People Aren’t the Same Everywhere

There’s a certain type of person who likes to bring every type of electrical gadget they own on holiday. Tablet, smartphone, laptop, ear hair remover, blender, you get the idea. The main purpose of this is to irritate friends and family by sharing as many photo’s and updates about their vacation as they can and to act like they are still at home by ignoring their partners and browsing Facebook until their roaming data bill resembles Greece’s budget deficit. They then inevitably moan about their phone bill online when they get home. I refer to these people as Travel With All Technology types or “TWATS” for convenience. The airport shops that sell travel adaptors for 600 times the normal retail price exist solely for these people. I would approve of these shops for this reason but they have the same policy towards selling water.

This morning I was looking (I have to apologise to my wife I just looked at the shaver I didn’t shave) at my rather ludicrous current combination of American to UK adapter with a UK plug on top and my shaver adapter on top of that and it made me wonder why these things have to be different. There is only one species of human but we have managed to create at least a dozen different designs for getting power from a socket. How the hell can we ever have world peace if we can’t agree on a single plug design. Of course the reason for the differences is that when these plugs were created not many people travelled and they certainly didn’t take their appliances with them, so compatibility didn’t matter. On my US-UK plug adaptor it says for temporary use only which I find reassuring. Is it going to blow up after a month once it’s decided that it’s no longer being used temporarily or will it give me a year?

Luckily there is a way around different sockets, but it's clunky.
                 Luckily there is a way around different sockets, but it’s clunky.

There are many other things that differ between countries, for example ways of measuring temperature. The whole world now uses Celsius, except the USA and those other global superpowers Bahamas, Belize,the Cayman Islands and Palau. Most countries changed from Fahrenheit to Celsius in the 1960’s and 70’s as part of metrication, but the US held out. So if you ever find yourself confused while on holiday in the USA (or Palau- is that even a country?) a handy guide is 

  • Fahrenheit to Celsius: Subtract 32 and halve the resulting number.
  • Celsius to Fahrenheit: Double the number and add 32.

although it isn’t accurate to the nearest degree the higher the numbers you are dealing with it will at least let you know whether you should wear a t-shirt or a coat. I’m gradually getting used to Fahrenheit but when people say its a ninety degree day I still have a quick vision of being nearly boiled alive.

Another thing that can be confusing is driving. Most people know that the US, like 65% of the worlds population drives on the right, in contrast to the UK where they drive on the left (as everyone who has been to Paris knows Parisians fall into a third class, they drive wherever they please). So when you are in a country that drives on the “wrong” side until you adjust you run the risk of being run over at every crossing. If you find the idea of driving on the other side of the road crazy, then spare a thought for drivers in those countries that have a land border with a country that drives on the other side of the road, How confusing must that be to drivers, as the photo below shows!

The change of traffic directions at the Laos–Thai border, prefer to switch from right to left! (Source Wikipedia)
The change of traffic directions at the Laos–Thai border, prefer to switch from right to left! (Source Wikipedia)

I guess my opinion about all these differences is that they make the world a more interesting place. Travelling and visiting new places is much more fun when everything is a little bit different. Of course this can be irksome for some; the builders of the Laufenburg Bridge between Germany and Switzerland were left embarrassed when the two sides didn’t match up. It turns out sea level is measured from the North Sea in Germany and from the Mediterranean in Switzerland. The 27cm gap was doubled instead of reduced to nothing by error leading to a 54cm gap that had to be corrected ( Turns out even the Germans and Swiss make mistakes, although I expect they blamed each other. Have you got any examples of amusing differences?