Sep 11, 2016

Swiss driving license exchange

For exchanging my Brazilian driving license for the Swiss one I needed to do a street test. The entire process is straightforward and efficient(The driving license arrived 48 hours after I passed the exam). There are many pointers of how the process works, so I'm not covering that in details. I think the only relevant detail is the canton: Zug.

I have 15 years and 500.000+ km of driving experience, and I consider myself a very, very good driver. My "auto"-esteem is not related to agressive driving skills, but my focus on safety, understanding of the car, environmental awareness, and traffic flow. Just as an silly example, when I get a new car, I adjust the mirrors and do some experimenting to "see" in practice where the blind spots are on that car before I feel comfortable with the mirrors. I'm also on a lazy path to become an airline pilot, so I'm the guy really interested in the rules and what motivated them.

I got my Swiss driving license on the first attempt and I passed with a rigorous examiner. I didn't consider that a great deal due my "auto"-esteem, but many Swiss friends congratulated me, and some told me cases of people failing repeatedly. Failing the test is expected.

My examiner's choice was a path that crossed _all_ kinds of roads, that went from 120km/h multi-lane highway to a 1,5 lane wide two-way road between pretty small villages. In 30 minutes of driving, the speed limit changed at least 20 times, which requires loads of attention, but is not exactly complex. I did ok on that.

My main problem was the lack of familiarity with the car. I spent like 3 hours driving it, including the time spent on the exam. That considerably reduced the speed in which I would feel comfortable driving. And that was a problem for the examiner. Here in Switzerland, if the speed limit is 50km/h, and there are no impediments like traffic or children playing around, you should drive at that speed. So he was not happy with me driving under the speed limit, but that was acceptable as I was telling him about the current speed limit and from where I took the speed limit information from.

But the real issue, the issue that almost costed me my license was environmental awareness, and this is what I really want to share. The fact that I'm aware of the environment, that I know where the blind spots are, don't mean a lot for the examiner. His main interest was in my ability to achieve environmental awareness in the Swiss way, which basically involves using less the mirrors, and more the neck. In at least two moments, he felt so uncomfortable with me turning right without turning neck, that he looked to check there was really nothing there.

So if you are exchanging your driver license to the Swiss one, I recommend you getting lessons from a professional instructor, and to get enough lessons. I did only 3 lessons, and that was not enough from the perspective of my examiner. I guess that getting 5-15 lessons may put you in a more comfortable position on the exam.

But the main advise I can give you is to not focus only on signs and traffic rules. You may be expected to behave in certain ways, even when there are multiple perfectly fine ways of achieving same goals. Learn and practices signs, traffic rules, but don't forget that the examiner will be looking for a Swiss driver when examining you, so go practice how to be that Swiss driver. One tip is to get a ride on the passenger seat with your instructor to get a feel of how she drives in places where you struggle. Do that after taking a few lessons.

And for more that I consider "my" way to be safe simply because it allows me to achieve environmental awareness without depending on slow neck movements, I really like the traffic here, so let me use more the neck and less the mirrors.
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