Thursday, April 20, 2006

Getting the Dutch Drivers License Part 1

Is one hell of an experience considering that I have already been driving for years in Manila!

I have lost count with my fingers and toes how many times I have cursed the CBR [Centraal Bureau Rijvaardigheidsbewijzen –the agency that tests and issues drivers license] and the Netherlands. I even blamed the Dutchman for kidnapping and bringing me into this freaked up exceptionally regulated country. Up to some point I felt pushed up to the wall, trapped with no where else to go, exhausted and very much frustrated with this getting the Dutch driver’s license mission turned paranoia.

The Dutchman have always told and warned me many times, “You are a spoiled and stubborn brat. You have been used to doing and getting things the easy way in the Philippines. Now, you are going to earn everything you want here in Holland. You must work hard and spend for your Dutch driver’s license, there is no short cut and there is no other way.”

Damnation! But... oh well. *Sigh*

Makati City [the central business district] where I used to work and drive every single day in Manila. I believe this is taken from the Greenbelt area. Foto from for Makati travel guide.

The root cause of this problem was not just my stubbornness, but my fearless and lawless Manila driving skills. I spent so many stressful sleepless nights, effort [years] and three driving instructors in this country just to UNLEARN my bad driving habits.

My first driving instructor was a dike. She actually had the gall to slap my hands while I was maneuvering behind the wheel. I was shocked, literally shocked by the threshold of her petulance --- ugh, the bitch dared! She reasoned out that I should never ever twist and put my hands underneath the wheel as they must be -on top- of the wheel. The next day I called the driving school and asked for a driving instructor replacement. Off she goes.

The second driving instructor I spent quite some time with, until our student-driver relationship deteriorated. His regular annoying during-the-driving-lesson remark is this, “I simply do not understand why you can’t see the traffic more than 3 meters away? How did you ever get a driver’s license in the Philippines?” - Huh, as if he knew what driving in Manila is all about! Well I had enough. I called the driving school again and asked for a driving instructor replacement. Doei! [Bye!]

The third driving instructor was my saving grace. He was patient enough with me. He at least understood the challenge I was facing: my ruthless Manila driving skills ergo a Dutch driving disability. So between us, he took everything as a teamwork effort and it worked.

I am sure that in other countries I can pass a practical driving exam in a snap. Sadly, I live in the Netherlands where getting the drivers license is like aiming at the Holy Grail. The standards used are very high and this is not remotely an exaggeration: GETTING A DRIVERS LICENSE IN THE NETHERLANDS IS NOT EASY, IT IS HARD!!! But not impossible.

However Manila, my Manila...

The Manila traffic that crippled my driving acumen is a world of its own. There are of course road rules but they are most often than not - not observed. They are left to extinction.

Drivers join the traffic with the beastly instinct mentality, the defensive-aggressive behavior + no rules apply. Whoever is quick and has the nose of the car an inch further out... has the right of way.

Basically, driving in Manila is like watching an action-packed movie minus the casualties. And because of this, my eye vision and acuity in traffic participation is only limited to the first 3-meters around me. There is really no need to further look as most of the traffic in Manila transpires between a few inches to a 3-meter radius.

It’s all about reflex. A far cry from how driving is done here in Holland ;-(

My Philippines driver’s license which is already expired (need to renew it) and after all the stress and fuss, my laminated and computerized Philippines driver’s license is replaced with my almost € 3,000 Dutch driver’s license… in a measly pink paper? With this amount of money, I can probably buy a whole barangay’s [town] drivers license in the Philippines!

Facts: The Philippine driver’s license is renewed every 3 years and during the renewal, one must take a urine, drug and physical test. They even weigh and measure you, lol! The Dutch driver’s license though is renewed every 10 years and there are no tests during renewals, only when you reach 75, then physical and health checks are required.

The figure to stash out for a Dutch drivers license is between this: € 2,000 to € 4,000. Some even spend more than a whopping € 5,000. It’s indeed a full-blown business here because the ISO certified Dutch government has regulated every inch step of this driver’s license madness.

To practice driving, one must (and there is NO other way) enroll in a registered driving school and be assessed and taught by an official driving instructor. If caught self-driving, using a non-registered car with a non-official driving instructor, you will face penalty (and perhaps this will serve as grounds of not being issued a future drivers license).

