Swedes can’t drive!

Before I moved to Sweden, I had the perception that Swedes were good and safe drivers. Cars like Volvo and Saab are (or have been) world famous for their safety and most of the highways have a 110 km/h speed limit. Almost everybody wears a helmet on their bike, generally people drive defensively, slowly approach pedestrian crossings and they maintain a lot of distance between the car in front of them on highways.

But after being here for a while, I get more and more frustrated with the way that Swedes drive. The first thing I find really annoying is the fact that Swedes hardly ever use their indicators. They just turn and switch lanes without indicating. This is especially annoying on roundabouts. The general rule in most (European countries) is that you indicate which way you go before getting on the roundabout and again when you leave the roundabout. Swedes don’t do this and obviously don’t care. Many times I’ve been waiting to get onto a busy roundabout, but couldn’t, because people didn’t indicate.

Another thing is that, even though the rule is that you yield if there is traffic from the right (unless you have explicit priority), Swedes tend to use a different (unwritten) system. The bigger road wins. A problem here is that it’s often not clear what the bigger road is. In general, as soon as you make a turn, you have to wait (which becomes a problem if more than one car wants to turn). And the rest of the decisions is made based on a gut feel. I often feel the urge to educate my fellow countrymen by deliberately yielding when someone comes from the right. I tend to confuse people by doing so, but it results in very nice gestures, because people think I stop just because I’m a nice guy. I’m trying to build a reputation of “that nice guy that always lets people pass” in my neighborhood. And to take educating the driving vikings to the next level, I’m thinking of putting a big sign in my car that says “HÖGERREGEL!” (the rule that says that traffic from the right has the right of way) that I can hold up whenever I yield someone from the right or when I take the right of way and cause confusion.

My two biggest annoyances have become even more apparent since I started biking in the great city of Stockholm. Apart from being used to really nice and slick bicycle paths everywhere in the Netherlands, I really have to pay a lot of attention to others on the street. Since people bike everywhere in the Netherlands, you automatically take them into account. Whenever you cross a street as a pedestrian, you don’t only look for cars, but you do so for bikes as well. During the last 3 months, I managed to avoid many accidents here in Sweden. People simply don’t look for bikes. Neither pedestrians, nor people driving cars. Makes the hole helmet thing much more understandable.