A South African’s guide to crossing the road abroad

Posted on 17 August 2012

Look left, then right, then left again. How much more can there really be to crossing the road? Today, we don’t even need to do that. We just wait until the little man that lives in the yellow pole lights up and then we imitate him. However, going by traffic signals in these countries it seems that the ‘how’ to cross the road is as important as the ‘when’. Hold on to your handbag, we’re not in Bloem anymore.


Traffic lights - Thailand


In Thailand (also seemingly where Shrek originated), in order to get across the road you have to lumber awkwardly. You also have to be larger than the person who is not crossing the road and you get bonus points if you can lumber towards someone as if you’re going to eat them.


Traffic lights - Taiwan


The Taiwanese are incredibly considerate. Whenever you have to stop and wait for traffic, you are apparently also allowed to sit down … as long as you keep your arms directly at your side. If you want to cross the road you have to wear a hat and learn to boogie.


Traffic lights - Spain


Similarly, in certain parts of Spain you are also encouraged to sit down while waiting at a pedestrian crossing. However, when crossing, not only do you have to wear a hat, it appears you also have to put on diving flippers. This could be a little awkward if you’re crossing the road in the city. If you go to Spain, make sure you go to the beach.


Traffic lights - Poland


First off, it’s great to see Poland showing off its artistic liberalness and cultural wealth by letting its children make its pedestrian signals out of watercolours and cellophane. That said, notice the difference in shape your head will take between waiting at a crossing in Poland and actually crossing. Scary stuff. Wear a helmet.


Traffic lights - Paris

Paris, France

Ah, the French – minimalists to the last, even in their crossing conduct. To cross the road in Paris one needs to be as unmotivated as possible, to the point of not really giving a shit at all. A languid, hands-in-pocket approach works best. There are bonus points for crossing the road existentially.


Traffic lights - Monaco


With all that money, you’d expect road crossings in Monaco to be a flashy affair. Not so. In fact (probably to avoid being mobbed by papparazzi and yachties) one should always cross the road wearing an inconspicuous poncho. Also, remember to tuck hands in, that flashy Rolex you bought in Lenasia could cause problems.


Traffic lights - Majorca


Majorca is a tiny island in the Mediterranean with not many roads. In fact, it seems the concept is so new to the Majorcans that they’ve drawn in guidelines to help road crossers clarify what they are actually crossing. It’s helpful. The part that’s not so helpful is that you should be wearing a suit which, given Majorca’s warm climate, seems a little daft. At least you can wear a hat.


Traffic lights - Italy


Pedestrian signals in parts of Italy seem to focus more on reflecting its own culture than actually helping you cross the road. When waiting for the light to change, it’s important to puff out your chest and appear beefy (pretending you’re in a Speedo may help). When walking across the road, try display that trademark scoliosis that you would have picked up while in the gym trying to look beefy.


Traffic lights - Indonesia


When crossing the road in parts of Indonesia, make sure one is drunk and stumbling forward. If not drunk, don’t cross. Rather stand accusingly and moan at drunk as they get to your side of the road. Simple, really.


Traffic lights - Denmark


Authorities in Denmark love historical references. In the town of Fredericia they pay tribute to the 1849 Battle of Fredericia with soldiers while in other parts they honour the great writer Hans Christian Andersen. With a selection so diverse, the diplomatic Danish have left it up to you. If you’re feeling passive and nostalgic – cross leisurely with a slight writer’s limp. The more rigid can just as easily cross the road whilst wearing a Stormtroopers replica suit. You won’t be judged.


Traffic lights - Benelux and Austria


As if we needed another reason to love the Dutch. In the Netherlands, they believe that traffic signals should resemble real human form. It proves that, in an age of processed pictures and auspicious avatars, real-world beauty still matters. It also proves that fat-bottomed girls really do make the rocking world go round.


Seen any other strange traffic control signals on your travels? Share them below. 

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