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Driving on the Left

25 April 2012

One of the first questions I get asked,
being an American in Oz,
is about driving on the left.

"Is it hard?"
"Does it feel weird?"
"How did you adjust?"

Moving to Oz, 
I was very concerned about this as well.
As a sales rep, I drive a lot.
Like thousands of miles each month.
I was worried that I'd exhaust myself each day,
by concentrating so much on my driving.

Can I just pause the story for a second,
to say how excited I was to finally score a picture of the kangaroo sign?
You only see these in the more rural areas,
and because you're in the middle of nowhere, you're going really fast,
and it makes it nearly impossible to snap a clear photo.

Okay, thanks for that.
Now, back to the story :)

When we moved here,
we left Los Angeles at 11:00pm (ish),
flew 15 hours non-stop to Sydney,
and arrived around 6:30am two days later.

A driver picked up us and brought us to our temporary accommodations.
Then he asked if I'd like to go to my company headquarters to pick up my car.
It seemed like a good idea since I had no clue how to get there via public transport.

So there we were, after traveling 15+ hours of traveling, with our new car.
The car where you sit on the right side,
and drive on the left side.

And the consequences of screwing up while driving on the opposite side of the road?
Yeah, no pressure.

So what did we do?
We coached each other like crazy!
"Okay honey, we're coming up on a RIGHT turn.  Remember, this is the BIG turn.
We have to watch for traffic and yield."
Stuff like that...
...the worst nightmare of people who hate backseat drivers.

But it worked.
We gave each other feedback on everything from lane position,
to where to turn, 
to speed limits,
and which exits to take.

We concentrated 100% on driving safely.  
We also took turns driving every day for the first week,
to force ourselves to get the practice.

And gradually, it got easier.
We started to remember to walk to the right side of the car to drive,
and to walk to the left side of the car as a passenger.

wombat caution sign

Would you like to know the hardest habit to break?

The most frustrating, difficult one that still gets me on occasion?

Using my RIGHT hand for the turn signal.
When I screw this up, I end up with the windshield wipers on,
while trying to turn,
with no turn signal.
NOT COOL.  Not cool at all.
I have no clue what type of giant bird this could be referencing.  Perhaps an emu?

A farewell gift from USA friends--a bobble head version of our dog, Mazzy.

Fortunately, driving on the left is second nature to me now.
It's not the constant effort I feared it would be.  
In fact, I've gotten so good,
I was ballsy enough to film some video for you while driving.

{I don't know why I said 'dollars' so weird.
Hubby made fun of me for that.
Let's just hope I don't speak like that in real life.}

Have you ever driven on the left?

P.S. All sign photos were taken near 
Wilson's Promontory National Park in Melbourne.


  1. Goodness, I can barely drive on the right side of the road, let alone left. Kudos for learning how to do it!

    As a side note, I'd bet the bird is a Cassowary, depending on where you took the picture. They have signs like that all over the rainforest in North Queensland.

  2. This is awesome! I find it all so confusing. Steve is the driver in our family - so when we were in Thailand he rented a motorbike/scooter. Each turn freaked me out. I found the turns to be the most difficult. Good on you for learning this.

  3. Great post! I can relate... although for the other side of the road! I'm an Aussie who spent most of last year in North America, and I was petrified of driving on the other side of the road! Luckily, I didn't have to. Well done for trying and succeeding! p.s. the bird is an emu :)

  4. When we moved to Japan I had to wait a week to get my license and buy a car. Because of this I spent a lot of time riding around with our sponsor secretly freaking out when people turned onto our street. It was always something like "Oh my god, they're in the wrong lane! No, we're in the wrong lane and they're going to hit us! Oh wait...never mind"

    Driving on the left definitely feels wrong at first. Now I wonder what it will be like in 3 years to go back to driving on the right side.

  5. When I went to Cyprus I let the Scottish boyfriend handle all the driving. We were in a city with narrow roads AND the street signs were in Greek. I did not need to compound the problem of driving.
    Are you worried you're going to drive on the wrong side when you come back to the US?
    Penniless Socialite

  6. When Brandon and I were in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands he was the only one brave enough to drive. And it was the same thing, we had to coach him with constant reminders :-) It's such a trip at first!

