Something I didn’t think to look up in my guidebook – and it didn’t occur to me until I was facing six lanes of traffic – was how to cross the road. Oh yes, you can jest. In my ignorance (arrogance?) before I moved overseas I thought there was only one way to cross the road. You found a crossing and (either pressed the timer button) or stood with intent in front of the road and the cars stopped.
Ha ha ha aha. Oh no.
Whoever would have thought that one of those cultural differences we hear so much about would extend to the simple act of crossing the road? We have crossings in Thailand; Western pedestrians know what they mean but apparently not the cars.
In Thailand you have to put yourself in the road and then the cars will stop. Mostly. Hopefully. And by and large they do actually stop.
In China you have to put yourself in the road. Then the cars and bikes and lorries will drive around you. (Much, much more terrifying.)
I know there are some countries in the world that consider (quite sensibly?) jaywalking a crime. In Singapore (my neighbour while I am in KL and therefore why I want to know the rules) you can be fined or even go to prison. (A taxi driver in Singapore told us that crime is low because punishments are severe and implemented.)
I’ve got quite ballsy about crossing roads in Thailand. You do have to watch the body language of the cars to check that they have seen you; you should not make assumptions. But sometimes when your ballsiness lets you down or you are new to the city and the idiosyncratic style of road crossing, you should follow our rule: go with the locals.
So that’s what I did here. I can report that crossing the road is well behaved in my experience of KL city centre. There are traffic lights with pedestrian buttons and the cars stop. Lovely.
However this training of new road habits can be its own danger. Last time I was in the UK I nearly got hit by a car. Let me tell you cars in the UK do not appreciate your sudden appearance in the road with an expectation that they will good humouredly stop.