I have always loved the song by U2 entitled Where the Streets Have No Name. It was performed on their album entitled the Joshua Tree.
In summer of 1986, I was driving in the deserts of the USA en route to Joshua Tree National Park i n southern California.
Only one year later, in 1987, as I listened to a recording of that tune by U2 called Where the Streets Have No Name, and I recalled my first west-coast trip through America's painted deserts and arches, I thought of one ghost town I had come across. Consequently, I thought that the song, Where the Streets Have No Name, likely alluded to America's many western roads which might have no known name to them and leading almost to nowhere.
Japan & East Asia
In 1992, I moved to Japan to teach and came to realize that most people in Japan did not really refer too often to most roads by names. In fact, rather than using street names to assist in mailing letters, a different sort of grid system of identifying a building's location were used--much like Google Maps use in providing directions using a global grid system.
In Tokyo, Kyoto and other cities, people get around on grids and usually travel by knowing grids or looking at grid maps of a city or town more often than looking for particular street names on a map. So, more than one of my American teaching colleagues referred to Japan as the place Where the Streets Have No Name. This using grids can also be used three-dimensionally to view the movement of people through tunnels and bridges connecting buildings with other buildings and structures.
Taiwan, the Koreas, China and other Asian regions also keep in mind three-dimensional grids rather than street names when moving large numbers of peoples and vehicles around.
Meanwhile, by the mid-1990s, I had moved to, worked in, traveled in, and studied in lands from Mexico south to Ecuador and Peru. In Nicaragua, I realized again that the American view of streets and street names was usually a foreign one. My rented location in Managua had the mailing address of "100 meters Southeast of the Old Cinema."
Let me note that the Old Cinema (referred to in my mailing address) had been torn down more than a decade earlier--yet the reference was still made to the Old Cinema as a ghostlike bus-stop for the same period. From the bus stop, the postman knew to take letters in various directions.
I lived in another location that was addressed for postal purposes as about "300 meters from the old Power Plant". This particular power plant had been replaced with a tiny converter or transformer station, but the name had stayed the same--even though everything--including the transformer--were surrounded by trees and overgrowth.
The important thing to comprehend is that people have maps in their heads for the places they live, so many seldom use a road name (or refer to a two-dimensional map) to comprehend where the borders or grids in their heads are at work. Meanwhile, American tourists traveling through these countries are looking in vain for street names on maps they have come across.
From Africa to the Middle East and on to Southeast Asia
My wife is from the Philippines and agrees that in her country, most people outside of Manila (and a few other locations in that 7100+ island archipelago) have maps in their head that simply relate to the relationship of one place to the other; i.e., rather than looking at street names as a final destination. For example, she notes, "We say it is round the corner from X. X is a building, not a street. We might say that from this building, we turn right and then left at the corner."
Corners are important and turning left or right, but street names are not so important to Filipinos in guiding themselves or visitors through their towns. This is because many streets don't have obvious names found anywhere. Perhaps there is a name of a street on a city or government map but none is posted in any helpful way in most locations.
This lack of posting signs is something I have observed in 9 of the 13 countries I have lived in (and taught in) around the world over the past 3-plus decades. (Since 1999, I have lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Taiwan, Kuwait, the UAE, Oman, and Germany. In the 1980s I lived in or worked in a few other European countries, like Spain, the UK, and France.)
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