Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Driving in Cyprus and the UK

I haven't been driving long. I learned how to drive and passed my test in the UK, after a rigorous training which lasted ages (and cost an arm and a leg). I bought a little Peugeot 306, small enough to park in tight spots but big enough to put Mrs Blackbeard and baby Blackbeard in and sail to the South Seas. At first I found driving daunting but also liberating. Daunting because I no longer had the safety net of the instructor. Liberating because I was at last free of the instructor to make my own mistakes. After I passed my test and started driving I noticed that for a few weeks, every time I drove I made a mistake (or two) that would have failed me the test. As my dad said, "you first pass your test and then you learn to drive".

A few months on and I can confidently say that I drive much better, I am calmer and make few mistakes (although parallel parking on the right is inconceivable). I am used to driving here, used to how other drivers behave, know which cars' drivers are likely to be completely devoid of brain (anything modified, with decals of stereo brands, spoilers, wings). I find that in particular small cars with such little 'interventions', such as Citroen Saxos, Seat Ibizas and even Ford Fiestas are driven by absolute nutters. So I keep well clear of those. I also hate with a passion drivers of 4x4s and luxury cars. Call it a class thing.

A few weeks back I went to Cyprus to see the Blackbeards in their natural habitat. Father Blackbeard had insured me on his pickup truck, a 2.5 litre Mazda (he's a part-time farmer OK?), so I could drive around and go to the beach. I hadn't driven in Cyprus since I was an undergrad and had a little Suzuki moped. The difference with driving in the UK was striking. Drivers are much more aggressive and selfish. I lost count of the amount of times people cut in and blocked me when I was doing 30-40 miles, reversed into the main road, did not let me turn right or enter a (busy) road, something which I find is basic courtesy in the UK. I kept using the car's horn to warn other drivers not to jump out, reverse etc etc. Constant aggro. I realised that in 4 months of owning my Peugeot, I used the horn twice, once by accident and the second time to warn someone of my presence. Behaviour you learn to expect in the UK is unheard of. Behaviour which is the exception in the UK is the rule in Cyprus. People get stuck in your back, flashing their headlights and demanding that you either a) go over the speed limit so they can go faster or b) make way for them to overtake. On a couple of occasions I went very slowly, way below the speed limit, just to irritate them more. Constant aggro, swearing and waving an angry finger from the open window.

I don't want to sound too much like generalising, but I must tell you that after two weeks of driving there, I came back more aggressive and aggravated than I was. Driving home from the airport I beeped the horn and gave the finger to someone who 'dared' to jump in while I was driving. You'll be relieved to know that I have since gone back to normal, only swearing in the car and not giving the finger to anyone...

Driving the pickup truck was great though...I want one I want one!