I’ve traveled most of my life – being from a military family will do that to you and I’ve always had a travel bug. So when I moved to New Zealand I was ready for some of the changes, including driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. Sitting on the right side of the car and driving in the left lane isn’t so weird. And even roundabouts aren’t so weird once you get used to them – although we were humored when traveling in Turkey that the roundabouts have totally different rules there than they do everywhere else we’ve been.
But switching gears with my left hand doesn’t come naturally – I’ve always been right-handed and driving a stick-shift car in countries where the stick is on the left is just awkward. But it’s the little things that make it worse – in the car we have now, the blinker lever and the windshield wiper lever traded places and I’m constantly turning on the windshield wipers when I want to change lanes. It’s funny, but only the first few times it happens.
I’m confused about sidewalk traffic in Auckland. In a car, you drive in the left lane. But on the sidewalks, it seems that everything goes and when I try to stay to the left I inevitably have to move out of the way of people who don’t seem to realize that this is New Zealand. I have tried for weeks now to be a good Kiwi and stick to the left but I think that the people who walk in the city must be from other countries because the dominant lane is still the right on the sidewalk. Get with the program people!
But I expected the left-hand driving. And I expected the left-hand gear shift and the backwards blinkers. I expected to have to have to do conversions in my head to convert from feet, gallons, pounds, etc. to metric. I expected to have to learn how to tell temperature in Celsius. I gave up all of my small home appliances that won’t work on New Zealand plugs.
But it’s the little things you take for granted. I didn’t expect the damn light switches. They are upside down! On is off and off is on. And I just can’t get used to it. I am constantly turning on lights when it is time for bed, turning off the fan when I want it on, and freezing up when there are multiple power switches on the wall and they are pointing in different directions! Why why why New Zealand do you have to be different on this one tiny thing?