Stories from my life and travels as an American expat in Germany. Awkwardness guaranteed!

Lemme Give You that Beep Beep: Getting a German Driver’s License

Lemme Give You that Beep Beep: Getting a German Driver’s License

I try to ride my bike every day, for at least a half hour. Lately, with it being so cold, it’s been hard to find the motivation. Usually, the “motivation” finds me in that I have an errand to run and my bike is my only means of transport. For my first six months in Germany, I could drive here legally with my American driver’s license. I never tried driving here, though, because the different rules and signs (and sheer amount of signs…) give me anxiety. I know I’ll have to do it eventually, but that day hasn’t come yet, as the local police currently have my American license.

In order to get my German driver’s license, I had to hand over my American license. My license was then sent to the local police, so they can conduct a background check. I’m not really sure why they need my physical license instead of a copy. I think it might be to prevent the applicant from being able to drive if the police find something terrible in their driving history. Why they let you drive for six months without this background check is beyond me, but I have to assume the system is working.

In any case, my license is actually ready and waiting for me at the Rathaus. I can’t have it yet, though, because the police haven’t actually finished (or possibly even started) my background check. According to the lady at the Rathaus, the police are currently behind in their work “because of the refugees”. I took that to mean the police are doing background checks on refugees here in Wolfsburg.

Once I finally do get my German license, I will not get back my American license. At least, not right away. Instead, the Rathaus will hold onto it and I’m expected to go in and exchange it with the American one whenever I want to go back to the USA. This is to keep people from driving on their American license here if they have their German license revoked. It makes sense at first, but it doesn’t take long to find the cracks in this system. For one, I don’t need my American license to return to the USA. Second, it’s really easy to get a new driver’s license; at least, in Michigan. I can’t really think of a better solution, so who am I to judge?

If you’re planning to move to Germany and want to know more about getting your license, this guide from The German Way is really useful. It includes links to information on reciprocity, so you can check and see if your state also grants you an even exchange. I would also recommend looking at this guide on driving in Germany. As I previously mentioned, some of the rules and many of the signs are different.


Reader Comments

  1. I have been here in Germany for 6 months, and have decided that I never need to drive again. Well, I will drive when I go back to Michigan for visits, but no driving for me in Germany. The signs, the narrow roads, the weaving in and out of traffic…hell no.

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