Navigating numerically in London
(Via Le Courrier International) In this New Statesman article, journalist Dollan Cannell explains how chinese immigrants manage to navigate through london without knowing how to speak english (and hence being unable to memorize english street/landmark names):
here is a new class of Londoners, however, who navigate numerically. They live at 419 and work at 36. They meet friends at the end of 2, or lovers by 77. London's unofficial new geography derives from its buses. (...) Chinese immigrants brought to London by people smugglers, and they all use this method to find their way around. (...) Buses are their northern star: they need only identify which Mandarin characters correspond to 0 to 9 and the message displayed above the bus driver begins to make sense. When a new arrival is first taken by a contact to the flat he will share with a dozen others he is told the number of the nearest bus route. One thing he must be careful about is the direction a bus is travelling in, and for this his best guide can be trial and error. If he travels for a long time without seeing things he knows, he must alight and try the other direction. In this way most new immigrants build up a repertoire of routes.
When they talked to us, many identified locations that could easily be given names using a bus map and an A-Z.
Why do I blog this? because of my interest towards spatiality and cognition (my research), this story is a relevant anecdote about how human beings use tricks to navigate in space.