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Twelve Differences about Driving in Argentina

October 30th, 2007 Posted in culture, day to day, lifestyle

Written by Shanie

As I was driving today it hit me that beyond the usual driving license and particular driving laws (such as no left turn across traffic in certain Argentinian provinces) there are quite a few differences between driving in Argentina versus the the United States.

Here are the first twelve that came to mind:

  1. People don’t pull over for emergency vehicles with lights or sirens on.
  2. It is common for people to pass in no passing zones, curves or tops of hills.  It is not something that creates road rage, though (at least not all of the time).  It is just the way it is.  If you expect it, it becomes commonplace.
  3. Police drive down the road with one siren on.  We still aren’t sure what this means.   We have heard that it means that the police are patrolling or that their emergency lights are broken (which I don’t think is correct because we see it all of the time).
  4. It is a common thing to pass police, even at high speeds.  The police don’t seem to mind, though we definitely exercise caution when passing them (and try not to be over the speed limit).
  5. Some people believe that if you don’t use your headlights at night it will save the battery life of the car.  That is why you will see people driving at night without their headlights.  This is not quite correct from what I know about cars, pero bueno.
  6. Flashing high beams is a national pastime and has nothing to do with caution or a speed trap ahead (because that doesn’t exist here).  We were wondering when we first moved here if we were missing something but now it doesn’t really phase me.  I just flash back.
  7. I feel respect and admiration to the barely-running, wheels-about-to-fall-off, rusty hunks of metal that somehow continue to make it down the road.  The Argentinians are able to make a car live forever.
  8. The buses do not have much in the way of regard for the smaller vehicles out there.  It is common for buses to pull out without a look or to be half way in the opposite lane when rambling down the road.  We have almost been taken out multiple times on the narrow bridge at kilometer 10.5 on Avenue Bustillo (the main roadway along the lake) here in Bariloche.  If there is a bus coming in the opposite direction I just basically come to a stop to let him over the bridge.  Jamie refers to this as the “10.5 pinch”.
  9. The two wheel drive cars here are pushed to much higher standards and expectations.  We have seen small Volkswagen cars hauling butt down bumpy, muddy, narrow dirt roads passing us in a 4 wheel drive truck (I should say that we have been passed by buses on those same dirt roads, so maybe we are just weenies).
  10. People use their emergency flashers for many different reasons; ie: traffic slowing ahead, slowing down to make a turn, to warn about slippery roads, but they don’t use them much for their original purpose, warning people of a broken down car on the side of the road.
  11. Stop signs are merely a suggestion. Same with the posted speed limit signs.
  12. We often see a car towing another car with a single strand of rope. An Argentine friend once told us this is “una forma del amor en Argentina”. This translates to a form of love.

One of the things that I love about living in foreign countries is learning different ways to live life.  It is safe to say that Argentina has been a wealth of knowledge and that carries over to the driving realm.

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