I believe it. Driving along a German country road leaves you with a headache from having been nagged incessantly. It’s not your travelling companions doing the nagging; it’s the traffic signs.
Look here. Do this. Don’t do that. Pay attention. Stop. Go. Slow down. Be quiet. Watch out for small children. Watch out for large animals. Hold your breath (pig farm ahead). Beware the Ides of March.
Along with the usual international panoply of road signs, the Germans have come up with quite a few that are uniquely their own.
Some of them make sense (in an anal-compulsive sort of way) but others just leave me scratching my head.
Here’s an assortment of German road signs I’ve encountered in recent weeks and my personal interpretation of what I think they are supposed to mean (or at least what they SHOULD mean).
EXTRA! EXTRA! NEW SIGN JUST ADDED! See end of post.
1. German sign makers LOVE the exclamatory statement. Sometimes there are tiny words attached explaining what all the excitement is about (but the print is usually too small to read when you’re travelling at highway speed).
2. Sometimes the signmaker is excited about multiple issues — in this case, rough pavement and the possibility of high water flooding the road.
3. The exclamation here is telling cyclists to get off and walk their bikes. Doncha think this might have been a better place to get excited about possible road flooding?
4. And sometimes the signmaker doesn’t know why he’s excited — but he still wants everyone to know he’s excited.
5. This one draws an existential blank, but I think it means “I forgot what I was going to say.”
6. These signs indicate: “I can’t remember what I was going to say. Did I just say that? Never mind.”
7. This one means “One hundred metres from now I still won’t remember what I was going to tell you.”
8. This one stands for: “The farm woman up the road has very nice breasts, perhaps a little widely separated but firm and rounded.” Really. I’m pretty sure that’s what it means.
9. Germany is the only place in the world I know (apart from the area around CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick) where they have speed limit signs for tanks. Actually these signs are holdovers from the Cold War era and were directed at American tanks which used to heavily populate the German border region. I think this sign indicates tanks can advance at 90 km/h but must reduce speed to 40 km/h if they retreat. I think.
10. Germans don’t understand why mature English-speaking adults (well, male adults) snicker every time they see an exit sign on the autobahn. (That’s what “Ausfahrt” means. “Exit.” The means by which gas-powered entities are rapidly expelled from the highway, usually accompanied by noise and wind.)
11. I never did figure out what this one was supposed to say (well, I finally cheated and asked someone but the real meaning is too boring to repeat). If it was a nautical flag, I think it would mean “Yellow fever aboard this ship.”
12. This series of signs apparently indicates “I can’t remember what I was going to say, but I think there is yellow fever ahead. By the way, the potholes in this road will not be repaired for the next 60 years.”
13. This one says “Only red cars are allowed to pass here.”
14. And this one is even more specific: “Red cars can pass here, but ONLY if the driver is at least 30 years old.”
15. This one is rather self-evident: “A fence is here.”
16. And this one is a variation: “There’s another fence over here.”
17. This one means: “If the pedestrian on the crosswalk ahead of you is not walking ONLY on the black lines, you are allowed to run him down. But only if he is wearing a hat.”
18. And this one means, as far as I can tell, “Absolutely nothing is allowed to happen here.”
And so we bid a fond adieu to Germany, Land of 1,000,001 Signs.
Th-th-th-th-that’s all, folks!
Oh, what the heck — here’s one more from the Hamburg department of redundancy department
EXTRA! EXTRA! NEW SIGN JUST ADDED!
There was one sign I wanted for this post but just never got around to photographing. Well, son of a gun, if the wonderful Bette Shifman didn’t just send me an e-mail with that very sign attached.
First I’ll tell you what my interpretation of the sign was and then I’ll share what Bette had to say.Then we’ll show you the sign and you figure out your own version.
My idea for the sign was “Hold your nose. Man shovelling manure ahead.”
But I think Bette (and her husband) have a much better interpretation. Here’s what Bette had to say:
As an American who lived in The Netherlands for 17 years, I am enjoying your blog reports from Germany. I am, however, quite disappointed that you overlooked my husband’s all time favorite sign:
“Man trying to put up umbrella”