Driving in Nova Scotia

Normally you would insert rain, snow, sleet or Miss Daisy into that title but today it’s just going to be about plain old driving.

It’s different. It’s not very different but it’s different.

Traffic lights for example- they don’t red, amber green like we’re used to in the UK. They go straight from red, stop, to green, go. No ‘get ready now, proceed with caution’, just ‘stop, go’. Having been here before I expected that but still, you know, it’s just like in the movies.

One thing cropped up today though – parked at some reds in Antigonish this evening, foot hovering over the big pedal so I don’t get jeered at for being tardy, the lights went green but they didn’t just go green, they went green and they flashed insistently for about 5 seconds. WTF is that all about?

Another novelty about traffic lights over here- if you’re turning right, and the light is red, then that’s okay, just go right ahead and try not to hit anything. It’s great!

Roundabouts – they call them rotaries – are very different however. I’m lead to believe there are only two in Nova Scotia and we have one of them on our doorstep (17km down the road). Like in the UK they’re big roundish things that you go around, although our one has another bit that you drive… through. Also like in the UK you give way to traffic on your right, except here you drive on the right, so peering across the passenger seat to give way to traffic on the right is very, very unnatural. Even though I knew all this having been here before when I re-acquainted myself with ‘our’ roundabout I had to slot myself into a rented SUV space between two lorries and a minivan, which surprised and confused us all, especially the minivan that had to vacate the space that I casually and, I know now, recklessly occupied.

All this giving way to the traffic on the right means that people stop on roundabouts. Verrrry interesting when you’re gunning it, staring nervously at the cars slowing on your left, just in case they’re tourists or lunatics or as you suspect each time you transnavigate said roundabout you have the whole damn ‘give way to the right’ thing wrong.

Four way stop signs, now there’s a thing. Never was there a greater test of politeness and honesty than a four-way stop sign. You pull up to it, everybody stops, the person that arrived first goes first. When two people pull up at exactly the same time it usually takes a third car to swing the odds and get things moving again. As far as I’m aware people aren’t even tempted to hold off the brakes a little bit to make sure they get their first, which is refreshing I guess. One thing though, I think it only applies to the first car in the queue – I pulled up to one today and there were three cars waiting at the stop sign opposite me. The first car waited for me to come to a complete halt then duly went about their business. ‘Right,’ I thought. ‘There were three there when I arrived so they must have right of way. I’ll show that I don’t need to pass a test to drive in this country and just smile and nod as they all go by’. I watched the second car in the queue pull up and stop, and stay stopped. Ahem, I, ah, no no, er… I flashed him to indicate that surely sir you must have seen that you were waiting before me. After a moments hesitation they pulled away, staring suspiciously. The next car pulled up and stopped and, well, he must have seen what just happened so I plumped for consistency and, once they had stopped and waited an uncomfortable amount of time for all of us I flashed them on their way too. I looked in my mirror and say at least a dozen cars stacked up – where they hell had they come from?! I had created anarchy, so much so that it’ll probably make the national radio tomorrow…  You think I’m joking but the top two stories today were a woman whose house has flooded for the second time this year and a volunteer fireman who got a call and thought his neighbours house was burning down before his daughter called him to tell him it was his. And yes, this was national radio.

Ooo, pedestrians. They get very angry if maybe you’re looking at a map, and for a place to park, and at some weird new traffic light arrangment and you haven’t quite noticed them and you’ve indicated and turned your vehicle towards them. Some bearded ginger guy got all uptight and gave me the double bird today. You’d understand if maybe his life was in danger but he hadn’t even stepped off the curb yet.  

Oh, they also have orange lights, and sometimes red lights that just hang in the middle of the road and flash.

And level crossings don’t have barriers here – red lights start flashing, a bell starts ringing and the train driver blows his horn, a lot. And no, I wasn’t parked on the tracks, I was standing in the post office wondering if someone was maybe tied to the track or in need of a hero to free their stuck stilletto at the last moment but apparently that’s just the way level crossings work round here. 

Well, that’s it for today class, next week we’ll discuss road markings and obscure wildlife signs…

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6 responses to “Driving in Nova Scotia

  1. Four way stops are a fucker eh! Sounds like you’re having a fab time and if all else fails you can publish a book about your daily antics, would make quite a fun read. Hope all is good… what’s happened to all the snow?

    Is Nova Scotia worth a visit??

  2. Hi Hannah! NS is a beautiful place. It’s still quite rural and… local is the only way I can put it – everyone literally knows everyone and what’s happened/happening and they work hard at creating a proper community, not just a WI or social groups down the pub. As a tourist there’s a little to do of everything, unless you’re into sailing in which case there’s a lot to do of that. Hiking is meant to be pretty good, as is x-country skiing or road cycling. I’m sure there’s some mountain biking but haven’t found it yet! There’s a world class golfig place down the road with a great view down the fairway over the bras d’and there’s a fort at Louisburg that has some history to it. Nova Scotia doesn’t have the white capped mountains of BC but when you’re floating in the lake watching our little mountains reflected in the mirrorglass finish that doesn’t seem to matter a lot. Let us know before you come over and we’ll try to have a room sorted for you!! J

  3. Hopefully this was just very, very funny and you have it all figured out now? Just imagine if you were driving in Florida where they don’t sell cars with signal lights so you’ve no idea where anyone is going. Has a friendly neighbour enlightened you into our driving protocol or do I need to provide a lesson?

    • All tips and advice gratefully consumed, especially the one about not driving in Florida! Are you sure they’re not just all driving BMWs? I believe the indicator stalk is an optional item on them, at least the BMW drivers in the UK don’t appear to have them fitted… XJ

  4. Jamies – I keep worrying to death that you are driving on the left hand side of the road – don’t you drive on the right like the rest of North America?

    At least you have two rotaries – I don’t think there are any in Florida so you are very privileged.

  5. I know, I know, it’s a nightmare – EVERYONE seems to drive on the wrong side of the road here! I’ve worn my horn and my high beams out flashing them all to let them know but it’s like everywhere I go ;p

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