Driving in Australia is similar to driving in Britain and unlike driving in Canada. In Canada, we drive on the right hand side, whereas in Australia and Britain, they drive on the “left” or “wrong side”. Of course, we think it is the wrong side, because we drive on the “right side.” Who is to say which side is correct? Are you confused yet? Because that is what driving has been like for us during this first month – confusion and chaos!
Everything with respect to driving in Australia is the opposite. You drive on the opposite side of the road. The steering wheel is on the opposite side of the car. The windshield wipers are on the opposite side of the steering column. The signal light indicator is on the opposite side of the steering column. The head light indicator is on the opposite side of the driver’s panel. The cruise control switch is on the opposite side of the driver’s panel. Have we mentioned “opposite” enough? The only thing that is the same about driving is the brake and gas pedals. The brake pedal is on the left and the gas pedal is on the right. Why didn’t the car manufacturers make those opposite as well? It just adds to the madness!
We both have our own little idiosyncrasies with respect to driving. Rick is constantly walking to the other side of the car. If he is driving he is getting in on the passenger’s side and if he is a passenger, he is opening the car door on the driver’s side. Gail is constantly making a left or right turn signal with her windshield wipers. She is getting quite good at it; however, it looks a little odd turning the windshield wipers on while driving in a traffic circle (or "Round About" as it is known in Australia) in plus 30 degree blue sky temperatures. We like to think that people assume that we know what we are doing and that we are only washing the windows. Both of these habits are becoming quite irksome as we think that we have mastered driving on the “other side”. When company is traveling with us, they find it particularly entertaining. Yes, from time to time we have had very brave and adventurous Australians traveling with us in the car.
We had given ourselves until the end of January to get our driving protocols right or maybe now that we are in the Land of Down Under, we should say “get our driving protocols left”. Unfortunately we have missed this timeline and have now moved it back to the end of February. Our excuse is that Gail walks to school and Rick rides the bike for groceries, so we are not in the car that much. Do we sound frightened of driving or just saving gas?
We have made a pact between ourselves with respect to our driving. We have both agreed that “back seat driving” is allowed and is encouraged during this time of transition. For example, the passenger is encouraged to tell the driver to:
- Quit hogging the extreme left edge of the road and move the car more into oncoming traffic near the center of the road.
- Make a “tight turn” when turning left and a “wide turn” when turning right.
- Look “Right, Left, Right” when proceeding through an unmarked intersection rather than looking “Left, Right, Left”.
- Watch out for that "Crest" in the road. At the summit of some steep hills, the car crests thereby causing a blind spot for the driver until the car descends downwards.
Watch Out for the Crest!
Just when we think we are getting better, something happens that gets us flustered and on goes the windshield wipers AGAIN. We have been advised by returning exchange teachers that once we return to Canada, we will have to go through the entire driving experience again only in reverse because we will have become accustom to driving on the left side. No doubt it will seem strange to drive on the “wrong side” when we return to Canada. And who said that humans are creatures of habit?
Since we are on the topic of driving, it seems appropriate to provide the latest update on the cost of Gas, or as they say in Australia, "Petrol":
Gas - Petrol Prices:
- January 1, 2010: Singapore – S$1.71/lire (Singapore $ is worth approximately $0.75 Canadian)
- January 7, 2010: Sydney – AUS$ 1.31 (Australian $ is worth approximately $0.98 Canadian)
- January 15, 2010: Kadina – AUS$ 1.24 (Australian $ is worth approximately $0.98 Canadian)
- February 1, 2010: Kadina – AUS$ 1.23
For comparative purposes and for those Aussies who are reading this blog
- January 31, 2010: Gas Prices in Comox B.C. - $1.02 Cdn
For those Canadians living in Edmonton – let us know what you are paying since gas in Alberta is always cheaper than gas in B.C. Also if any of you are interested in other price comparisons, start sending us prices for food and clothing items that may be of interest to you and we will let you know the equivalent product’s price in Kadina. For instance, are you interested in the price of a dozen eggs, or 2 litres of milk? Conversely, our Australian readers may be interested in Canadian prices. As an illustration, there is a huge gap between cosmetic and health care prices. It may shock you to know that we just paid $6.00 for 120 mL of Mcleans toothpaste. We are still getting over that one!
One last thing…..like in Canada we are constantly putting our groceries into the trunk so that the food will stay cool. In Australia, we still haven’t adapted to putting our groceries in the back seat rather than the trunk. In the back seat, the groceries will keep cooler longer since the car’s air conditioning unit is always on. In the trunk, the food starts to pre-cook before we get home. The Australians are no strangers to the heat and are quite ingenious as they have mastered use of the “Eskie”. An “Eskie” is an insulated collapsible portable cooler used for storing your perishables from the grocery store. However, we have frequently seen it filled with cold beer on the beach. Australians seem to have adapted quite nicely to beating the heat.