A Culture known by the Taxi it keeps

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“There used to be a strong belief that if you wanted to know what was really going on in a country, the best thing to do was to go there and ask a taxi driver" - Michael Korda. 

A little twist in the above quotation and I came up with my own quote which would read : “The best way to know about the culture of a country is to observe the taxis of that country”.

I am not a millionaire with loads of money to travel to these countries and arrive at the above conclusion. My hobby of collecting Die-Cast cars with Taxis as a theme helped me to have an “Arm Chair” view of the world and make statements like what the late Anthony Bourdain (American celebrity chef, author and international travel documentarian) would have.

We have always looked at citizens of these countries and made certain stereotypical comments like,

“As efficient as a ……….”,

“As colourful as a …….” or

“As God fearing as a……” etc.

In this article, I am going to make certain stereotypical comments about countries but this time by looking at the Taxis of these countries or should I say - by looking at the diecast taxi models.


Travelling in groups i.e. sharing personal space

Let’s look at this taxi model from Turkey :

Now the word “dolmus” actually in Turkish means “seemingly stuffed”. These are shared cabs where people share space and these ply between two fixed points in the cities.

The same phenomenon of sharing space with others in the same vehicle is seen in the “Bush Taxis” of Africa. These taxis are common in many African countries like Senegal, Guinea, Angola and other sub-Saharan countries. They are also called taxi-brousse. There are all types of transport that’s between a private car & a full-fledged bus service.

A model given below is a sample of a typical "Bush taxi".Can you ever imagine such a taxi in France, Germany or Canada or USA?

Sharing space is a not very common in the West and possibly the more developed economies.


The importance of visiblity & status

I looked at the two taxis namely the Jeepney from Manila and the taxi from Frankfurt or Sweden and it did not take me much time to understand the difference between these two cultures.

The taxis from Germany and Sweden are very functional with plain looking colours which can be described as plain, boring and very functional. But you look at a “Jeepney” from Manila with its bright colours and you will realize how different these two cultures are.

In Germany & Sweden more importance is given to functionality whereas in Eastern societies, colour, decorations, pomp & show are important and they give the driver of these taxi’s status & visibility - important in these cultures.


The importance of "GOD"

Transport & GOD have a very close connection and this can be seen in Taxi’s too.

There are societies where GOD and religion play an integral part of a person’s life and this is reflected in the taxis on the streets. The drivers of these taxis acknowledge the importance of the Almighty in their success and safety. A look at these two taxis will highlight what I mean. The taxi from DAKAR in Senegal has the word “Alhamdoulilahi” meaning praise be to Allah written on it thus thanking the almighty for his blessings.

Have a look at this taxi from Barnako in Mali (West Africa),you can see the word “DIEU MERCI” meaning “Thank God”. The taxi driver is thanking GOD for providing him a livelihood and also thanking the almighty for his safety & safety of the passengers.

I am sure these few examples will surely make you look at Taxis in a different light. The next time you travel to any country in the world, you will sample the culture of

that place not only through its cuisine and the dress its denizens wear but also through its TAXI...