LIFE | I’ll never drive a car in the UK

Okay, maybe never is a strong word. But honestly, I have no desire to learn how to drive in the UK.

Back in the States, I am a licensed and confident driver. My mom taught me how to drive in parking lots and cemeteries, I went to the BMV and passed my tests on the first try, and I spent almost a decade happily driving without a care in the world.

Sure, there was that one time a cop pulled me over in my driveway for speeding on the way home because I needed to pee and there was also that one minor incident where I hit a car in front of me that slammed on its brakes, but apart from that, driving in the States for me was not a problem.

But here in the UK? Heck no. I have no desire to drive on these roads. Why?

Nothing is clear.

I am sure for those who have lived here their entire lives, things mostly make sense, but for an outsider like me absolutely nothing is clear.

Street signs can be hard to find. They’re not just visibly placed on corners like in the States. They’re attached to buildings, low to the ground, and sometimes nowhere to be found. Sure, I’d likely rely on my phone to tell me when to turn so that wouldn’t be a huge issue, but finding street signs shouldn’t require so much work!

Plus, for someone like me, the roads themselves aren’t clear. You really can’t go wrong living where I did in the States. The lanes are clearly marked, you pretty much only encounter street lights or stop signs, and everything is as simple as can be. Here, the roads go every which way and it can sometimes be hard for me to wrap my head around which lane I should be in to get to a certain place or how certain lanes connect to each other across intersections.

For instance, last Friday I accompanied Dave’s mom to the grocery store. On the way back, we drove towards an intersection with street lights, but instead of turning at the intersection like we would in the States, the left lane veered off just before the lights so that you could merge onto that road without stopping. But because it was still right by the streetlights (which were red) and nothing is clear, the car in front of us stopped.  Next thing you know there’s a line of cars behind him all honking and complaining, because to everyone else it’s a given that you just keep moving along. But in my mind, the guy who stopped was right! I would’ve done the same! You’re practically at an intersection and the light is red and cars are coming across that way. There was no yield and merge sign. How was he supposed to know?

(Honestly, incidents like that definitely don’t do anything to my confidence. I have no desire to be the one getting cussed at just because things aren’t clear.)

The roads aren’t straight.

Now I understand that this isn’t something that the Brits can’t really change, but boy are these roads curvy and nonsensical. We could be driving to a destination five minutes north but take so many turns on the way that I have absolutely no clue how we got there.

I actually don’t mind roundabouts, so that’s not a problem, but I really wish the roads were more of a grid like in the States. It’s just another one of those things that makes it really easy to always know where you’re at. Here I just feel like I’m constantly navigating a maze. If it weren’t for Google Maps I’d never find my way home.


Everything is so SMALL.

The cars are small. The lanes are small. The parking spots are small.

The fact that drivers constantly have to pull over to the side of the road to let oncoming traffic pass because many side streets are only big enough for one car to pass at a time is ridiculous to me. There’s so much dodging and weaving going on. And even when doing that it’s still a tight fit for cars to pass sometimes!

And don’t even get me started on parallel parking. My driver’s test required me to parallel park, but I only had to do so behind one car. There was no small gap to try to carefully manuever myself into. I just pulled up to the car, spun the wheel around and reversed into the spot with nothing behind me, and I was good to go. Here there’s these tiny spots where you have to go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth to wedge in. It blows my mind. I have absolutely no desire to put my parallel parking skills to the test in such way. I’m pretty sure I’d fail.

I can’t drive a stick shift.

Have you seen that trailer for The Spy Who Dumped Me? The two American women get in a car to do a speedy getaway while in Europe only to realise it’s a stick shift which neither can drive? Yup, that’d be the same for me if I were to get in a car over here.

Sure, you can get an automatic over here – they’re not completely unheard of – but manual cars seem to be the norm. Having never driven one in my past, I definitely don’t want to try to do so in a country with tiny roads and lots of drivers. No thanks.

I have no NEED to drive here.

Lastly, let’s be honest, I’ll never drive in the UK because there’s no need for me to drive in the UK. Sure, it’d be a little easier to get around the outskirts of London where I currently live. But for the most part I meet friends and do my working stuff (haha, what work?) in Central London. Public transportation is all you need.

Plus, traveling on a bus or train means I always have time to read or draw. At least I get to do something a little more productive during my travels than just focus on the road!

Let’s Chat

Have you experienced the roads around London before? Are they totally fine to you or are you put off by them as well? How do you feel about driving where you live? Let me know in the comments below! I’m curious if I’m just being overly dramatic or if others out there can relate. 

