European squirrel vs American squirrel

During the past Christmas holidays one of my friends in Germany posted a photo of a very sunny day in Munich and a squirrel in the park:

This is how a Friday should be: the sun is shinning and I have fed a squirrel… now the weekend can start.


Screen shot of my friend Janina's Facebook post: cute and shy European squirrel
Screen shot of my friend Janina’s Facebook post: cute and shy European squirrel

This post made me smile. Why? because European squirrels are shy and cute. It’s something special when you see one. They are afraid of people, so the moment they see you, they run fast away and up to the tree.

This has been my believe all my life… then I moved to California and I learnt that American squirrels are nothing like their European relatives.

After arriving and while driving around all these residential areas in Silicon Valley looking for a place to live, I noticed that there were a lot of squirrels. Of course, it’s super green here, there are a lot of trees, many parks… so it makes sense that there are also many squirrels. I liked it… at least I liked it during my first four weeks in California.

Five weeks later, I ran over a squirrel.

The creature was crossing and I had a car behind me and another one on my right, so my options were: to murder the squirrel or to cause an accident. I picked murder and I felt very very bad for a week and then…

I stopped feeling bad. These American squirrels are not cute, they are huge and they are everywhere. They move fast and they are not afraid of you, when they see you, they stop and stare directly at you with their cold full eyes, they don’t run away like their shy and cute European relatives. No, they stay and they challenge you.

Yep, that’s about when I started not liking squirrels. It was my week number 6 in California.

On my week number seven I finally understood this US commercial: 

Screen shot Squirrel attack commercial

Screen Shot of the squirrel attack commercial and video

You won’t probably be able to see the full video due to country copyrights so I’ve taken a print screen. In the end all you need to know is that a man is walking peacefully on down the street when he sees a squirrel; he then stops and the squirrels stares at him, then another squirrel comes down the tree and stares at the man, and then another one, and another… until the poor guy is completely surrounded (and panicking I must add). The next scene is when they attack him (as you can see in the print screen).

My cute and shy European squirrels won’t ever be capable of something like that. The American squirrels definitely are, I’m actually starting to grow a concern that due to their large number and the lack of food, they may turn into carnivores!

Bottom line: if you are new to the Bay, my advice is: stay away from the squirrels.

Don’t you find the American squirrels far more aggressive and dangerous than the European ones?


My driving test in the US part 1

The Day arrived… I was standing there in a booth, pen in hand and ready to write the test…

DMV California
DMV California

Four weeks earlier I had made an appointment to apply for a California driver license. Why? because there is no agreement with the US to validate the EU driving permit. So the State of California requires me to pass an eye exam; a written test and a behind-the-wheel test in order to be able to drive legally in California.

(To read more: “can I drive in California with my European driver license?“).

This was not a surprise. I knew for some time that I was going to have to write a test; but I had always failed to find motivation to learn for it… until 72 hours before…

72 hours before I went online and discovered that the California driver handbook has over 100 pages…what???… I was about to cry when I learnt that a colleague had sent us a number of former dmv tests… yipeee!!!… please raise your hand if you have never (ever) use former exams to learn for a future one…

Many of you (European expats in the US) have been (like me) driving all your life. Mostly without a ticket nor an accident, so you may (as I did) feel ready to test your driving knowledge without even reading the California handbook.

In my opinion: this is a mistake. My German husband (who always claims to be a better driver than I am… ) and I, we both failed over 75% of all the sample tests (before reading the driver’s handbook). It frustrates me when people tell stories about going to the dmv test without reading the book, responding in 5 mins and passing… they are lying!!!  Please do not fall for their lies! 

Rules in the US are different than in Europe, this is a fact and it doesn’t matter how good driver you are, you need to learn the new rules and you need to read the handbook, as we did. And if you don’t believe me, just give it a try and let me know if you can answer the following questions:

  1. A pedestrian makes eye contact with you at an intersection… what does it mean? 
  2. What’s the maximum speed (mph) in an alley?
  3. A taco truck is stopped with flashing lights, what do you do?
  4. The traffic lights do not work at an intersection, who has the right of way?
  5. A school bus is stopped with flashing red lights, what do you do?
  6. How in advance can you drive over a bike lane to turn right? or can’t you drive over the bike lane?
  7. Where do you need to keep your wheels, when you are turning left?

72 hours later I went to my dmv appointment: I waited, I filled the forms; I passed an eye test; I gave my fingerprints; I signed; I gave my fingerprints again; they took a photo of me and then they gave me the test.

The test had 36 multiple choice questions and I needed to have 6 or fewer mistakes to pass. I stood up there in the booth, pen in hand and started answering the questions. It took me 15 minutes and in the process, I had two flashbacks: one from the Lonely Tunes and another one from the Simpsons (with Homer in the DMV with Patty/Selma)… for some reason both helped and 20 minutes later, they gave me a temporary license to drive in California.

Department of Motor Vehicles written test
Department of Motor Vehicles written test

And just in case you are curious, here are the answers to the above questions:

  1. That he/she wants to cross.
  2. It’s 15mph
  3. You slow down, to confirm that you can drive by safely and then drive by
  4. Follow yield of right rules in California
  5. You need to stop and wait until the bus turns off the red flashing light
  6. 200 feet
  7. Straight ahead

My temporary license gives me 60 days to prepare for the behind-the-wheel test, until then I can legally drive in California! 🙂

Have you also had to do a dmv test recently?