  7. Wowza!!!

    That's crazy!

    Those road signs are so awesome. I think maybe that bird is an ostrich? Maybe not..

    I haven't ever driven on the left - I would totally wreck, for sure. Too funny about the windshield wipers. That would take some getting used to for sure. Heck, all of it would!

    Loved this! Yet another look at Australia... SO COOL!!!!!!

  8. I loved the pics of the road signs. What a cool experience to be able to live there! My hubby was just saying the other day, that he would love to live there one day!

  9. I've never had to drive on the left, but I KNOW I'd have to really concentrate, if not only for my own peace of mind!

    And "dollars" didn't stand out as unusual to me. Does that make ME weird too?

    LOVE YOU! Excited for tomorrow's post!

  10. We brought our American car over, and, while I've driven several right-hand drive cars, I think it's soooooo much easier to hug the stone walls on the left in a left-side drive- and the scratches I DON'T have on my car compared to other people's seems to prove it!! My hardest thing was driving on the right the first time I went back to the States- I had to chant "right lane, right lane, right lane" every time I made a left turn!! Your exit is weird- almost like an HOV exit lane in the States, but somehow MORE confusing!

  11. Oh- and have you had any visitors yet? When people come visit us, the first couple of times we're careening around our windy, hilly, 60mph country roads on the "wrong side" our guests always freak out! It cracks me up every time, because I remember doing it when I first got here!

  12. Wow, the things you don't think about before moving out of the country. I am a new follower - also from Michigan and moved to California (crazy). I am also sending a blog award your way -

  13. Oh my goodness, I just found your blog from Leigh Anne's and am DYING. I studied abroad in Sydney and it is my favorite place in the world ever. I would give anything to go back! I'm so beyond jealous you actually get to live there!! Amazing.

    Also...when we were driving over there we would always sing Beyonce's "To the left! To the left!" when we were turning to get the lane right. Sounded pretty ridiculous!

  14. My vote for the last sign is a deformed ostrich. They have some pretty amazing road signs out there!

    As for coming home, I think you'll get back into driving on the right pretty easily... after all, you've only been there a year, you were driving on the right side of the road as a teenager.

  15. First of all, HAHAHA.

    Secondly, that is indeed an emu. After being here a year I thought you'd know that. You're practically Australian now!

    Thirdly, that wombat sign was SO cute.

    Fourthly, that exit is freaking ridiculous, even by Sydney standards.

    Fifthly, trying and filming breaks about 50 Australian laws. Do you really want to go back to Court?!

    Sixthly, you do say dollars like that all the time. Sorry buddy!

    Seventhly, I adore you.

  16. wow... THOSE are some animals you have to watch out for :P and i enjoyed your little post. good luck in australia! :)

    looking forward to following you!


  17. ha, I'm trying to learn how to drive on the right and i swear sometimes Im half way down a road and have to ask my fiancee if i'm ''on the right side of the road?" - still. Better to check though right? Its always a fairly blonde moment for me.

    Have you had to do any hook turns?? (i think they're just in Melbourne maybe) They are the real mind-eff!

    Just watch out for the wallaby luv!

  18. We drive on the left in South Africa too, and when I went to Europe I literally freaked out, I thought we were going to get in accidents all the time...haha

  19. oh my gosh. I haven't driven on the left yet, but I'm positive I'd be doing the same things!! :) I'm glad you made it ok!

  20. I was so excited to see you live in Australia! I stayed there for six weeks a few summers ago (in Brisbane) and absolutely loved it. I did get to drive my friend's car from one part of town to the other one night, just because she was very trusting and I wanted to do it once before I left. I was so terrified! We made it okay, though : ) I love all your sign pictures! So awesome, the animals you have to watch out for over there : )

  21. Newest Follower from the May Day Blog Hop! I love your site and how very cool that you are living in OZ now! I've always wanted to go there. Almost made it when we went to Indo three years ago!

    Happy to have connected :)


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