My wife is German, but that’s not really her fault. She’s actually from Bavaria in southern Germany, which is the image most Americans have about Germany. Ask an average American of their thoughts of Germany, and they may answer with Oktoberfest, Lederhosen, and beer gardens— all Bavarian institutions.

(To continue with the German lesson, women traditionally wear a Dirndl in Bavaria to the men’s Lederhose. With that, I can post Salma Hayek in a Dirndl she wore for Wetten Dass?, a German tv show. For educational purposes, of course.)

Salma Hayek
Salma Hayek and friends
Not my wife in a Dirndl (source: Google images and the inter… wait, what was the question again…?)

Ask an automotive enthusiast of their images of Germany, and s/he will probably answer the autobahn, Nürburgring, Porsche, BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi. (And there’s always that GTI driver adamantly adding Volkswagen to this list.)

My wife is not what one would call an automotive enthusiast. She could care less what she drives, which may explain why she had a Renault Clio. But being a German driver, she has certain driving traits not common in most Americans.

The first is parallel parking. She is amazing. We’ll be driving in the city in her Renault, and she’ll see a gap between two cars which most Americans couldn’t even walk through, and she’ll somehow park her car in there. The first time I tried to park her Clio (there’s an innuendo there somewhere), I almost caused an accident because my wimpy American arms couldn’t turn the steering wheel. She can apparently parallel park a car with manual steering.

If you scoff at this seemingly minor feat, go to your garage and cut the fan belt to your power steering and then try to parallel park somewhere without two buddies telling you how close you are to the other cars. I’ll wait.

All done? If you didn’t have to pay your deductible, consider yourself a real driver.

(okay— she’s not this good)

Another thing she does is drive fast, but only because she doesn’t look at speed limits. I’m not sure if she’s even aware of the concept. She doesn’t drive dangerously, she just doesn’t know what the speed limit is for any given street she happens to be driving on.

While living in Germany, we were once visiting her parents who live about an hour away by autobahn. I wasn’t feeling well, so I asked her to drive on the way back home. Our Honda Civic Si is stock, but it is pretty noisy, especially on the autobahn. It is not possible to have a conversation above 80 mph without yelling in this car, and that’s before the VTEC kicks in at around 100 mph. I like to drive right below that speed on the autobahn.

I was in the passenger seat trying to take a nap, but the noise seemed to be worse than usual. I attributed that either to my headache or sitting position. I thought maybe it sounded louder if you’re on the passenger side rather than the driver.

On a whim I slowly leaned toward the middle of the car to spy on the speedometer.

117 mph.

That’s when I realized the Honda at 117 mph was about as loud as her Renault at 85 mph, which is what she drives in her car on the autobahn.

Ahh… my wife drives with an acoustic speed limiter.

Honda on the A3
It takes a really long time to get the Honda going this fast. Max is about 145 mph.

A third thing that makes my wife different from most American drivers is that she has never driven an automatic transmission car. I think she’s afraid of it, like it may be too complicated. You just step on the gas and go. What’s so hard about that?

Actually, I’m really glad she likes manual transmissions, because that’s also what I prefer in cars. It means we’ll never have an American minivan.

So while she won’t drive a car with a PRNDL, I’m still hoping I can talk her into a traditional Dirndl.

“Kaffee und Liebe sind heiß am besten.”
—German proverb