Thursday, 17 November 2011

Reading local communication as a newcomer

These type of signs are common in Calgary neighbourhoods. Yes, they are an eyesore but they do grab your attention and as a new resident in the city I have learned about sport sign ups and other events that I was very interested in. But as a former communications person, the sign that was displayed for the past few weeks had me thinking about how people communicate. The recent sign informed us that our garbage collection day was changing- obviously important. But it did not tell us the new collection day, for that we were directed to a website. Hmm, stating the new day would have taken fewer letters than the website address and the communication would have been complete. Just saying.

It started me thinking of how cities and people communicate generally. I think we tend to communicate from our perspective often and forget that the audience is not necessarily like us. When I moved to Calgary the first time, some 13 years ago I was often frustrated to see ads for events without a street address, as the communicators assumed everyone knew where that sky scraper was as they must have lived here during the long construction process. Communication had not quite kept pace with the fact that Calgary was growing quickly and had many new residents who had no idea where building XYZ was located.

I was happy to see an event advertised in the local paper this week that listed the street address of the centre where it is held, so I do not have to search that as a second step. Times have changed.

I am not picking on Calgary. I experienced the same thing in my smaller NB town.  People were always talking about the brown Irving- Irving being the gas station. My local gym said, oh yes a good 5km run is to the brown Irving and back. So out I headed, never did see the brown Irving, but did my run. It was a landmark that kept cropping up when people gave directions. I finally had to admit my stupidity and say I cannot find the brown Irving, having even looked with my car. Turns out the brown Irving had been closed for years and is now an empty brown building! But of course locals knew exactly where it had been.

On the phone one night I was giving directions and my husband noted when I hung up that I told the other person to turn at the "old Sobeys" which of course was no longer there. A sign I was feeling like a local.

Are there any quirky directions or communications that you use or have encountered that make you feel either like an outsider or a local?


  1. There's one local landmark in Munich called Karls platz, but the locals never call it that, (apparently Karl who named the place after himself was not a good guy) so the locals call it Stachus. It took me a month to figure out where this popular Stachus was only to realize it was the same place that I known as Karlsplatz

  2. It is a funny little quirk we all seem to have isn't it?