So you have just arrived in Spain from the UK or Ireland and apart from noticing that they drive on the wrong side of the road, there are a few other things that may help you whilst driving over here as this light-hearted look at driving Spanish style will show
Firstly, don’t bother using indicators; it only confuses the natives because they don’t know what they are for. If your light bulbs burn out, there is no need to replace them even though you are obliged to keep a spare set in the car, as this makes it exciting for any following vehicle as he won’t know when your brakes have been applied. One headlight must always point up to the sky. If you flash a car with your headlights it means “stay there pal, I’m coming through” and not “after you mate”. This creates a few near misses with Brits who suddenly put themselves in the path of a snarling driver.
Roundabouts, junctions and parking
Roundabouts? Well you are supposed to stick to the right hand lane unless overtaking, but it is much more fun to cut across both lanes if going straight ahead, especially if you are a slow driver with a queue behind you; again don’t bother to signal that you are exiting
Slowing down at a junction to let a car out is not the done thing, so just carry on driving. Don’t bother to wave thanks if on the rare occasion someone does let you out, as they will be wondering who you are for the rest of the day
Want to park somewhere? Favourite places are zebra crossings, disabled bays, bus lanes or anywhere else where you will be in the way. Ensure that when parking you bump the car in front and behind; this way you can get into the tightest of spaces and no truly Spanish car is devoid of dents and scratches. Beware though if you do this to a British car as I once accidentally did, get ready to lock the doors and windows, drive off fast or receive a broken nose. There is something in we Brits that sees the car as an extension of ourselves and hitting the car is akin to hitting one of us
Road rage? Again only for the Brits; the Spanish will yell and gesticulate if severely provoked, but after the bull has snorted he reverts back to his normal placid self
Close quarter driving
Whilst driving at high speed on motorways, it is customary to be able to see right inside the exhaust pipe of the car in front. Tailgating is a national pastime which makes it hard to overtake on normal roads as there are just no gaps to slot into, but even if you do pass, someone will immediately want to pass you as they just have to be at the front. Fernando Alonso has a lot to answer for
Cycling is very popular in Spain and cyclists have the right of way which is why they always ride three abreast and ignore following cars. Knocking them off their bikes whilst tempting is not the done thing, but you can always deploy your windscreen washers just after you have eventually passed them. Bikes can be routinely “borrowed” as a quick means home. At the old folks club in my village, naturally enough called the Pensionista, boneshakers that the old boys probably used to ride to school on are secured to benches and lamp posts with chains that would hold a charging lion
If you are a motorcyclist, then doing the strap up on your helmet just means that it takes longer to remove, so why bother? Maybe the tarmac is constantly softened by the heat of the sun, so the roads here are not as hard as they are in the UK and Ireland so when you come off the bike, you will not lose all of your skin or break any bones which is why Spanish bikers wear only shorts and T-shirts. Taking the dog out on the handlebars and the entire family on the pillion saves walking to the shops
The young ones
Whilst the majority of Spaniards just see their car as a means of getting around, a mere piece of metal on rubber, this is not the case with the jovenes.
The young ladies like cars in nice pastel shades, pink naturally being a favourite, soft toys block the rear windscreen, after all the mirrors are for checking your make up, additional storage space is needed in case the handbag overflows and there are always boxes of tissues handy for when her latest beau has said the wrong thing without him even knowing it
As with their cousins in the UK, those young men who are lucky enough to have an income like to show off in every sense of the word. I know this because many moons ago I was once young and my Lambretta glistened with mirrors, loads of headlights and the exhaust was not quite what was fitted in the factory. Posing is the word, so the smouldering looks and hair gel (whatever happened to Brylcreem?) is just part of the show. The car must be sparkling clean and be carrying as much body kit as it will take; chrome wheels, the mandatory go-faster stripes and the open windows so you can see all of the new gizmos inside. Naturally the young man wants everyone to know what his taste in music is, so his mobile disco can be heard coming from a many kilometres away. He does this to impress the girls then marries one, sees his money go elsewhere so drives an old banger with dents and scratches, parks where he likes but still loves tailgating
Happy Spanish motoring!!