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European colors

When we speak about European colors, we think mainly at the colors of National flags, at the color of people’s skin, maybe also at the colors of our favorite team. But there are also other colors, colors we see almost every day and that can give us little or big emotions: the green, the yellow and the red. Yes, traffic lights’ colors. When I moved here in Germany, in 1996, I really appreciated the fact that the traffic light did not change directly from red to green, but before the green it became yellow. I have to admit that the first times I was a little confused, maybe not sure of what I was doing and, as a host, I certainly did not want to provoke an international accident by mistaking at the traffic lights. So, empirically, I moved only when who was next to me moved. And when I was first…? Well, I’ve actually learned fast. At that time I was already thinking  that those Germans are so cool! They warn you with the yellow, before the traffic lights turn from red to green. In this way, you can relax at every traffic lights’ stop (also here in Inglostadt, it seems they last eternally). You do not need to get a stiff neck staring at that damn traffic lights, with the head into the wheel because you are too near, pushing the clutch in every moment and controlling for the fifth time if you have inserted the first gear. No. In a while, the traffic lights will turn yellow, then I will insert the first and I will leave without stress and stiff neck. I mean, like those wonderful starting I did in Sassuolo near an Alfasud with the number plate “NA”, or an Ypsilon (“RE”), even near a Lancia Thema from Milan. At that time, it was a satisfaction beyond words if I managed to be the first to start at the green light, with more powerful vehicles near me. It did not matter if the Thema from Milan, with the second gear, had already overtaken me after a few seconds. It was a matter of honor.  I mean, after a few time this “yellow after red but before green” thing began to bother me. I felt as I was a too much precise, too much “German”.
After a while, I understood that was not the bigger problem with German traffic lights, or better still, the problem Germans have with traffic lights. Yes, because if there is a thing no one will tell you, neither tv news nor magazines nor newspapers is the fact that a German, at the green light, slows. Slows?! Yes. Because the true German is organized, provident and structured, therefore he thinks that, even if the traffic lights is green, in a few it will become yellow and afterwards red. So, it is better being prepared and take away your foot from the gas pedal. The first times, I did not understood and seeing that the light was green and the car which preceded me was starting to slow provoked to me a sort of “mystic inspiration”. So, every time it happened, I started cursing. I’ve tried a lot of times to correct this “German anomaly” toward the green light, staying nearer to the car in front of me, honking, sometimes inspiring the driver with part of my “mystic inspiration”. But it was worth nothing. The fact that other drivers got angry did not move me much. The fact that made me see the light was the fact that Germans stared at me as if I was an extraterrestrial. They did not understood. They still do not understand. Oh, how sweet they are. Now, after many years, when I go to office, I am prepared. I know that the car in front of me will slow even if the light is green, I know that I should do the same. But, alas!, even though I’ve been here in Germany for 17 years, at the traffic lights, whether it is green, red or yellow, I still start cursing.


Alessandro Lanzi



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