Setting foot in a new country can be disorientating after a long flight (or two). Finding where to put your feet is another task altogether.
New Zealand, with Australia, is known as the Antipodes by those in the Northern Hemisphere. From the Greek anti (opposite) and podus (foot) we are the people living with our feet on the opposite side of the globe. In fact Plato used the term to refer to an upside-down world on the other side of the planet.
Any New Zealander heading to Europe has to quickly relearn the ‘right’ way of doing things. We’re used to the embarrassment of realising we’ve hopped into the driver’s seat of the taxi or stopped the flow of traffic on the escalator by standing on the left, not the right.
But I was horrified to see a bus coming towards us on our first day in Helsinki with the driver totally distracted. Until Jonny pointed out it wasn’t the driver I was looking at but a passenger, standing in the front of the bus searching for their wallet.
Although everyone speaks English here, all the signs are in Finnish or Swedish. To my untrained eye they look like all the leftover letters from a game of hang-man. No amount of squinting will tell me if vetää means push or pull as I fumble with the door while people wait behind me.
This disorientation is a good feeling though as it reminds me we are in a different place; that things that seem so strange now one day become second nature.
We’ll just know to weigh and price our fruit before getting to the supermarket counter and not to wander onto a cycle path without looking.
We may have come from the other side of the planet but it won’t be long before we have our feet the right way up in our new home.