Below you'll find some of the best anecdotes from Quora.com, the question and answer community, of drivers from across the world braving new roads, getting acquainted with reversed shift patterns and committing unfortunate lane changes.
Fake it 'till you make it
Rather than make a slow transition, some travellers would rather just learn their new driving environment on the fly. That's exactly what Quora user Sed Chapman did when he moved from the left-hand-drive US to right-hand-drive Japan. Chapman says he bought an old beater for a can of beer and a plate of yaki-soba, and then tried to drive his friend around town that same day.
"The light changes, and I pull out intending to turn right and my buddy suddenly says, 'Left, left.' I dutifully turn left into the worst of the four possible lane choices." After a near miss with a bus, Chapman's friend asked him to take several more left-hand turns… leading them straight back to his apartment to be dropped off. "We get to his corner and he says shakily, "This is good enough, I'll walk the rest of the way."
Other drivers, upon arrival in a new country, were effectively forced to learn in the moment. Bill Bell had to follow his friend down busy London streets to return a vehicle, just after arriving in the city. "I believe the first thing I did was to pass the passenger-side wheels over someone's lawn. No one seemed to notice and we carried on." Though Bell added that many London motorists "seemed to check the operation of their horns as I passed."
While on his honeymoon in Hawaii, Briton Dale Thomas quickly learned how to drive on the opposite side of the road, in addition to mustering the courage to let the vehicle do all the gear changes for him. "Not only was it was my first time driving on the right hand side, it was also my first time driving an automatic car. It was one of the most stressful times in my life. My brain kept screaming at me, 'Where the hell is the clutch, we're going to die! Arrgghh!!!’"
Retrain your brain
Of course, the hardest part of all this is reconditioning the brain to control driving movements in a seemingly counterintuitive way. When driving in Japan, American Patrick Wallace had a difficult time with the stick shift, but his biggest problem was a bit more fundamental. "I was forever trying to get into the passenger side of the car," he writes.
And Briton Glyn Williams's wife found that driving in Spain offered its own set of difficulties. "She came to an intersection and needed to stop completely and pulled on the handbrake. Except the handbrake was on the other side, and she actually pulled on the seat release. Which promptly allowed her seat to hinge backwards so she was lying flat."
Other drivers take their learning curve to a wholly unexpected level. American John Harris says driving on the opposite side of the road was never really a problem for him – until he came back home. "It took me months to adjust back. I was constantly looking at parked cars to remember what side of the street I needed to be on, and having to say left [and] right to myself, while squeezing each hand, and saying to myself 'drive right, drive right'."
Fortunately, all of these Quora users made it through their opposite-side-of-the-road experiences unscathed. Here’s hoping that Harris finally learned how to stay on the right-hand side without mumbling to himself.
What's your other-side-of-the-road story? Share it with us on Facebook and Twitter.