In previous posts I’ve touched upon the topics of cultural difference, tolerance and getting used to the unknown and in this post I want to give you an example of how simply spending enough time in South East Asia has meant that something that was at first, not just alien, but completely incomprehensible to me has with time begun to make perfect sense.

That thing is the way people drive here. When I first got here, I was completely bemused and a little terrified by what seemed to be a complete lack of rules of the road or even basic driving etiquette. From what I could see it was everyone for themselves and if there was a gap in the road ahead to get your vehicle into then you went for it, no matter who might be trying to pull out, over take or change lanes. Right of way does not appear to be in force out here.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve been on the road a lot and as a passenger I’ve endured many white-knuckle car and bus rides. But I’ve been determined to drive myself and as a result I’ve ridden a moped in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. As well as what seemed like a ‘who can get there first’ mentality, what also used to drive me insane was the way local people would pull out of a side street or change lanes without even a sideways glance. ‘Oh I’ll just move over shall I?’ I would mutter angrily to myself.

Recently, however it occurred to me how calm and confident I feel on the road and how instinctive my driving has become and I wondered where the frustration and bewilderment of the early days had gone. As I thought about it, I started to see that the way traffic in Asia flows is something akin to water. If you watch a river or waterfall, one stream of water doesn’t wait for another stream to go ahead first, they flow together, filling every available space, weaving and intertwining and with that thought I suddenly understood the way people drive here. In fact after four months of driving this way, it’s starting to make more sense to me than the stop and start, right of way, style of driving we have in the UK.

Realising that the only thing that has really happened to change my mind is my ongoing perseverance to drive on this continent and the passage of time. What else then might make more sense to me if I simply tried living them for a little while? I can’t help but wonder.

Have you ever had a dramatic change of heart about something, once the penny has dropped and it suddenly makes sense to you? Do you, like me, wonder how many pennies might be waiting to drop?  

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