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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Rules Override British Road Etiquette

They say that husbands and wives eventually start to look like each other, but it seems that in a bicultural union you start assuming your partner's national characteristics.


When Miranda masterfully cuts into an opening in a Moscow traffic jam, or confidently dodges the bars on a railroad crossing when the red light is on, I start to wonder whether Vita will ever learn the rules of good driving.


Once, I must confess, I got a prize for good driving from a GAI officer, believe it or not, although it was 35 years ago. My grandmother and I were late getting to my kindergarten, located on the other side of Leningradsky Prospekt from where we lived.


As usual the traffic lights were slow to change and the crowd grew so fed up people started trying to dodge through the traffic. My grandmother tried to do the same, but quite unexpectedly I tugged her back and squealed, "No crossing on the red!"


A nearby GAI officer overheard and was so astonished that he reached into the trunk of his battered blue motorcycle sidecar and ceremoniously presented me with a flimsy copy of "Pravila Dorozhnovo Dvizheniya" ("Road Traffic Rules"). Though much embarrassed, my grandmother was as proud of me as I was of myself.


Many years and gears later on my first journalistic assignment in London, I was immensely impressed by the flashing yellow lights on the zebra crossing which gives pedestrians absolute priority -- an obsession which nearly killed me on my first day back in Moscow when I tried to use the zebra crossing in the same way the British do and found the practice not to my compatriots' liking.


But how do I explain road safety to Vita when in Moscow she is confronted with a green light that will not wait long enough for her -- or that old lady with the trolley -- to cross a six-lane street, and BMWs that drive on the sidewalks.


Nevertheless, I still wait for the green light when I'm out with her in the baby carriage: I want her to learn to keep her cool and do whatever is right no matter what others say or do.


I remember when Miranda, conscious of the 001 written on her car's license plates which marked her out as British, also deliberately drove politely, letting cars in and thanking other drivers -- mainly, admittedly, for the fun of seeing their astonishment. Now, she's abandoned that for an "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach: not a good example for Vita.


So while her mother honks at the Niva that is slow to start at the traffic lights and screams at taxi drivers who have cut in front of her, Vita has to turn to her father for the British influence.