It has been a week since I arrived in Kerala, India. Not surprisingly, my first cultural shock was the ear-piercing, honking sound of rickshaws (small Indian taxis) that welcomed me when I stepped out of the Cochin airport. In the beginning, I thought the drivers here were just a little more aggressive or would get frustrated easily: the reason why they honked so much. But, as we drove away from the airport, our driver explained to us that these drivers honked to show their existence and alert others. In addition, drivers in India tend to not keep to their lanes. They use the entire road sometimes driving on the left side, right side, and in the middle…so ALL sides! These days, many young Indians are actively protesting to eliminate this unnecessary honking and to reduce noise pollution. So, increasingly you can see many signs like “Yi Horn Not OK Please.”
Speaking of the rickshaws, I had another culture shock in Switzerland when I got almost hit by a taxi in Zermatt. First of all, this Alpine town is a tourist destination that becomes a crowded ski resort town during the winter and full of mountain lovers who come to visit Mattherhorn. Since it’s such a popular town, the townspeople decided to ban any entrance of outside cars to eliminate any traffic. So, if you are visiting Zermatt, you have to park your car a few kilometers away and enter the town by train. To compensate for taking away personal transportations, the town offers other public transportation methods like train, gondola, and electronic taxi. You may be very familiar with train and gondola but not the electronic taxi. These taxis are pollution-free and come in small sizes to allow easy movements inside the town where all the roads are narrow. The shocking thing though is that these electronic cars barely make any sound, which is perfect for the town since it wants to keep the calm and serene image of Switzerland. The only downside is that tourists like myself who are not used to these type of environments will be carelessly walking around the town and almost get hit by one of those taxis.
And, how can I forget those speedy yellow taxis in Manhattan. Despite the traffic, yellow taxis will find space on the road to squeeze in, find empty roads, and speed up to get to the destination while other cars are slaved by the traffic lights and rush hours.
However the differences, whether it is the honking sound of rickshaws in India or soundless electronic cars in Switzerland, taxis around the world drive with same purpose: get to the destination as fast as possible (Amen!). So, whenever you feel like the taxi rides are over-priced and regret hopping on to a taxi when you are tired, remind yourself of what taxi drivers are capable of! They are the real locals of the town who know the short cuts and traffic-free roads and understand how to avoid rush hours. At the end, your time is golden.
And, that’s the beauty of taxi driving.