Dutch Drivers License Exemptions:

The EU/EEC countries and the 5 only non-EU/EEC countries, thus foreign drivers licenses from these countries below are exempted and are exchangeable to a Dutch one.

(1) Israel
(2) Japan
(3) Singapore
(4) South Korea
(5) Taiwan

If you notice these countries are relatively small too and based from the reviews of a few friends living there, they say getting a drivers license is also very expensive and a nightmarish experience.

Another exemption is if you are living in the Netherlands temporarily and holding a work, student and business permit, then you can freely use your foreign driver’s license (best if translated to an international one). However, if you become an immigrant or you get naturalized, then you will automatically lose your foreign driver’s license and must therefore apply for a Dutch driver’s license, which means re-taking the theory and practical driving exams.

Anyway, I was furious when I found out that a Philippine driver’s license is actually valid and exchangeable in France? How can this be Chirac?!!! ARGH! Should I be mad that the Dutchman is not a French man?

Driving Theory and Exam

A simple advice: Study S-E-R-I-O-U-S-L-Y! Spend a few months studying and reviewing the Dutch traffic peculiarities. Memorize. It doesn’t hurt to buy the theory exercise books. There are also many free online driving theory exercises. Check this Rijbewijs Startpagina site.

This is the Uitslagformulier theorie-examen [Result of the theory exam]. On the side attached to this is the Theoriecertificaat [Theory certificate]. I scored 45 out of 50. Passing was 44 out of 50. Oops ha-ha I almost did not make it.

LET OP: This theory certificate is only valid for ONE FULL YEAR. If for example, you have not successfully passed the practical driving exam within a year from the date stated in the theory certificate, then the only option left is to RE-TAKE the theory exam. One must have a valid and up-to-date theory certificate when taking the practical driving exam.

The exam is computerized and timed. The person administering the activity will also act as the watcher. He or she will not hesitate to throw you out of the room if he or she will notice that you are cheating, so keep your wandering eyes to yourself. This isn’t a joke. I have seen 2 Dutch guys who were asked to stop and not continue with the exam because they were both busy with something else. Obviously they didn’t have any chance that day, they just wasted their money.

During the test, you have to bear in mind that the images and questions are very tricky. Pay attention to every single detail.

It’s always best to go with the first answer that registers in your mind. You can change your answer too but make sure you change it before the time is up. If you do not know the answer, its best to just choose any answer randomly. You never know if it’s the right one or not. As the Dutch saying goes, “Niet geschoten is altijd mis.” [means: if you do not try, you will never have a chance]

In principle, for you to pass, you must only have 6 mistakes out of the 50-item test.

TIP: If you have 7 to 9 mistakes, do not wait for a few more days or weeks to take the exam again. No need calling the CBR hotline for an appointment. Go back to the counter and check the exam schedules posted in the bulletin board. Find out if there is another exam on the next hour then wait for it. It has been proven that a statistics of 5%-10% of the scheduled examinees will not show up for the exam. Just make sure that you queue up real quick. In this case, you will be a chance examinee.

This is also the reason why it’s best to take the exam on the first hour of the morning. If you fail, you can always take the next exam, or the next or the other next of that day.

I believe though that these schedules may only apply to the CBR branches in the Ranstad area and that the CBR branches outside the Ranstad area may have fewer exams scheduled in a week.

If however you have more than 10 mistakes, then pack up and go home. You need to review and do more exercises.

REMINDER: Many people have to take 3-5 times the theory exam before they are able to successfully pass it. The ones who took the exam once and passed really spent a considerable amout of time studying. So learn from these people, don’t take this lightly.

Also, there is an English theory exam version but it is only available in CBR Sloterdijk, Amsterdam. The waiting list though is horribly long: about 2-3 months, and unless you have all the time in the world to go there and queue up as a chance examinee, then better polish your Dutch instead.

If in case your Dutch is already at level 3, then its best that you take the exam in Dutch. Though some words will be difficult, you should be able to follow the questions with lesser problems. The main advantage of taking the exam in Dutch is that there is a plethora of free online theory resources available. With English, there is none, you will be stuck with the paltry exercise book, which in my opinion is very limited and does not give a total representation of the driving theory exam.

I took mine in Dutch by the way.

Stay tuned for the -Getting the Dutch Drivers License Part 2- (the driving practice and practical driving exam).

Tags: CBR, Rijbewijs, Rijbewijs Startpagina

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