work a foreign shift

VicNicSor

Banned
Russian
A lady asks Ben to drive her home. Instead, he offers her his car key to drive herself:
— Do you know how to work a foreign shift?
The Graduate, movie

The car is Italian, so does by "shift" he refer to the gears?
Thanks.
 
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    The point is that in America almost all cars have automatic transmission, whereas in Europe the majority of cars don't.
    Americans tend to refer to non-automatic transmissions as "stick-shift". "Foreign shift" seems an unusual expression for this.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    It might refer to the gear lever position. I understood most American manual transmission cars to have had column shift, whereas the Italian car's gear lever is probably floor-mounted. I have no idea how much difference this makes to drive.

    Here's a picture of a column shift:
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It might refer to the gear lever position.
    Even if when both are "on the floor", the gears are sometimes in a different position.
    I used to switch between a German car that had
    R 2 4
    1 3 5
    and an American car that had
    1 3
    2 R
    You don't want someone putting it into Reverse at a light out of habit.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Up through the 1980s at least, most cars were available in both automatic and manual transmission. I remember test-driving some new cars in 1987 with manual transmissions. It would have been very common in 1968 to teach someone to drive with both automatic and manual transmission.
     
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