Not long ago, Kevin asked me what the weirdest thing was about living in Australia.

”The brands at the supermarket are all different,” was my first thought. “But, driving is probably the weirdest thing. It took me a long time to get used to being on the other side of the road.”

”They drive on the wrong side of the road down there?”

”Yes, Kevin.”


”I don’t know. Why do you drive on the right side?”

“Good point. Why do we drive on the right side of the road?”

The answer to both questions, as it turns out, is Britain.

The tradition of driving on the left in Britain dates back centuries, but in early American history a “smoldering opposition to customs of the Old World” led immigrants to reverse the rule and implement right-side driving in the New World. New York formalized the custom with a law in 1804 requiring drivers stay to the right and other states eventually followed suit. It made no sense for them to do otherwise.

Australia, by way of contrast, has always had a better relationship with Britain and never smoldered in opposition to any idea, much less the idea of driving on the left side of the road. They maintained the British custom, and their status as both a continent and a country means there is no point at which drivers are forced to switch sides of the road.

Kevin is asleep by the time I finish this explanation, but wakes up in time to ask, “So is everything reversed in the car? Like the gas and brake and clutch and all that?”

”The gear lever is reversed. It’s on the console so you have to use your left hand to change gears but everything else is in the same place.”

“It doesn’t sound too weird,” Kevin persists. “It sounds cool, actually.”

”It sounds cool until you get in the car and realize it’s a lot harder than you think. How long have you been driving on the right side? You don’t realize how much of that is automatic until you try to do it on the opposite side. The mirrors are all wrong. Your view of where the car has to be on the road is backwards. The slow lane is on the left and the passing lane is on the right. And just try to make a right-hand turn. If there are other cars on the road or you’re following someone, it’s a lot easier. But your brain wants to do the same thing it’s done 10,000 times before and if no one else is around, you end up in the wrong lane.”

”So, if it’s that different, do they make you pass some kind of driving test to get your license?”

”Nope, they just gave it to me.”

“Government,” Kevin laughs.

“It’s also amazing how adaptive we are. I was just watching an American movie last night and saw someone get in the left side of the car and I’m thinking, ‘You’re getting in the wrong side.’ It made me realize my brain, at some point, made the switch.”

This gives Kevin the opening he needs to make a few comments about my brain, and I pretend to have another call and have to go. Kevin pretends to believe me but wants me to do some research before our next conversation.

“I’m going to send you a bunch of links to things in Australia that can kill you. I want to know if I’ll see any of them when I’m there, because if I do, I’m not coming.”


Next Up: Let’s Talk About What Can Kill You in Australia


Part 1: I Would Like to Acknowledge…

Part 2: Educating Kevin About Australia

Part 3: Which Way Do Australian Toilets Flush?

Part 4: What is Macca’s and Why Does Everyone Go There?

Part 5: Where Is Australia on the Map?

Part 6: What is a Democracy Sausage?


Photo by sandid (Pixabay)