An American guide to European road signs

Midlife Sentence | Storebælt Bridge

Mike wasn’t super excited about renting a car for part of our trip to Denmark, and for a quick jaunt into Germany, but there were places we wanted to go where buying train tickets for the whole family was going to be super expensive, or our destination was out of the way enough, the train wouldn’t quite get us where we wanted to be.

By this point in our journey to visit the place our son had been living for a year and attend the wedding of a former exchange student, we’d experienced no real problems. None. No missed connections or lost luggage or screw ups with our Airbnb hosts.

Which made it the PERFECT time to put all marital and familial relationships to the test by having one us navigate while another drove (possibly illegally, we never really looked that up), and the rest rode in nervous silence in the back.

Or if not total silence, at least everyone tried to keep their startled screams and audible gasps to a minimum.

Saara gave Mike a quick and helpful tutorial about driving in her part of the world. It was basically pretty much the same as driving in the United States, she said, except with regard to stop signs.

“We actually stop at them,” she said. Which made us wonder what she thought we were actually doing at stop signs in our home country.

NOT stopping. Apparently.

Since our newlywed companions have had the pleasure of driving in the States with each of three different members of our family, we still haven’t come to an agreement on which one of us is the non-stopper-at-stop-signs to which she was referring, and she didn’t elaborate.

In any case, stopping wasn’t a problem. The thing that completely flummoxed us at every turn was traffic signs. They’re completely different in Europe.

We knew from past experience that street signs are notoriously difficult to find. Take for example:

Midlife Sentences | Americans interpret European Road Signs
This is why marriages flounder while you’re on vacation.
“Someone, quick, tell me where the street sign is before we miss our tur— aww, DANGIT!”

What street is that? And once you find the sign, how do you pronounce it? Hint: Google doesn’t know.

Anyway, I had a mild curiosity about street signs, so I took a few photos, thinking I’d look them up. I never got around to that, so I thought I’d compare notes with Mike later, to see if either of us could figure things out later. Jury’s still out on a couple of these, so we guessed.

Whaddaya think? You can hover on the photos with your cursor and the caption will appear, or else click on it and scroll through the gallery.


If you have other suggestions, let me know. We’re clearly no experts, except I think the fact that we’re all still alive is evidence that we can bloody well figure out what to do in a pinch.

Or else it’s testimony to the extraordinary patience of nordic drivers. I can’t tell which.

… By the way, the featured photo to this post is from the 18 km long Storebælt Bridge connecting Eastern and Western Denmark, in the middle of which is the island of Sprogø (you can see the lighthouse in the photo), which from 1922 to 1961, served as a home for unmarried mothers and other young women who did not fit into the norms of the day (in other words, promiscuous). Today, Sprogø is uninhabited.

And no, I did not make that up from a street sign I couldn’t interpret properly.

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