We arrived in the US without any complications and were fortunate enough to already have people on that side of the Atlantic who helped us set up things. However, my girlfriend’s family lives in the central part of the US and it took us a road trip of about 18 hours to bring all of our stuff that we had previously shipped over (except the two missing boxes)and some additional necessities to Boston. While this might seem like a chore at first, the trip was actually pretty nice and it offered all of us the possibility to experience some very nice scenery.
This scenery was pretty monotone at first to be honest. Mid-Western States such as Illinois, Indiana and most of Ohio pretty much looked the same and were just plain fields throughout. This all changed when we entered the eastern parts of Ohio and later Pennsylvania. The landscapes changed quite significantly and the plain fields were replaced by beautiful mountain ranges and very scenic roads in general. While the scenery changes a little after Pennsylvania, the most notable change was the amount of traffic when we started to drive into the higher populated areas of the East Coast, particularly New York. However, all in all the traffic was not too bad as we just pass through only a few of the more populated areas. This situation only changed when our final destination was in sight. The traffic around Boston was horrible and a route which should have taken us 30 minutes took about 1 ½ hours.
At first we thought that we might have just hit some form of rush hour, but as we experienced in the following days, congested streets are just a normal thing in the Boston area and you should plan your trips accordingly. I also don’t know if this high amount of traffic has led to the complete disregard of most traffic rules in the Boston area, or if it is just a certain mindset which has become the standard. While in most countries and also most part of the States stop signs or lines at traffic light are pretty important elements of avoiding accidents and allowing a nice flow of traffic, these rules and appropriate behavior are merely suggestions in Massachusetts and particularly in Boston. Turn signals are another such issue which seems to be more of a loose guideline than an actual rule. In addition to this lack of turn signals, most people also seem to wear a neck brace, which unfortunately does not allow them to turn around and look behind them when changing lanes. Any other explanation would suggest that quite a few people are just ignoring common sense while driving and except accidents as a reasonable possibility as soon as they get behind the wheel and that just can’t be true.
In addition to the lack of common sense on the road in some parts of the US, there were a couple of things which were particularly “interesting” to me. One of the first things I noticed was the poor condition of the roads throughout our trip. While there were some variations from state to state, which apparently is due to the fact that the maintenance of roads is in the hands of the individual states and some, of course, have more money for repairs than others, the overall state of the interstates were sometimes frightening. It resembled more of a bumpy roller-coaster ride than an interstate.
Another occurrence which seemed to be a common thing in the US was cars on the side of the road which stopped working for whatever reasons. The amount of such dead cars was astonishing. For a country which is so reliant and focused on cars, their maintenance seems to be of a lesser concern than in most other countries that I have experienced. It was quite surprising to me that a regular mandatory checkup like we have it Germany is nonexistent in the US, which in turn leads to more cars being driven until they give out due to an undiscovered issue.
The last issue which I found quite startling was that something we call “Rechtsfahrgebot” in Germany does also not seem to exist in the US. What it means is that no matter how fast you are driving, you have to use the most right lane appropriate for your speed. This results in a very organized way of driving especially on highways. Trucks, Busses, Caravans or Cars with trailers, for example are the main occurrence on the most right lane due their speed limit. The second lane is the standard lane for most cars and the third lane (should it exist) is in general for overhauling or those people who feel the need to blow as much gasoline in one mile as others use on a 100 mile trip. The complete lack or disregard of such rules led to some quiet scary incidents. When, for example, the clouds above you have already decided to release as much rain as during the monsoon season, two overhauling semi-trucks on the left and right side are not helping to provide a relaxed driving situation. Keep in mind that I was already driving a little bit above the speed limit at that time and it was not in the craziness of Massachusetts.
After we survived this road trip and some more stressful short trips in the Boston area, which involved extensive swearing on the parts of everybody in the car, we finally settled in. We are very glad to have an assigned parking spot due to the fact that people around here apparently not only don’t know how to drive, but also have never learned to park properly as well. A very common sighting in this area is the so called “Panzerparker” (Tank parkers) which seem to think that their car is so big that they need more than one parking spot to fit in. Now don’t get me wrong, some of the American cars are as big as a tank, at least by European standards, but in turn also the parking spots are way bigger than on the other side of the Atlantic. So if you are one of these species of drivers, please remember that even though most shops and malls in the US have more than enough parking spaces to choose from, blocking two parking spots close to the entrance is not something to be proud of, but just an asshole move.