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King of the Road

Look left, then right. Check the left again. The white walking man lights up, which signifies safe passage. I cross the road safely and let out a sigh of relief.

Having arrived in Chico, California more than a year ago, I still have trouble crossing the street sometimes. In my country, oncoming traffic arrives from the right – so you’d have to look right first. The driver’s seat is on the right too. Simply put, Malaysians drive on the other (wrong?) side of the road.

It’s true what they say -- coming to another country changes you. Not in some physically manifested way, but in simpler ways. Like when you cross the road. Or when you ask for only a fork, instead of a spoon and a fork.

Sometimes you pick up small mannerisms, like a local phrase or saying. I’d never used the words “for sure” so much until I came to Chico.

The other day I was speaking to friend from Malaysia, and she was complaining about a car that had turned in abruptly at a crossing and almost knocked her down.

When she told me this, I immediately assumed that the car stopped to allow her to pass -- it’s the pedestrian’s right of way after all.

It didn’t -- she had to stop to avoid the car. Now this is not to say that cars don’t stop for people in Malaysia. But as a pedestrian, you hold a whole lot more power here than you do back home. I remember when I first came here -- I felt like the king of the road for a few seconds, with cars waiting on me to cross.

And that’s when I realized that I no longer hold the same standards over certain things. I’ve become so used to cars stopping for me at a crossing, it didn’t even dawn on me that the car wouldn’t stop for my friend.

Essentially, in some small way, my values have shifted. I’ve been “American-ized,” as they say back home.

Some things never change though -- I still feel like the king of the road for a few seconds every day. For sure.