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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): The European way of giving directions

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The European way of giving directions

You know how you can be anywhere on the East Coast in the US, and say "go South on I95" and depending on where you are when they say that, you know exactly which way you are going and pretty much when you will get there?    There are also those familiar red, white and blue I95 signs that even glow in the dark...guiding you along the way, North or South.  Try that in Europe, and you'll be eternally confused as route markers change as much as you change your mind.  Ask someone where to get to route this-and-that going South, and you'll get hit with a blank stare.  You see, they give directions here totally differently.  Here's some enlightenment along those lines.

Way back when people didn't travel much and pretty much stayed around their villages, they would get infrequent visitors passing through who knew they needed to follow a goatpath or semblance of a road...but al ot of times didn't know which direction.  So, they would ask which way.  The villager would point and respond to take THIS road in the direction of Paris....cause he knew that this trade route eventually got to Paris, and this is the way everyone went to get there.

Nowadays, it's the exact same thing.  Even here in Mons, Belgium, if I want to tell someone how to go to the Mons Mall, I say get on the autoroute (our version of the highway) towards Paris and take the second exit.  There is no North, South or anything else...and everyone knows what you are talking about.  If I want to go to Cologne, I'll say go on the autoroute towards Brussels and after Charleroi, head towards Aachen.

How's that for a trial by fire in European geography?  It's like this in every European country.  You'd better know which cities lie in which direction and don't worry about the cardinal directions.  You won't use them here!  And when you get out into the sticks into some of these small villages, I hope you are familiar with the larger towns around them.  Yes, you've got your GPS, but the GPS sometimes takes you on some other-than-worldly goatpaths that sometimes end in dead ends or are so narrow, you can stick your hand out one side window and the other and span the entire width of the road.  I won't even talk about the 6 foot roadway ditches and farm machinery you see at every turn.

As a small caveat, I think I know where we got our US route and highway system from, as some areas in northern Europe and England WILL have major autoroutes clearly marked.  But, that is not how the majority rolls over here.  Be sure to study your maps and memorize which big cities lie where in Europe!  If anyone has any driving stories to share that involve directions, I would love to hear them!



Blogger Michelle said...

AMEN! I am directionally challenged in the US and so you can imagine my plight here! And with the GPS--holy cow!! It gets me more lost than a good old fashioned map!

BTW I was just going to write something about this on my blog--so will definately point my readers (mostly just family) here to your post.

Thank you for blog--I found it just a few months before moving to Germany (Jan 2011) and am very much appreciating all the information!

April 13, 2011 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger MooAtU2 said...

My husband and I were looking for a disc golf course in a German village and the address wasn't quite right on our GPS. He drove up the road and started heading on one of those tractor paths you mentioned. I read the sign in German that it was for agriculture only. Surprised that I knew when it said, I freaked out and yelled, "don't drive here!" My husband freaked out, turned the car around, side-swiping the sign! Our car is now scratched up along the door... but I guess now we have a reminder of our adventure.

April 15, 2011 at 10:48 AM  

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