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Please Sound Horn

One thing that Americans seem to have a hard time adjusting to overseas is all the horn-blowing, or horning, that goes on when you're driving. In the United States, we use turn signals. In other countries, you blow the horn to alert cars around you that you're doing something -- whether you're passing them, or you're warning them that they're too close to you, or you're approaching an intersection or corner and you want to alert other possible cars, bikes, autos, or pedestrians that you're coming. Many expats here tell their drivers to never use the horn. While all the horn blowing can be annoying, now that the horn in our car is broken, I can totally see the advantages of using it.

You'll see that most big trucks have "Please Sound Horn" painted across the back. Ritzy neighborhoods and gated communities have signs that read "No Horning" posted. That's how important the horn is to driving here. You have to let go of the fact that you're not in the United States anymore and you have to drive by the local rules. And don't take the horn blowing personally. The other driver isn't honking at you because you did something wrong, like cut them off. They are honking to let you know they are there, so please don't cut them off. It doesn't matter if you're on the correct side of the street. You have to assume that others won't be. Practically speaking, there is no correct side; you drive, walk, cycle wherever there's room for you to do so. As a courtesy, drivers horn to alert you all to clear out of the road.

A few days ago Mike came home and said we have a Little Miss Sunshine situation in our car, with the horn being stuck "on." Our driver disabled the horn, and then the rides out in town became really nerve-racking. At first I thought I'd enjoy the quiet, until we came to a blind corner, one where we'd usually tap the horn before approaching, and we couldn't do that. The suspense around every corner was starting to bug me more than the sound of the horn previously did. I think I'm a horning convert now. Sure, people should slow down and drive more orderly, but that's not going to happen any time soon.

Our driver has fooled with the horn a bit and it's letting out a squeak. The mechanic we usually see is back in the United States for an undetermined amount of time and apparently there's no one else our driver trusts to take the car to.

On a side note, I don't think our driver approves of the music we play for Muffin in the car. He's worked for expats with kids before, so he knows expat children's music and it's supposed to be nursery rhymes, not They Might Be Giants.


Anonymous said…
"Algeria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Dominica, Egypt, France, the Gambia. Hungary, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Libya and Mongolia. Nepal, Oman, Pakistan. Qatar, Russia, Surinam. Turkey, Uruguay, Vietnam. West Xylophone, Yemen, Zimbabweeeeeeeeeeeee!"
E.M.. Dyer II said…
Same in Kathmandu! Motorcycle horns are the shrillest, save the bus and truck horns which are fancy alternating ones, with false Doppler effects built in.
And turn signals are an odd one. A signal means "Pass me on this side" unless it means "I'm turning", but the latter is rarer and needs to be worked out on the spot :)
Stephanie said…
Dave, that's one of my favorites!

EM, turn signals were the same in Burundi. They rarely meant "I'm turning." Usually it meant, "It's ok to pass on that side." Which causes some problems when you're an American actually trying to make a turn.
Shannon said…
LOL! My husband was driving somewhere with one of his LES who informed him he REALLY needed to learn to use his horn.
Cara Lopez Lee said…
I remember my first experience with constant horn blowing during a more than three-month trek through China, Thailand, and Nepal. At first, in China, I'd practically fall off my bike or jump in a ditch every time I heard a loud horn behind me. I soon got used to it, except when I took a 17-hour sleeper bus from Guilin to Hong Kong, and sat right behind the driver. He honked every few minutes for 17 hours. I'd just be drifting to sleep when HONK HONK HONK - my eyes flew open. I got no rest that night. When I returned to the States, I couldn't help but laugh at how angry people would get when someone blew a horn at them. Now I'm back in the habit of "Honk!" = "What're you doing, idiot?!"
Jill said…
It took me awhile to get used to the honking in Israel ... by the time I left I was a pro!

In India? It was one of my most favorite things to do while driving.

The problem now is that I'm so horn happy I have to remind myself to relax ... and do a small little beep. Only if necessary!
Anonymous said…
I well remember our holiday in India two years ago because of all that noise. It kinda fascinated me, while also giving me a headache and my nerves the jitters! The weird thing was when we made it out of town onto a straight three-lane road, the horning continued. Noone was changing lanes or anything, I'm sure of it! Was it just for the joy of making a noise?!

Here in Sudan, where I'm living at the moment, there is little use of the horn. The driving is just as erratic, though, I'd say - and there are a lot of accidents!
Anonymous said…
Hi there,
This post has been included in the (late) May 20 edition of the Weekly State Department Blog Round Up. Thanks for your submission!

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