And at least they got me flowers

Posted: January 7, 2013 in Life As I Know It, Travel
Tags: , , , , ,

In America, and a few other countries ’round the globe, we drive on the right side of the road. It’s only natural, or something. We drive on the right, and the fastest lanes are left of that, towards the center of the roadway. This is pretty much a natural and easily understood fact of life for everyone in America, save for the many among us who lack the mental acuity to understand things like roundabouts and non 90 degree angle 4-way stops.

In India, and a few other countries ’round the globe, they drive on the left side of the road. It’s only natural, or something. They drive on the left, and the fastest lanes are right of that, towards the center of the roadway. This is pretty much a natural and easily understood fact of life for everyone in America, save for the many among them who OH GOD WE’RE GOING TO HIT THAT FUCKING TRUUUUUUUCK!

Driving is interesting here. Much like my experiences in the Philippines and Vietnam, it’s clear that lines painted on roadways are suggestions. Horns are not exclamations of warning or catch-call style roadway profanity, but notifications that one is about to be overtaken. Accordingly, it’s reasonably common for cars to be Daytona 500 distances apart while traveling at nearly any speed, no matter how implausible it is that a three-wheeled auto rickshaw is actually traveling 60kmh. There was more than one occasion when I was certain there was no possible way our driver could simultaneously be appropriately judging his closing distance to the truck in front of us, while monitoring the motorcycle on the left of us (who’s trying to squeeze in front) and the impossible tiny car on the right that’s probably going to get crushed as we point and laugh while driving by. And this was just day 1.

While the difference between driving on the left and right is difficult to grasp (It would take me a week of driving 8 hours a day just to BEGIN to understand it in practice) there was one extension of this I was somewhat slow to understand. As I’ve mentioned before I’m in India on work to help do some refresher training for a company with whom we have a partnership. Upon entering the office, and getting shown to our sort of “home base” for the day, I noticed that while strolling the halls, nearly every person coming in my direction had to step out of line and go around me. Coming around corners I almost always ended up face to face with another person and almost running into them. Walking to the bathroom? Everyone was headed straight for me, and then had to walk around me.

Oh.

They drive on the left here.

I guess that means they would walk on the left, too.

So I switched it up. Turns out, walking on the left side of the hallway worked like a charm. It was something so simple, so…random and inconsequential, yet was a cultural indicator I’d not even really thought of before. Of course, though. They drive on the left, they walk on the left – I felt like an idiot. Again, so simple and meaningless, yet it confused me for literally hours.

But, as if they were expecting it, they certainly made me feel important. Not only was my name on a video monitor to welcome me and my coworkers when we got to the office (my whole name, first-middle-last, which is jarring when you rarely see your middle name) and my home-base cubicle had my name plate on it, and my badge had my whole name on it. That certainly made me feel special.

So while I felt pretty awkward about the walking thing, they certainly made me feel important in their own way.

And at least they got me flowers.

Purdy Flowahs.

Purdy Flowahs.

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Comments
  1. N says:

    traffic lights or roundabouts?

  2. Take a video of it. You will be so disappointed when you get home and try to show everyone how crazy it is, only to realize that cameras do not have enough power to catch that much action at one time. India even overwhelms machines.

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