In Portugal, as in the rest of Europe, traffic signs are intuitive: a series of color codes and pictorial symbols that are very easily interpreted. So, imagine after a 24h flight to Atlanta, having to learn to drive an automatic car at 2am and then encountering a 14 lane highway with this type of traffic signs:
Fun, right?! East, West, North, South, miles, etc, etc.
Aside from my still very complicated understanding of the imperial metric system, most signs are in writing: sentences that must be read in a split second while driving down a highway. You can imagine my first experience behind the wheel: I either paid attention to traffic or I read the traffic signs. Pick one!
When people ask me what the biggest difference between Portugal and Atlanta, first I say that everything over here comes in extra-large sizes and then I say traffic signs.
After being here for a couple of months, I still don't understand another thing: traffic sign duplication. Traffic authorities need to make sure that a driver thoroughly understands the signs. A simple pictorial symbol is very often supported by a written reinforcement of it's equivalent meaning:
It's not enough that a red circle with a white horizontal rectangle universally means "do not enter", they have "do not enter" written right over the sign. I suppose it's to aid the color blind? They do this all the time: imagine a turn right sign and under it the words "turn right".
I'm now collecting traffic sign photos! (Sorry, not the best quality photos, they were taken from inside the car.)