I don't consider myself a car-dependent person.  I haven't personally owned a car since 2006, and haven't even hard a (working) car in the household for well over two years.  I believe in living, whenever possible, in walkable neighborhood with good public transit access.  (Realizing that the ability to do so is absolutely a function of class, and in some situations no matter how much money you make, it's simply impossible.  However, do I turn my nose up at middle-to-upper class people in the Bay Area who choose to live in suburbs with no public transit?  Yes, yes I do.)  In general I think cars are frustrating money-pits and I can do without one, thank you very much.

This feeling solidified when we moved to Germany, since the U-and-S-Bahn systems are fast and efficient.  We made a point of getting an apartment in a neighborhood with access to pharmacies, grocery stores, restaurants, and as close as possible to an U-Bahn stop (we're literally 5 minute walk from one).   Meanwhile, driving in Germany seemed terrifying.  The rules are the road are different enough from the U.S. to be confusing.  The streets are narrow and parking is often non-existent.   The high-speed car thoroughfares in the center of the town looked daunting, German drivers appeared aggressive, and the autobahn with it's lack of speed limits?  Forget it.  I had no interest in driving here.

Surprised that I love a Ford this much!
And yet, within the space of a week, I passed my drivers' test, bought a car, and have been tearing up German roadways including a 4 hour-round trip into another state - on the dreaded autobahn.  And I'm loving it.

Truth be told, I feel a little guilty for being so enthusiastic about rejoining the driving class.  But there's a few good reasons why I am:
1. We moved into an apartment nearly twice the size of our previous one, and made the sensible (?) decision when we left the states to get rid of old, crappy furniture instead of having it shipped overseas.  We needed to buy a LOT of stuff.  Some of the larger items, like a bedroom set for our guest room, and a sofa, we were able to rent.  But when it comes to storage, shelves, chairs, lamps (remember kids: European apartments generally come without lighting fixtures!  I had to buy 14 if you can believe it.), 220 volt appliances - we needed all this stuff and we very quickly learned that trips to IKEA are just not that productive sans car.  I have accomplished more with regard to getting set up in our apartment in the last two weeks than I had in the previous two months.  

2. While Germany's public transit system is fantastic, it seems that the Germans are practically American when it comes to public transit access to the American bases.  There are four "barracks" in the region, all within a 20-minute drive of each other.  Three of those bases we have to go to on a regular basis - one for work, one for all administrative stuff plus the Exchange department store, the other for the American grocery store (the commissary).  Now while it's true that in most cases for us, shopping "on the economy" (i.e. at German stores) is more efficient, sometimes you just need stuff from one of the American stores.  Like American peanut butter.  Or decent Tequila.  Or a large books and magazines in English.  Even though we live less than 5 miles from the base where Chris works and the base with the commissary, getting to either one via public transit takes over an hour, mostly because for both the nearest public transit stop is a 20 minute walk to the base itself.  In a car, it's less than 15 minutes to either.  Given that Chris has to be on base 13 hours a day for his shifts, having a car actually gives him time to relax after work, as opposed to needing to go to sleep as soon as he gets home in order to catch 8 hours.

3. In retrospect, driving in Germany isn't that scary at all.  The strange elements - unmarked intersections with a "yield to the right" rule - are usually in areas where you're driving slowly anyway.  Most other issues are minor - streetlights are on your side of the intersection as opposed to across it or in the middle, which takes some getting used to, but isn't hugely stressful.  German drivers may drive fast when they can, but they also so far seem pretty predictable in observing the rules of the road, far better than Americans.  A guy may be blowing past you at 130 mph on the Autobahn, but as soon as the speed limit is enforced, he slows down to 120 kph just like the rest of us.  They're great at merging, and are less likely to cut you off.  

I've only had one really stressful driving incident so far, but my reaction to it surprised me.  After dropping Chris off at work, I drove home via surface streets.  At one point I'm on a narrow street with lots of pedestrians, and the speed limit was 50 kph (30 mph).  A SmartCar came up behind me and started tailgating me.  I was going the speed limit (which already felt pretty fast on that street) and maintained it, and then he honked at me.  The nerve!  So I flipped him off and spent a lot of time at the next light glaring at him in my rear view mirror.  He actually illegally passed me at the next light, which was ridiculous because then he was stuck behind two more cars making their way down the hillside road at the same speed I did, but I did delight in tailgating his ass down the mountain.  Mature?  Not really.  But this Apple-sticker loving douchebag brought out my inner Bay Area driver, and the sense of deference and shyness that I generally have when interacting with Germans evaporated.  Because he was driving like an asshole, regardless of location, and I had no trepidation about letting him know it.

Strangely, something I  feared for months has actually been very empowering in practice.  I no longer feel like a confused, house-bound hausfrau.  I'm in charge of the road, baby, and I can go anywhere.