One of the things I really notice while travelling are the random cultural differences. Not things like fashion, food or music which of course vary hugely (though not as much as before TV, this trip would be way better with time machine) but the little ones you don't expect to be different. Like crossing the road. Every country crosses the road differently. In Ireland, my base line for normality, there is a traffic light, and you wait for the green man to cross unless there are no cars in which case you cross whenever you like. Cars always stop for the green man, regardless of pedestrians.
My first stop was Düsseldorf where Ciaran had to explain to me the German way of crossing. There people wait for the green man, whether there are cars or not. It's quite strange to see drunken partiers waiting patiently for the light at four in the morning in a completely abandoned street. I crossed once without waiting on an empty road and was stared at as if I had 3 heads, even though I was pretty sure I hadn't. They are an orderly bunch the Germans, don't you just love when stereotypes are true?
Paris is a bit more risky. You wait for the green man unless you see an opportunity to cross. This isn't for an empty road, because there are no empty roads, but more of a gap in the traffic. It was a bit frightening and several times the Parisians I was with dashed across the road leaving my stranded waiting for the salvation of the green man.
Italy is another thing altogether. Here the green man is a mere token of road regulations. Not only does nobody wait for the man, but the cars don't actually stop for it. I don't know why they even installed traffic lights there, they are seemingly meaningless. The only way to cross here is fling yourself desperately into traffic and hope the cars stop, or set up a new life by the side of the road. When you see a person sleeping on the street it's impossible to know whether they are a drug addicted hobo or merely cautious. A few years ago I went to Rome with my mum and we had terrible trouble moving around. In the end we adopted a policy of waiting for a local to start crossing and we would cross behind them, trusting that at least if the car didn't stop, the local's twisted corpse would slow it a little.
I'm now in Austria and back to the orderly patient crossing, though it's not quite as strict as Düsseldorf. I think overall I prefer the Germanic way, being hit by cars is overrated.
We are not currently rumnning a poll but keep your eye on this space, ity won't be long!