Driving behaviors are indeed known as being quite different form country to country, and sometimes even between cities in these same country. Here in Portugal, driving is pretty fun actually, or maybe unexpected is the more correct word to use. In any case, the traffic here is bound to make you more attentive as a driver.
The drivers use their direction indicators, left and right. That is, literally left and right. The car in front of you can indicate left and go left, or not. More often not to be honest. Which of course gives a false sense of security. Just when you are adapting to the left not meaning anything, a car that has been signaling left for a longer while suddenly goes left. Or it could not indicate anything and go left anyway. And this applies anywhere, on the highway, in small streets, in a roundabout, everywhere. You are culturally adapted when using the indicators as you wish. Or not. In either case, you learn to be very attentive to movement.
It’s also ok to park kind of anywhere in Portugal. There are many signs for where to park and even more indicating where not to park, but it’s like they don’t apply. Or possibly that they do apply, but only to those who want to adhere. For the rest of us, we can just go ahead and park. Cause you can always choose to go all the way up to let’s say the store you want to go to and park on a semi-pedestrian street, in the wrong direction or in an x marked zone, whilst doing this holding up traffic behind you and thus creating more traffic jams. Easy, park where you want. Alternatively, legally, you choose an actual parking space, which will be very well marked in street and signs. Mind you though, you will have to pay for the parking and you will have to walk a bit to reach your desired destination. Whichever is your thing, it’s a very efficient way of making you feel inside or outside of the culture, are you attentive to following parking regulations or not? Are you out or are you in relatively?
Being a biker in Portugal is virtually unheard of, unless it’s a triathlon. But going by bike as transportation just doesn’t happen, and you are looked at strangely if you attempt it. On the positive side it means that as a car driver you don’t have to be attentive to bikers. That helps. But going against the stream and actually biking is a potential life risk. When the cars do see you, they are overly attentive, and nearly drive slowly behind you, not passing till the road is actually free from any traffic at all, no matter the distance, not taking any risks. More often though, the car drivers are not even looking at the area closest to the curb, or closest to them, even when slowing down at a crossing, you can see how they are just looking into the curve, far ahead for cars and trucks, but not into the nearest area for slower means of transportation.
The same actually goes for walking. Which you incidentally most often do in the actual streets, as walkways are either very narrow or sometimes just marked by a line or a different sort of stone. Nice looking, yes, efficient, well… It really doesn’t matter though because people rarely walk, if not on the boardwalk by the beach, which is recreational rather than meant for transport. And again, if you do walk, the same reasoning as with biking arises, it’s on your own risk. As a driver, again, you really don’t have to worry too much and be overly attentive to pedestrians, till you hit one.
It may be more likely though to actually hit another car, cause it’s kind of ok to just stop for a while whenever you feel like it. Maybe you need to answer the phone (talking hand held is forbidden by law), look at instructions, look at something by the side of the road, and when you do, you just stop, maybe moving a bit closer to the curb, but in any case not enough to give the possibility for two cars to pass in opposite directions. Needless to say, no indicator signal will alert the driver behind on what is about to happen. The car in front of you simply slows down or stops. Again, a reason to keep attentive.
It’s an interesting thought whether these aspects of local traffic really are indicators of culture. If so, what would these behaviors indicate? A culture in which each person moves on his own command and direction not thinking too much of how it affects others, whilst at the same time being quite alert and attentive to how others behave in order to avoid own loss? Well, if so it may not be all that off as an observation.