I have previously written about driving in Switzerland, but I felt it was time I should warn any soon-to-be expats in Switzerland, or indeed any driving tourists, about the roundabout situation.
If you are English (or Australian) you will immediately fear the roundabout because you are going round it anti-clockwise (which, if you ask me is completely irrational unless you are in the Southern Hemisphere where water goes anti-clockwise down the plughole so at least there is a semblance of rationality about the practise). To be honest though going anti-clockwise hasn’t been too bizarre. I think that in the early days of driving you approach every roundabout with the mantra of “go right, go right” beating through your conscious in order to avoid a fatal error that it rapidly becomes part of the sub-conscious, and dare I say it, almost natural. The issue that has prompted this post is actually to do with the art of indication.
Indication is all about timing to ensure that the other person is clear about your intentions. Basically, the Swiss, if you’re lucky, don’t do any indication on a roundabout until just before they pull off. Now my brain is trained so that if you don’t see an indication the other traveller will be going straight over which has meant that I have had a few near misses when in actual fact the other car has been turning left. I know that this may seem like a small, fairly insignificant problem, but it’s these small insignificant issues that suddenly become huge, massive, whopping ones. I have three roundabouts to negotiate before I hit the highway to school and on the approach to each one my stomach starts clenching and my hands grip the steering wheel ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly, tighter. I have had occasion when I have sat at these roundabouts for an inordinate amount of time just to be sure that the car on my left isn’t going to suddenly whizz past me but is indeed turning off. Or I have taken a chance and pulled out only to realise that the car that I thought was going straight over was in fact taking the third exit and I have totally cut them up. The Swiss are very quick to show their irritation and I am now able to tell the make of the approaching car just by the sound of the horn.
Being an expat means that you learn new things all the time in order to embrace the culture that your find yourself in so that you can fool everyone into thinking that you are in fact a local. In this instance though I am flying in the face of embracing local custom and have instead learnt the art of over-indicating. Indeed I indicate so much that I swear the middle and index fingers on my left hand have got slimmer. I indicate as I approach the roundabout, when I am on the roundabout and when I am about to leave the roundabout. I even indicate when I am in the roundabout-bypass lane. Yes, there is another lane in the roundabout layout which allows drivers to bypass the roundabout and which prompts further navigational negotiation if you happen to be taking the first exit off to the left. This is Swiss efficiency at its most un-neccessary as the roundabout bypass lane only seems to exist in fairly rural locations where the possible build up of traffic (which must be why this lane exists) is pretty minimal. I am aware that my over-indication could be confusing but if the worst were to happen and there was an incident, I can at least say that I was the one indicating where I was going. If there is no indication at all, how the hell does the other party know where you’re headed as, let’s face it, very few of us have psychic powers.
See? 652 words later it is clear that the small, insignificant problems soon become the massive, insurmountable issues. Safe travels everyone.