So, I drive now…


Yes, it is true. Some of you may recall that I have spent the past three-and-a-half years avoiding driving in Brazil at all costs. I even let my New York driver’s license expire, rendering it impossible for me to legally get behind the wheel here, unless I went through the lengthy process of taking driving classes and tests in Portuguese.

But recently I decided not to be such a candy-ass. When we traveled back to the U.S. for the holidays, I got a new drivers license and a “Inter-American” driver’s permit (US $15 at the local AAA). And I have been surviving the streets of São Paulo so far. I’ve even driven from SP to Rio!

Sure, I scraped the front of our brand new car a bit backing out of a packed place. (FYI – I was convinced that buying a new car in Brazil was a financial unsound decision, but I’ve warmed up to it a bit now that I am doing the driving.) Yes, I was thrown into a few moments of panic when I noticed I was driving in a lane with a big, thick, red line surrounding it, only to realize that it was a space used for solely for bikers on Sundays… and it wasn’t Sunday.

Next step is to get an official Brazilian drivers license, mostly so that my husband can transfer all the points stacking up from his driving infringements to me. This is possible, I guess, because you will rarely get “pulled over” in Brazil, but they take little pictures of your license plate as you roll, or speed, by. So they never really know who is doing the driving damage. The official drivers license will require me only to pass a psychological test that involves drawing lines. This is something I’m excited to do, simply for the bizarre experience I’ve been hearing about.

Stay tuned…

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19 Responses to So, I drive now…

  1. Tati says:

    Congratulations!!! That is a major accomplishment. Especially driving from SP to Rio. I haven’t lived in SP since I was young but I always thought that driving there was crazy. Looking forward to hearing about the drawing lines test! Btw, I love reading your blogs while my 9 month old naps. It always makes me laugh 🙂

  2. Erin Halm says:

    Yes, drawing lines with your eyes covered up. I did it. Very bizarre.

  3. I commend you for that!! Every time I go back home to Brazil I’m afraid to drive (I must admit it, mostly because I forgot to drive a manual car) so I rely on my brave American husband to brave the crazy Brazilian traffic. We haven’t been brave enough to drive through Sao Paulo though so you go girl!!

  4. Oh the fun you will have! I vividly remember that day when I got hit while standing in traffic by some guy who wanted to turn into my lane. Throwing that coffee on him was awesome.

  5. I did the drawing lines thing when I first got here and spoke very little Portuguese. When people told me I was positive they were having a joke, but I got them to show me what to do. I had no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it, but the practice paid off and I got my licence.

  6. Andrew Francis says:

    Now, now, transferring points to your license when you weren’t actually driving is a crime. Did you know both parties could get up to 3 years in jail for that? Yeah, I know, no one actually gets prosecuted for that kind of thing in Brazil, unlike other countries:

    But still, the fact that it’s a crime should be enough to deter a law-abiding citizen. Think about it…

    • Um, no. I had no idea this was a crime. And how would I – Brazilians talk of this as if it were as casual as borrowing a can opener. But that you for saving me from prosecution…

      • Andrew Francis says:

        You’re right, the typical Brazilian response is that it’s no big deal (when in fact it’s a crime called “falsidade ideologica”). It’s that kind of double standard that really annoys me. I’m not talking about you, by the way, but recently, so many people have taken to the streets to protest against corruption and excessive public spending (which I fully support) but I bet many of them wouldn’t think twice about committing a “petty” crime like this. Then they wonder why certain things don’t improve in Brazil…

  7. Mallory says:

    Driving—woohoo! i love driving in SP! Make sure you don’t drive on your rodizio! as for the test–it will probably be like 100 reais or so for the “psych” test and the “medical” test—neither of which are actually psych or medical. sigh. You see, my mother in law is a licensed psychologists and guess what sector she works in; driver’s license tests!!! Before i even got my license here (which i did like 3 years ago) i would watch her “grade” the exam tests on the kitchen table. The tests vary depending on your education level; there’s one for high school level and one for college level. the high school level sometimes features pictures of horses and swastikas, and the college more “complete the geometry pattern” type questions. But each psychologist chooses the test they prefer, so the tests are different in all cities. Then there is the draw the lines test. My MIL said this test is used to find out if someone has narcolepsy…meaning if their lines aren’t straight they probably “dozed off” during the exam and also tests your ability to stay focused….yeah….in other words its something that was created so someone could earn some money for something that isn’t really needed.

    • Ok, I KNEW that I knew someone who’s MIL designed the tests… I just couldn’t remember who! However, I did not know that was the purpose of the test. While critically important for road safety, I though they might be concerned with other things as well. HA. Thanks for your driving test insights!

  8. Alexandre says:

    First, excuse my poor english. But I come here to record that I loved your blog. His directions for those coming to Brazil (world cup) were very good. A strong hug. And keep writing.

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