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16 thoughts on “LIFE | I’ll never drive a car in the UK

  1. Yeah when I went to Dublin, I had a similar experience. No thanks! I agree, it’s crazy to have to pull over and let oncoming traffic pass! And I can’t imagine trying to learn manual on those streets. You’d have to take me way out into the country or something. And then I’d have to get REALLY comfortable with that driving part before I’d even attempt a venture on normal roads where everything is backwards from the US. Nope, can’t blame you at all. It’s one of the main things that turns me of from exploring on my own on a trip to Europe. There’s drawbacks to going with a tour group, but at least I wouldn’t have to drive, lol. It’s great that you can rely on public transit to get where you need to go!


    1. The country roads here are actually worse! When Dave and I went to Cornwall it was a long stressful drive just waiting to crash and die, haha. They tend to be the size of just one American lane, super curvy, and half the time they are surrounded on both sides by six foot tall shrubbery. So not only can you barely fit two cars on it (and can’t pull off the road to make more room because of the tall bushes), but you have to keep slowing down because you have no visibility with each curve on the road so are just waiting for the moment when turn a corner and smack into someone. (This picture is pretty accurate:


  2. Narrow, twisty, hard to navigate… all because London grew organically over hundreds of years from a small settlement rather than having the luxury of creating a traffic friendly grid-based town from scratch. After the Great Fire in 1666, there were some plans to rebuild with a more sensible layout, but the locals had other ideas and basically recreated the previous road layout before anything else could be put into practice​!


    1. Oh yes, I definitely understand the roads aren’t a result of just nonsensical planning! The Brits have very valid reasons for why the roads progressed to the way they are these days. It just doesn’t change the fact that it makes me entirely uncomfortable as someone who was born and raised in a country where we had the luxury of planning things out a bit more logically. I was spoiled, I know. 😉 But I am thankful the public transportation in London is mostly reliable. I lived in a small city in the States so it was incredibly hard to get around without driving, whereas it’s not as much of an issue here so my fear of the roads isn’t an issue!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, the nonsensical planning has its place too – that’s what’s responsible for the stupid signage 🙂 We complain about the tube and buses, but I’d be lost without them (and the Citymapper app makes navigating so much easier).


      2. Oh, I really need to check out the Citymapper app! I’ve always just relied on Google Maps since moving here, but the last time I was out with some friends I think it was mentioned. Thanks for reminding me.


  3. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to drive in London. But, for a bit of context, I also got my license on the first try. Listen, though, it was clearly out of pity. I did everything wrong on that test because of my anxiety. And, I have done some seriously stupid things. Like reversing on a highway because I missed an exit on my first day of work (I had never driven on a highway before). It’s really embarrassing. So, you’ll never hear me make fun of anyone’s driving because mine was the absolute worse.
    *jumps off the Cliff of Embarrassment*


    1. Aw, the worst thing about having anxiety is not only do you struggle to do every day things but even when you manage to do it if you mess something up your anxiety takes hold even more. I can’t imagine how horrible you felt after that highway incident. It’s so stressful! When I was learning how to drive my mom had me drive us back home on the highway and I didn’t realise that the low fuel light came on because I was so focused on not dying while driving with all the other fast cars and we definitely ran out and had to wait for someone to save us. We didn’t even have cell phones at that time. Ever since I’ve been super paranoid about running out of gas and would tend to not let my car go below 1/4 tank before fueling up.

      And thanks! My drawings have definitely changed but I’m really happy with them, so I’m glad others are responding positively to them too! 😀


  4. SO MUCH YES. Or no? So much no? I hate driving in Germany soooooo much. I think I’m going to die every single time. The only advantage over England is that we drive on the same side here. Oh, and that I’d driven stick before, even if I hadn’t in several years before moving. But other than that, everything is different and scary. I have a really hard time figuring out where to drive, too. In the US, a yellow line means two directions of traffic and a white line means one direction. Here yellow means construction and white means everything else. So I frequently don’t know if I have two lanes available to me or if one of the lanes is the other direction! I actually had a very narrow miss because of this. And then there’s the fact that they don’t have any stop signs. You’re supposed to yield to the right. I find this completely impractical, and it’s really hard to remember. I’m terrified of intersections now. 😂 We have the same problem with the narrow roads and constantly yielding to let cars pass.
    Like you, I was a confident, competent driver back home, and now I’m a nervous wreck. But unlike you, I’m not content to not drive. The public transportation system isn’t great here, and I feel so trapped and dependent without a car! I know I can’t afford one, and I’d be too afraid to drive it even if I could, but man, I miss my car and the freedom that went with it so much.


