (meaning take turns one at a time from each lane to merge into one lane)There are lots of roundabouts that help keep the traffic flowing.Cross walks- drivers strictly stop whenever there is a pedestrian near a crossing.People refer to the traffic signal colors as: red, amber (or orange), and green…this is so funny to me!Kiwi crossing…yup, this is for real.

It was amazing at how quickly I picked up driving! It was so amazing that the only possible way that I learned so quickly was truly through the help of God. He strengthened me and gave me courage to toughen up, learn quickly, and be safe. The only thing I struggled with was the darn turn signal! I can’t even count how many times in that first month my windshield wipers were turned on instead of my blinker….hahaha!