Just in case you weren’t of the opinion that, at least automotively, Europe is a bizarro, Mirror Universe version of America, this document, smuggled from the United Kingdom, should help. It’s an instruction sheet from a rental car company with detailed instructions on how to drive an automatic transmission.

I was sent this by a reader named Bruce who rented a Fiat 500 when vacationing in the UK. In America, we tend to think of manual transmissions as the kind that actually requiring some explaining, and automatic seem, well, pretty self-explanatory?

Granted, car owner’s manuals typically include instructions on how to use an automatic—those are for legally covering the car company’s ass as much as they are to inform owners—but when you rent a car it’s generally assumed you know what you’re doing. 

Still, if all you’ve ever driven were manuals, I bet it would seem weird, and I also bet your left foot would instinctively slam the brake as soon as the revs climbed up past, oh, 4000 RPM.

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Here’s the full description of how to drive an automatic:

“To change gears press the button on the shift lever and move the lever forwards or backwards in the gear gate. Select N for neutral, P when leaving the vehicle, R for reversing (the vehicle must be at a complete standstill before this gear can be selected).

For normal driving select D where the transmission will use all available forward gears automatically (a ‘kickdown ‘ facility is provided when the accelerator is pressed all the way to the floor past the normal acceleration point forcing the transmission to select a lower gear to obtain maximum acceleration. To manually select gears move the gear shift leaver into the + and - positions to change gears up or down. Release pressure on the accelerator to return to normal accelerator use). Whenever the vehicle is at a standstill apply the handbrake.”

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I like the description of passing gear/downshifting especially.

Anyway, I thought our American readers might enjoy this peek into the parallel universe where manual transmissions are still the default.