Letters from New Zealand: Stay left, look right

DUNEDIN, N.Z. — Lifelong habits are hard to break.

That’s my excuse, at least, when, for the 79th time or so, I turn on the windshield wipers while trying to prepare for a turn.  As you may know, New Zealanders drive on the right side of the car and the wrong side of the road.  At least by our reckoning.

What you may not know is that a lot else seems backwards as well.

With mentally draining concentration – “stay left, look right,” I mutter over and over – Kathy and I have managed to avoid launching any kamikaze-style attacks against approaching traffic. (I do regularly stray to the “rumble” strips on the left side of the two-lane roads here because my sense of space driving on the right is …. awful.)

But if, in the words of Saturday Night Fever, we are “staying alive (oh, oh, oh, oh, oh),” I for one am doing so rather clumsily.  You see, not only are car steering wheels  reversed here. So are the turn signal (on the right) and the windshield wiper (on the left). So are the hot and cold water on sinks and showers – although not universally.  And so are fellow humans, who insist – in hotel lobbies, on stairways, in cities and on trails – on passing on the right instead of the left.

We have only a few bruises, and are becoming adept at uttering “terribly sorry.”

Thank goodness, New Zealanders speak English — or something approximating  it.


About jerrylanson

I teach, write, coach and sing, though you're not required to listen to the latter. I'm a journalism professor at Emerson College in Boston. My third book, "Writing for Others, Writing for Ourselves," was published in November by Rowman & Littlefield Publishing. You can read a sample chapter at www.jerrylanson.com. My passions are politics (generally liberal in outlook), music, mountains, golden retrievers and my grandchildren, though not in that order. Please stop by and mix it up with me. I always answer those who post.
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