Getting a German Driver's License in Berlin
For those of you who have to exchange your non-EU licenses in for a German one, you might benefit from my relatively grueling experience. I was holding a US driver's license from the state of Hawai’i. The first step of the process was to apply for a German license at the Bürgeramt. I went to the offices on Schlesisches Str. in Kreuzberg in Protected content . When my number was called, I explained what I wanted and the woman assisting me asked me which country Hawai’i belonged to. That certainly surprised me and she looked disbelieving when I said the United States. She said she would check. After fifteen minutes she was back. Unfortunately, she told me, Hawai’i was in a category with South Africa or New Zealand and I would have to go through the entire driver's license process like an eighteen year old German! That meant getting an eye exam, taking a first aid course as well as passing both the theory and practical exams. The only advantage I would have was that I would not have to attend a school for the theory test and I would only need enough practical lessons to prepare me to pass the driving exam. So, after completing my eye exam and the first aid (Erste Hilfe) course, I began to study for the theory test on my own. Unfortunately, I made a small mistake choosing to study the practice exam sheets in English. If you are like me and can speak and understand German relatively well then do not choose to take the exam in English. The English seemed to be direct from Google translate, many of the questions made no sense. Puzzled, I asked a few British friends if they understood the questions. They shrugged their heads and said it wasn't British English and it made no sense to them either. Luckily, my online training had a button to hear each question in German so I ended up memorizing the questions that made no sense in English. After passing the theory test, I figured I would definitely need driving lessons. My car driving experience had only been in American and I was not given much formal training. In fact, the majority of my driving experience had been on motorbikes in India and scooters in Italy. Considering that both countries are big on aggressive, anything goes tactics, I thought that I would not meet the strict German standards and I was right. So, with anxiety, I booked my first lesson with a small driving school near where I live and it was horrible. I got a grumpy, old, chain-smoking man with a red face who shouted "Fräulein, zu schnell!" at me numerous times. At least he did not smoke in the car! Our second lesson wasn't much better, he was mean and highly critical for the first 40 minutes and a bit more friendly for the second 40 minutes. At the end of the second lesson, I had had enough. I figured that there had to be a gentler, less German way to get a driving license. I told the man that I did not wish to continue and he looked flabbergasted. He asked me if it had something to do with him and I unfortunately had to answer yes. I took a couple months break and then found another school in Kreuzberg. The owner and teacher was a tough woman who also smoked a lot, including in her office. The first lesson with her went fine but she later insisted that if I wished to continue, I would need to sign a contract. I had not heard of that being necessary in the case of exchanging a license but since she was insistent, I complied. It turns out that by signing the contract, I had to pay an extra, unnecessary 65 Euro registration fee. If I had been more aware of the rules, I would have known that she was tricking me out of my money. I was later told at the Fahrerlaubnis Behörde that she should not have done that. I refused to pay but she threatened court and even went so far as to say she would ruin my life. I found that rather extreme. In the end, I had to pay because I had signed the contract. She had also kept all my papers, including the certificate proving that I had passed my theory exam as well as the forms needed to pay for my practical exam. The Fahrerlaubnis Behörde had to call her and tell her to send them back to me. After that, I was quite discouraged but found another school in Treptower. They were friendly at the school but it was another small school and I was beginning to see that the small schools were invested in my having as many lessons as possible. As far as I could see it was all about making money. The amount of time that they said I needed to pass the practical exam did not make sense considering my years of driving experience. After about a month, I got a cold and had to take a break. The owner of the driving school called or sent me text messages every other day. He insisted that I come back immediately or I would forget everything. That made no sense to me and I did not like the pressure. I finally did make a new appointment but I overslept because I was still unwell and I missed it. I should not have made the appointment and it was clear to me that the extra pressure from the school owner was not helpful. He then wanted me to make another appointment immediately but I had a bad feeling about it. I told him I was not sure if I wanted to continue because I felt too pressured and the lessons had no foreseeable end. He put even more pressure on me and said that I had to continue or I would never get my license. I finally told him that I did not see the point of continuing when his approach was putting me off. At that point, he was not nice at all and wanted me to come and pay for the missed appointment. I did go and pay but I did not continue my training there. I hoped there had to be a better solution. I decided to try a couple other schools for one lesson each and get an approximate quote for the number of lessons I would need before taking the driving exam. It seemed like the best solution since I felt I had been financially taken advantage of. I tried one small school and their quote for the lessons needed was high. Then someone recommended All Road Fahrschule. I called the teacher and explained that I had gone through many schools and I needed a less harsh, more relaxed approach. The teacher seemed easy going and understanding on the telephone. We had our first lesson which went very well since he was very encouraging and he said I would not need many more lessons. I responded well to his positive teaching approach and after four lessons, I took my exam and passed. So, in conclusion, I wasted hours and loads of money at small schools that only seemed interested in one thing...money! They made my lessons unpleasant and were over critical when I had been driving for more than twenty years. Clearly they only wanted to get the most hours and cash out of me as possible. Certainly not all the little schools are greedy but I found the bigger schools to be more focused on people completing their training and passing their exam rather than making their training as long as possible by having to do everything perfectly. I had the added advantage that the All Road Fahreschule that I went to is located in a quieter area of Berlin. If you are interested, give Dominique Paech a call at Protected content . Protected content . He specializes in classes A, B and C. The schools address is: FAHRSCHULE allroad Bölschestraße Protected content . Call toll free: Protected content Protected content or local: 030. Protected content 030. Protected content , Email: Protected content and website: Protected content .