(Resurrecting an older topic -- I followed a link here from a current topic and found this interesting)
A couple of random notes from one who got his license in the US and drove there for many years, but has now driven for a fair number of years in Germany and other European countries (much less frequently, though, than when in the US).
Traffic lights and stop lines:
Und ich wünschte, Amerikaner würden ihre Ampeln da anbringen, wo man halten muß und nicht etliche Meter weiter hinten ;-). Kommt halt drauf an, was man gewohnt ist.
Back in Drivers' Ed, we learned the following priority for where one needed to stop before entering an intersection (these were burned into my brain after I failed my on-the-road test the first time for stopping at the wrong point):
1) At the stop line
2) If there is no stop line, at the stop sign or stop light
3) If there is no sign or signal, before entering the crosswalk
4) If none of the above, then before entering the intersection and at a place where you can clearly see any approaching traffic.
It appears that the stop line and the similar lines in Germany have a different meaning/legal function.
Regarding the location of the stop lights (before or after the intersection, or both): Since stop lights are an indicator that one must stop, but are not themselves necessarily the stop line itself, where they are positioned in relationship to the intersection is less important in the US than in Germany. (I do have to say, though, that there have been a couple times at which I was more tired than is good while driving that I have had the feeling that I should stop at the red light facing me after I have made a legal left turn on green -- thus treating the stop light in the "Germany way.")
It's been a while since I've driving in Austria, but I seem to recall (and I get the sense from the discussion here, particularly regarding Austria's variant term from Germany's term for what I know as a stop line) that stop lights may indeed be placed after the intersection there, as they can be in the US.
Right of way
At least in Illinois, no driver can claim the actual right of way. Instead, other drivers must yield to that driver (such as to the driver on the right, when both arrive at an uncontrolled intersection or a four-way stop at the same time.) It's a fine difference, but it does at least present a psychological difference. Instead of blasting through an intersection because you "have the right of way," the question one asks is "do I have to yield to that car." I've gotten some indications that that is really what is in German law (except in the case of a road with a yellow diamond or other signage that indicates which road at an intersection has priority), but every German I've known has spoken in terms of "Vorfahrt haben" instead of "Vorfahrt gewähren"). If find that those who feel that they have right of way drive with a certain degree more of aggressiveness than those who drive paying attention to who they must yield. I've gotten used to it here, but I find the more aggressive style here unnecessary.
Traffic light sequence
Years ago, some place in the US did have the sequence red-yellow-green, but, as I've heard, it was taken out of the traffic code for a couple of reasons. First, while one does need warning that a light is turning from green to red so that one can prepare to stop, one does not need a warning that a light is turning green. It simply is green, in which case it is OK to go when the intersection is clear, or it is red, which means you need to stay stopped. As happens here often in Germany, some people start to enter the intersection during yellow, anticipating green, in the sequence red-yellow-green. Back before automatic transmissions became the norm, there was the practical side of the yellow light as a warning that green was coming, so you could clutch and shift into gear if you had taken the car out of gear, but, given the scarcity of manual transmissions in the US these days, that is superfluous. (When in the US, I have learned to look for the appearance of yellow for the cross-traffic, so I know that my light will soon be changing to green.)