    1. Ooh, I don’t think I realised you actually drive in Germany! I guess I assumed you just used public transporation as well. Go you for doing it, especially if you hate it as much as I do! That whole yielding to the right thing sounds really bizarre. So when you come up to an intersection there’s no signage at all? You just have to slow down every time you come up to one? Yikes, I hope every foreigner who drives there for the first time is alerted that that’s how that works. That could result in some major accidents otherwise!

      There are no real stop signs here but they do have triangles painted on roads to alert cars to stop when needed, which is good. That was such a weird thing to me when I moved over here but I guess it makes sense since they don’t have snow? Our roads would be a mess in the winter if we just painted everything onto the streets!

      I do get what you mean about wanting a drive to feel independent / have that sense of freedom. That’s fair enough. I guess for me because I don’t feel limited by the public transportation and know I can go anywhere anytime utilising it I’m not too bothered. It’s more of a chore to get places, definitely, but for me it’s worth avoiding the fear of death that comes with driving, haha.


      1. Ha, well, most of the time I can’t drive, since I don’t have a car, but when I have meetups with my boss and the other coworkers before each new term, I have to drive to her house. Which means I have to use Sebastian’s car and he has to borrow a car from his parents. Otherwise, the car is only there when Sebastian is there, and he usually drives. Occasionally I do just to keep up with stick shift. As for public transportation, I do have to take it to my weekly German lesson, but that’s it. It’s not very convenient and it’s really expensive, so I can’t afford it. Other than that one ride a week, I’m limited to what I can reach by foot. Which for me, isn’t ideal. Thus the feeling of being trapped and limited options (i.e. none) for a social life or a better job!

        And big intersections there might be a light. I’ve only ever seen one of two stop signs that aren’t attached to stoplights, WHICH MAKES NO SENSE. Otherwise, yes, they’re unmarked. Sometimes one direction has a sign that means they have priority and don’t have to yield, and the other direction has to remember to yield. Other times all directions have to yield. It’s really, really terrible. So yep, that means slowing down at every damn intersection. I never thought I’d miss stop signs so much. xD

        Yes, they have so many instructions on the roads here, too! But it does occasionally snow, and then everything is a mess. Great logic there.


      2. Haha, yeah, I’d never thought I’d miss the streets in the States so much. It’s easy to take that kind of crap for granted when it’s all you’ve ever known.

        If I were limited to traveling by foot, I’d definitely have no social life. I mean, even to get to the nearest train station to get into London takes me a half hour bus journey (or bus and tram). I love that Dave’s family lives by the woods, but it’s definitely inconvenient travelwise. If it weren’t for the fact that we live with Dave’s family and Dave makes okay money I probably wouldn’t be able to travel into Central London as much as I do, but it’s been okay so far. (Of course, while the whole living with Dave’s family has it’s benefits, it also has it’s many cons, as you know!)

        Someday we’ll be confident badass chicks traveling around the world with no problem, right Maraia? Surely we’re destined for greatness. XP


      3. Yep, well, now you see why I don’t think my social situation has much chance of improving. Ugh. How much does it cost you to get into London, just out of curiosity? I’m glad you’re taking the time to see your friends, though. It’s important!

        I certainly hope so! ;D


      4. I’d say my average round trip cost when I go into Central London is £10 (it fluctuates between 8-12 depending on how many places I’m going/methods of transpo I’m using on a given day). That’s not like the worst thing in the world, I guess, but it definitely adds up. I usually try to double up where I can so if I know I’m going to visit a friend Tuesday evening I’ll do my volunteering in the afternoon directly before since they don’t care when I come in and then I know my charge won’t be more than £11.60 since that’s the daily cap.


  5. This post made me smile Asti! It’s interesting to read another perspective on driving, as personally, I hate it too! I passed my test a few years ago but never brought a car or became a driver. Like you say, public transport is good enough. I prefer walking to places if it’s nearby, it’s way more enjoyable and relaxing. I think living in London you are well connected and driving in the city looks CRAZY busy so I don’t blame you for staying off the roads! 😂💖 xx

    Bexa |


    1. It’s interesting to me how even individuals who live here in the UK hate the driving so much. I would’ve thought that maybe since you’ve grown up with these roads you might be more comfortable, but a lot of Brits I meet are just as unhappy as well!

      My husband actually had a super stressful time getting his license and even once he did he only lasted a month or so before he accidentally scratched a neighbor’s car and stopped driving. He eventually worked his way back into driving once he got a job further away from home, but it definitely took time (I think there was a four year gap between that scratch and then deciding to drive again). I’m just glad that he IS finally comfortable with it so if we do have to go anywhere far away, he can take us.

      Thanks goodness for public transportation! 😂


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