When I moved to Muscat from a sleepy little town on Borneo three years ago, the roads here terrified me. Granted, some drivers in the sleepy town on Borneo had a tendency to ignore red lights, but at least they did so at 60 km/h and not 120. Muscat roads seemed fast and furious by comparison.
I used to drive the longer coast road from home to school, because the stress-induced high heart rate of the highway just wasn’t worth it.
Three years in, I accept Muscat Expressway as part of my daily routine. What used to look like complete chaos (aka Qurm junction at 7.45 am) now appears more like chaos with formal and informal rules.
As expats, we can usually get hold of the formal rules of society. It’s when we also start to master the informal rules, the unwritten stuff, that we’re getting somewhere.
Here’s what I’ve learned cruising Muscat Expressway, in completely random order
-Lane discipline can be a challenge. I am no longer surprised when people in the far left lane, or at a stretch, one lane in, actually intend to go straight or turn right approaching the junction or an interchange.
-Big cars rule. People in big cars seem to expect people in smaller cars to give way. I drive a Landcruiser, so I have no idea what people in small cars think about this. I wish I could say I never push ahead, but that would be a lie. Sorry, people in small cars.
-While we’re at it, extremely expensive cars also rule. If you think I’ll let you squeeze into my lane space because you drive a bright yellow Lotus, you’re absolutely right. Standing my ground could cost me dearly, both in terms of money and domestic disputes over said money. Your car is too expensive to dent, and we both know it.
-Some times, weird stuff happens. Like reversing where reversing is not appropriate. Where I come from, accidentally exiting at the wrong interchange means you carry on. Carry on, and find a place to make a u-turn. Here, reversing back down the one way slip lane instead is not uncommon.
-Though at first sight, Muscat Expressway appeared wildly different from anywhere else I’d lived and driven, I have managed to find common ground; the annoyingly slow middle lane driver, seemingly oblivious to the mayhem of cars trying to overtake at any cost. Perhaps he is universal?
What informal rules do you know where you live, that makes you think, ‘yes, I’ve got this’? I’d love to hear how you learn and develop your cultural competence through routine everyday tasks.
Meanwhile, safe driving!
Note: this is meant as entirely non offensive everyday observations and absolutely not as practical advise to be followed. For obvious reasons, I recommend sticking to formal traffic laws. If in doubt, refer to the Royal Oman Police, who do a super job enforcing traffic laws in Oman.