I’m Built For Speed

I am never one to complain about Spain. I love living here in my adopted home. I have felt welcome wherever I go and I’ve been  treated warmly and kindly. If I can generalise, the people I’ve met in my nearly four years here are some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. I love the culture, the history, the beauty, the food. I could go on and on.


I won’t even really complain much about the bureaucracy. As far as I’m concerned, bureaucracy is no different here than anywhere I’ve lived in the States. In most cases, I’ve actually found it much easier to navigate.

Until, that is, we looked into obtaining Spanish driver’s licenses.

After six months of legal residency, we were required to obtain Spanish driver’s licenses. Since we don’t have a car and have no intention of buying one, it hasn’t been a major pressure. But whenever we rent a car, we’re breaking the law if we drive with our US licenses. And San Geraldo is not one to ever break the law. (I, on the other hand, am a rehabilitated former New Yorker.) 

I won’t theorise here about why this process has gone so wrong — although San Geraldo and I have privately theorised plenty. Instead, I’ll just share a little bit of what San Geraldo has gone through.

Some Highlights

  • Spain’s Driving Code is 302 pages (just the code). Only officials are privy to the contents.
  • Spain has 16 classes/types of driver’s licenses. By comparison, California has five.
  • There are two English versions of standard driving manuals to prepare one for the teórico (written exam). They are badly written, badly translated, badly edited, and inconsistent.
  • You are required to use an official driving school (Auto Escuela).
  • If you would like to take practice teóricos, you must purchase 3-months’ access online from a private service or you can use the practice tests assembled by your driving school, which are compiled from conversations with students after they take their tests and, therefore, based on the memories of student drivers.
  • If you fail the written test, you are not told what you got wrong.
  • The cost of the Auto Escuela and other fees run to more than 1,000 euros.
  • There is no “learner’s permit”; you can only drive with your Auto Escuela instructor on one of the school’s dual-control cars (and pay per lesson).
  • If you take the test on a car with an automatic transmission (most Auto Escuelas don’t even have these), you are only licensed to drive a car with automatic transmission. You must be tested on a manual transmission to have a license that allows you to drive both.

The Nutshell
About 9 months ago, San Geraldo took a required medical exam; he then enrolled in an American-speaking driving school in Fuengirola; “fired” that driving school; joined an English-speaking driving school in Fuengirola; passed the written exam; took one driving “lesson”; fired that driving school; joined a Spanish-speaking driving school in Fuengirola— a very pleasant driving school this time but he needed a bi-lingual instructor; so he took a breather.

Less than two weeks ago, he joined a driving school in Marbella; he loved the instructor; he took about six practice drives; and Tuesday he took the test.
He passed!!!

To celebrate San Geraldo’s success, Kristina gave him a driving-themed tin of chocolate bombones (bon-bons). She also gave him a bottle of chocolate sauce in which to dip the bombones. He said he would simply dump everything into a bowl and eat it with a spoon. (Click either image to increase the sweetness.)

I couldn’t stomach the idea of going through any of this (including eating bombones and chocolate sauce with a spoon), so I’ll just hitch rides with San Geraldo.

Simply Speed Limits


Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

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