You know how when you’re 16 and learning to drive and preparing for your driver’s road test, and you just can’t wait to get it because then a) you can drive your friends around; and b) you won’t have to ever take a driving test again (until you’re 80, and who ever thinks about being 80)?
Now, imagine that another 16 years have passed since you obtained your driver’s license, and someone so casually tells you that you have to go through the process again. In a manual transmission car, in the winter in a country where salt is virtually non-existent (good for shoes, bad for balance). The icing on the cake is that you don’t have a car to practice in, and are unsure of whether you would ever bother buying one. Oh yeah, and each in-car lesson costs over $200 for 90 minutes.
Why all of this context, you ask? Why bother? Who cares, right? Isn’t a Canadian driver’s license good enough to transfer to Norway? Not exactly. As you may have guessed, this is the situation I’m facing right now. I have mulled these questions a few times over, weighing the cost/benefits, and trying to decide if it’s worth the investment in lessons and an exam.
Here is what I learned: As a licensed Canadian driver, I got exactly 12 months and 12 weeks to do a “license transfer” driving exam since my stated arrival date (January 19, 2013). After that time, I would have to take a night driving course, a snow driving course, and a first aid course before taking the road test (each course would cost upwards from $500). After another year (read: 2 years and 12 weeks), I would have to do the entire driving course that a Norwegian teenager would have to do – involving various types of driving, safety and multiple tests. And that process costs between $6000 and $8000.
I’m going to interrupt my own train of thought here to add that the Viking had a similar experience when he went to buy a car and become licensed to drive in Canada. His intensive Norwegian training did absolutely nothing to reduce his insurance costs (his rate, at age 28, was the same as that of a 16-year-old male), or help his cause. He had to suck it up and take a road test, in both Ontario and Nova Scotia, and pay through the nose to insure our old, broken Mazda Protegé (well, until I was named as the primary driver).
So you can see how, just in case I ever want to drive here, or rent a car elsewhere, or let my Ontario license expire, I might as well just do the test. But the manual transmission is still a dilemma. Oddly (in my opinion), Norway administers a different license to those who only drive automatic vehicles vs. those who drive standard. And automatic cars are not common.
After a couple of lessons in a manual 5-series BMW (driving instructors and cab drivers get huge tax breaks on vehicles if they need them for work), I realized that by the time I’m comfortable driving around a slushy, hilly city, that I could have done my “easy” road test in an automatic car and be done with it. So I signed up for an automatic road test. I bought the driver’s handbook (available in English, of course), and am anxiously awaiting next Tuesday morning for my test. The snow has melted, and there is nothing in the forecast. I scheduled it for the suburban driving centre (an old trick I learned from my 16-year-old self), and I hope I pass. Again.
And I’m not even 80.