Tis 2019. Tis back.
Normal Canadian Things I find Weird #4: The Right is right.
Let me explain this a bit better, as it may be more proficient to title this piece, Normal Canadian things only British people and some old British influenced countries, as the rest of the world agrees with Canada on this one… As it is to do with behaviour in the non political sense.
Back in November 2017 I got my Canadian driving license. As a U.K. citizen all I had to do is go down to a drive test centre with my license. Here they get you to sign some forms, take a quick eye test, take your mugshot and then you pay $90 for a beautiful new driving license. And well. I look like a murderous potato in my picture.
It seems fair that I didn’t have to take a test or anything as I’ve held my license since 2013 and I like to think I’m a safe driver…. and I have never had any points on my license. Just a plethora of parking tickets. ( I’m sorry parents it won’t happen again). BUT… in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, we drive on the left-hand side of the road. I would love to say we are the original drivers and therefore left is best but it seems to just be a tradition we have carried since the 11th century. Typical Britain stuck in it’s old road time ways amirite or amirite?
Back yonder centuries ago, the passing of left to left was a self preservation thing. Most travellers were right-handed and scabbarded their swords on the left. Around the time of 11th century, people were not necessarily friendly to strangers. During this time, England was constantly warring between houses, as well as constantly being invaded by the Danish and Normans. This meant when passing a stranger in these feudal societies, you could easily defend or attack a passerby as well as not whacking anyone with the scabbard. Makes sense for 1000 years ago… why does Britain continue this tradition did when 65% of the world did not?
Fast-forward around 600 years to the 17th/18th century. Here we have the expanding european empires, and with them their expanding economics. In America in particular, mass farming meant that transporting goods needed to be bigger and better. Hauling large quantities of product meant larger wagons, and with larger wagons, larger teams of horses. naturally when driving horses you want to be able to control them by flashing to the left, meaning the driver sits to the left on the horses. To prevent clashes with other wagons the drift of driving on the left to the right began.
European right-side drivers began around the same time in Russia. As Russia had grand relations with the other country’s high societies, when driving on the right became official in the 1750s, other countries such as France followed suite. The rest of mainland Europe can be blamed on Napoleon. Conquering nations such as Belgium, Netherlands and Germany meant implementing laws, including the right side driving principle.
Britain driving on the left naturally meant the majority of her colonies also drive on the left, including that of Malta, Australia and South Africa being countries that choose the left. Japan however has its own reasons of driving on the left, nothing to do with Britain, but kept their 17th century tradition to today.
So why is it weird?
I am completely used to the left. I grew up with the London Underground etiquette of sticking the left. I learnt how to drive on the left hand side of the road. Driving and walking means to the left. It is common knowledge that you keep to the left in the UK, but not in Canada. Walking on the left is outright Anarchy. I have walked into at least 40 people due to my unconcious leftness. Walking up stairs I have received so many dirty looks as I took the left hand staircase. Completely bemused by this I have tried to change my ways.
After being in the Canada for over a year now I am used to the whole right side of the road driving malarky, being in the passenger seat of a car is no longer as traumatic. But walking on the right has been a mental strain for me.
Back when I was driving in Europe, I’m looking at you France, I did find it very difficult to get used to driving on the WRONG side of the road. So many times I ended up just sticking left… normally no one was about. I hope. I had to make a mental checklist when taking turns to make sure I didn’t turn and just end up defaulting to the left lane. And Roundabouts. I won’t go there. I’m sure I am not the only awful Brit who has terrorised the roadways of the continent and I won’t be the last either.
Anyway… Now I am consciously aware of the left and right flow of travel I can’t unthink it so I find myself panicking when I’m just walking along the sidewalk minding my own business and drifting to the left. There normally is not anyone around to see my blind panic of moving back over to the right…
It’s not until I got to Canada, I understood the rage of walkers. Now, I am not a fast walker, and having only one functioning leg may have something to do with that, but I am not the slowest walker either. The amount of pavement/sidewalk rage I have received from people in Ottawa is simply bewildering. People walking side by side would rather stick at my pace and make passive aggressive remarks than overtake me. I have to physically move myself out of their path for them to walk past me. Totally not necessary and quite rude to be honest. Then again it may just be a British thing to wander at my own pace…
So maybe this is not that weird really but I just made it weird. 10/10 me.
Thanks for reading and stay warm!
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