Thursday, October 22, 2015

Driving, signs and other differences

I want to mention here some of the differences I noticed during the two weeks. I'm well aware that in two weeks you can't know a country. But while travelling I met things that were obviously different, besides the weather, the landscape or the language.

The first impression I got after landing at LAX was how friendly everybody was.
This impression stayed with me during these two weeks.
I don't know, if all these smiles and wishes for a great day are genuine or just good behavior, but it feels good, brightens my mood.


The next thing I noticed was that traffic is a lot different. I hadn't expected that there are different driving rules. I thought those were universal. I was wrong.            
Obviously Americans prefer tellng over showing. I'm sure anybody who doesn't speak English can follow the rules.
Where have all our nice signs gone? I'll put jut two examples here, there are many more.                        

It is allowed to turn right with red traffic lights, there's no rule "right before left", so everybody has to stop at every crossroad without lights and they have to guess who was first. Sometimes that's confusing, but coming from left you won't have to wait an eternity. And STOP means really STOP, even if there's no one in sight.

There's no rule to pass only on the left lane. I thought this was dangerous, but I saw that they change lanes much less than in Germany, because they all drive with the same (relatively slow) velocity and there's no need to change lanes.

It's great to be a pedestrian in California! They always stop to let you cross the street, even if you don't intend to.
But if you need to change lane in full traffic, it's difficult. Suddenly all this politeness is lost.

All in all they drive much more civilized than in Europe.

Directions offen are given only as North or South, not the next town. When you see the coast, it's easy, but shall I know where is East???
At construction zones you actually see workers holding signs (all day?). As if that wasn't enough there's a sign to inform you that soon you'll see one of them. 


Besides the strange traffic signs I found some other very interesting signs.

It's a really dangerous country!!


An other striking difference: You never know what you'll pay! Yes, there are prices on the menues and price tags on the goods, but that's not what you'll pay.
There's always the tax. Sometimes one, sometimes more (state tax, county tax). 
In restaurants you are supposed to pay the tip, at least (and that's bad service) 10 %. Good service may change the price remarkably.
Percentage calculation as an every-day-challenge.

I can't judge if life is cheaper or more expensive. Fuel is much cheaper, shampoo and dairy goods are shockingly expensive, clothes cost about the same, but there are many thrift stores. Medicine seems to be cheaper, cigarettes not.
As everywhere else you need to find out where to buy.


Most houses are built of wood, even the roofs, even buildings that seem built with bricks.

Windows open either upwards or outwards but never inwards and shutters are mounted on the inside. Door knobs and toilet flushing systems are different, keys turn the other way. Fire escape staircases are common (as we all know from movies).


Yes, it's true. Everything seems to be bigger. The ocean is bigger, the beaches larger, the cities are bigger, the skyscrapers are higher, the cars are huger, the fields larger, the trees higher, the streets larger.....
So are the portions you get in restaurants. Two appetizers and two meals are easily enough for 4-5 persons - and no waitress is wondering about such an order, they'll just bring you some extra plates.

1 comment:

  1. Americans love to build firetraps. It is actually not that much more expensive to build a house that is unlikely to burn down, but people rarely ever do it. I recall years ago in one of the sadly routine fires that burn in California that an entire neighborhood was reduced to smoking pits except one house that was, for all intents and purposes, untouched by the ravages of the fire. The difference? The 'genius' homeowner sided and roofed his house with concrete board (made to look _exactly_ like the neighbors, the community board insisted) and kept any landscaping several feet away from his house. He had some smoke damage but that was it. I seem to recall he said it cost him an extra 10-12% on the cost of the house. Guess how the neighbors rebuilt? The exact same houses they had before! In any rational society houses in known fire areas would be required to be build non-flammable, but here we don't care for rational ideas.

    Americans have terrible traffic because Americans suck as drivers. Each operating in their own little privileged world complaining endlessly about the other drivers in their own privileged little worlds. Self-driving cars can't come soon enough for me!

    I'm glad you had a great time. Of course, there is plenty more to see...