Traveling abroad involves experiencing foreign customs — that’s a given. Sometimes those customs are intriguing, even embraceable, like using chopsticks. And others are just plain head-scratching quirky.
Where I’m currently living has roughly the same seasonal climates as the north eastern USA — with weather extremes in the winter and summer, from 0 to 100 (F). During the peak of those months, it’s imperative to have air-conditioned spaces — cool and warm. The majority of air-conditioners, since they double for cold and warm air, tend to be weak on the heat side, barely sufficient for satisfying warmth. In my small studio-type apartment, I can see my breath at times, with both heaters blasting full around the clock. Layering up, complete with outerwear jackets while at home is normal in the winter. Thankfully, the majority of cafes and restaurants have slightly beefier air-cons, presumably to attract clients. While I’ve noticed this before, it’s much more in-your-face in the cold winter — the custom of opening the door upon entering an establishment and leaving the door open after entering, allowing cold air to gush in on those anywhere near the door. The proprietor, one of the workers, or one of the clients must then go to close the door. Open door, walk in, leave door open — funny logic.
And parking? Whether e-bikes or cars, sometimes locals park anywhere they stop, or where they can. Countless times I’ve found e-bikes parked at the entrance to a walkway, inside a building or out, making it difficult to maneuver around if you are carrying something. But that doesn’t matter to the bike rider — who parked where it was most convenient for him/her. On streets where parallel parking is the rule, if there is not enough room to fit, many times the driver will simply “nose in” and leave the rear of the car sticking out into the active thoroughfare. Just funny logic.
All over the town where I’m living, as with many other similar cities in this country, cars still rule the road. As in many countries, most intersections have nice, large painted crosswalks, complete with traffic lights showing lit green and red walking signals indicating when to walk and when to wait. Except here, when the walking figure is green, it doesn’t mean it’s safe to cross. Cars can and do turn into crosswalks regardless of what the pedestrian signal shows or whether it happens to be full of pedestrians. The green walk signal here means that you’ve got a better chance of getting across than when the signal is red. On more than one occasion I could not cross even with the green walking signal showing ok to walk. Auto drivers take the right-of-way by honking pedestrians out of the way and it’s not ideal for a pedestrian to play chicken with two tons of fast moving metal on wheels. Funny logic.
Today, as I went to the mall near my apartment to go to the grocery store in the basement, I took the escalator down and a woman who had already arrived at the bottom, stood right in the middle of the landing essentially blocking the space for those exiting the moving stairway. An example of escalator etiquette at its finest, she was oblivious to those who tried to squeeze past her — but oh, she was texting on her phone.
But I’m not complaining — they are mere observations. It’s not helpful letting things you don’t understand bother you anyhow. The vast majority of people here are sweet and good natured. It’s just funny logic, at least to non-locals, that many perform actions incognizant of their immediate surroundings. I’m “all in” going with the flow, even if I, and sure, with lot’s of others, do close doors, don’t block walkways and driveways, and are generally consciously considerate of others.