Learning to walk
POSTED BY Kirgy January 11th, 2012 : 1 COMMENTS
Coming to another country to work is very different than going to somewhere for a holiday. There’s so many things from the shift of culture that you just wouldn’t imagine, which make a lot of difference.
Walking for example. I would have never imagined that walking in Canada would be so difficult! My first encounter was the first morning I left the house in my trainers and realised there was no way I could walk – the roads and paths were coated in ice so slippery than one false move and you’re on the floor. I took note for next time, and struggled my way down the sidewalk.
Then came the pedestrian crossings.
Man alive, I’ve never seen something so confusing. First lets start with the button. In the UK we have a simple yellow box, usually, with a button. You press the button and the red man eventually turns green and you go, they sometimes even beep when you’re supposed to be crossing. In Canada that simple idea of a button is torn away! Instead I looked like quite a foreigner stood on the corner of the pavement pressing the button to no avail for quite some time. Terry Pratchett’s character Twoflower from the Colour of Magic comes to mind. It was then I realised that the lamp posts which they nail these things to, have two buttons! One for crossing, for example, north, and one crossing west. And the button you want is always the one out of sight; I’m not talking in hyperbole, they literally design it this way. To me they are the wrong way around, but I guess I do drive on the wrong side of the road… *cough*
Then we have the lights they tell you to cross. Well, this is where it gets complicated. Generally speaking they have a green or red man which apparently symbolises standing still. Green for standing still, you exclaim? Well grab a comfy seat children because the confusion has only just begun. When you are supposed to walk is when the man turns white! Which incidental, was the colour I turned when I walked across the road and a large pick-up truck slammed their breaks on next to me on the walkway. You know why? Because cars can still drive past you even when you are supposed to be crossing! Madness! The reason, is because cars are supposed to be able to turn around the corners even when you are crossing. Ultimately you have right of way, but they don’t half make your life difficult. I swear they could solve not only the health problems, but the environmental and congestion problems all if they put some sanity into their cross-walks in North America. No wonder everyone drives…
Being a Brit, my ideal solution would be to ignore this nonsense and just cross the damned road. Granted, I should have tried this experiment not on the main highway connecting Washington to central British Columbia, but hind-sight is a wonderful thing. So I crossed the road, bidding farewell to the bewildering hieroglyphics of cross-walk, which I presume was drawn by the natives. I was then greeted by two delightful ladies in an open-topped car bellowing, what I can only assume is a Canadian custom, at the top of their lungs with very angry looks on their faces. I later learnt that jaywalking is illegal. If you’re as baffled as I, read this. In brief, North America has made crossing the road illegal. Utter, utter madness!
Walking is just an example of the struggles of a Englishmen in Canada. I won’t even begin to describe the buses. Nor general vocabulary. My best guess at what a “runner” is, was some sort of incontinence pad. Not casual footwear. Nonetheless, I’m actually fitting in quite well and learning to adapt well too. I have had to adjust the way I talk quite a lot as it was getting frustrating when no-one could understand me as I was apparently cloaking myself in an accent beyond Canadian comprehension. Now everything is said louder and slower. I’ve also discovered that if you say everything as if it is a question, they understand you much better. Now I’ve got the hang of walking, perhaps I’ll be able to actually get on with some work soon!