Thursday, November 20, 2008

Directions for Foreigners

Given I am out and about on public transport quite a bit, if I am in a particularly good mood, I might very occasionally try and assist someone, usually a tourist, who needs directions. Of course I am thinking, well why didn't you check first? You know, street directory, map, internet, timetables etc etc. But that is obviously not in some people's make up. Ok, some of these are mine, the others I have heard from a friend who knows about such matters.

Having now been to England, I know it is equally important there to accurately describe your destination when asking for help. Maybe it isn't in the Sub Continent, Asia, Europe and the US of A. I think one street in the north of England had five name changes for its length, surely beating anything in Melbourne.

Get a bit local here, sorry. So when you ask for Fitzroy, it is fair call that you mean the suburb, but if you say Fitzroy when you are in St Kilda, you will probably mean Fitzroy Street. They are miles apart. Best to add 'street' coz there is a a tram in St Kilda that goes to the suburb of Fitzroy.

'The Junction', is not accurate. Kew Junction? Camberwell? St Kilda? South Caulfield? Moonee Ponds? Balaclava?

I don't know how many Park Streets there are in Melbourne, but I can walk to two different ones in five minutes from home. Best to be specific.

Yep, this tram does go down St Kilda Road. Every tram in Swanston Street goes down St Kilda Road. You really need to state where you want to go in St Kilda Road, as some trams turn off St Kilda Road at the beginning of it and some at the end and some in between.

Likewise, every tram in Swanston Street, bar one, crosses Chapel Street, a street perhaps eight kilometres long. Enjoy the walk. But none go down Chapel Street from the City.

Mr Smarty Dick, lest I take the name of Pants in vain again, never once had to ask for directions when in the UK or on the Continent. I just love maps. Nor was there an sms from Jo when she visited Melbourne asking for directions when I had already offered to help. She is smart. She did sms that she was having a good time at some Paddy pub.

But clearly, everyone's brain works differently. I read something recently about how at a major railway station, there needs to be an information booth for people already know the correct information but they want some verbal reassurance.

Ok, we all like that. When our flight to Singapore per the net looked to be 11 hours late, I wanted some verbal assurance that this was correct. Sadly the net and the verbal was true.

But really, if you need directions to somewhere, phrase your question specifically and carefully.


  1. God, I totally agree. I'm usually quite eager to help people if they're standing on a street corner with a map looking totally lost, and they're usually very grateful. But if someone approaches me specifically to ask where something is, I tell them, and then they wander off without a thank you...that really gets my blood boiling.

    Enough to wish I'd given them bad directions.

  2. Anonymous10:04 am

    I agree completely as well. I also love maps - and to have 'geographic independence' is something I hold dear.
    Plonk me in the middle of any Melbourne suburb, and (providing there's some public transport and only a few youth gangs) I would be able to get home.

  3. Maps are lovely things; magically you can find your way around with them, which is a revelation to some people ;)

  4. And weirdly Marika, sometimes the wander off in the opposite direction to where you have pointed.

    I am not the only one he enjoys looking at maps then Reuben and Jayne.

  5. Anonymous3:09 pm

    I always send tourists in the opposite direction if they ask me for assistance. So much fun.

    And a lot of people can only find their way if they hold the map upside down. Why is that?

  6. Anonymous7:14 pm

    Why is that Anonymous?

    Well...presumably they'd be walking south.

  7. You probably send them the way they really need to go Anon. If I am not sure where north is, I hold the map in a different way.

  8. I love maps too, I always print maps and take them with me in the hope of not getting lost but sometimes still do.

    And the reason there was no sms seeking help was that you gave me such good directions the first time, I even marked the tram stops on the maps I printed out lol.

    Oh yes... there was one drunken sms lol (and that took me 10 minutes with one eye closed). Thinkin now I should have found out where you were having coffee instead of visiting that pub. Although I did meet a lovely boy in a kilt who showed me his bottom and even let me take a photo so I guess it was worth it.

  9. Lol Jo. Glad you enjoyed yourself. Scottish kilt in an Irish pub, interesting.