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There is a question about mirrors on Japanese taxi's. My initial respons was that this is unrelated to traveling, however on second thought only travelers would ask such a question. I guess no resident of Japan would even notice. On meta level how does this japanese taxi question differ from the question on separate hot and cold taps in ireland or a german vomitorium.

I would propose to welcome these curiosity type questions on the basis that only travelers would come up with these questions. We might even make a tag "curiosity".

3 Answers 3

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I am in favor of curiosity questions. Whether they are directly about travelling (such as why do planes have this or that, why do passports expire, etc.) or they are about an observation while travelling (such as the mirrors question, etc.)

My reasoning behind this is simple, seeing different things than what we are used to at home is a part of travelling, knowing why is indeed important to many travelers, regardless of the curiosity topic, whether it is about mirrors in Japan or spitting in China. Plus, these things can be good puzzles for our grandchildren one day :)

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I mentioned my concern earlier on the Japanese Taxi question linked in your question as well. I feel that identifying things and being curious about them is as much a part of traveling as obtaining visas or gathering information about routes or places to visit.

Just as we deem correct to answer questions as long as they are specific about certain places and have conclusive, for instance an identification or a specific route, we tend to notice certain specific oddities as well. These oddities may or may not be fairly de facto in that part of the world but they still intrigue us, simply because we are not used to them being a part of our lives.

Let's take some examples which I would have seen on this site earlier:

  • Our topmost questions are about toilets which albeit are useful to travelers I would largely place them underneath oddities and curiosities which are fairly common in one region of this planet

  • Question on passenger being asked to lift window shades

  • Exotic foods in certain regions

  • Culture related questions such as Hijab in the Middle East or Vodka in Russia

  • Having tomato juice as a drink

One might argue that drinking juice or using a toilet has nothing to do with traveling the same way we argued over the Japanese car mirrors question. It's just that sometimes we choose to ignore these premonitions due to the fact that we feel that the question intrigues us as well or simply because we feel that they are more related to traveling.

I personally love being curious and according to me curiosity is a big part of traveling because it helps us discover the culture in a region and how it developed. Without an answer to such questions, I don't think the culture of any location can be fully covered.

Just as an example, if I ask "Why does Dubrovnik in Croatia have orange rooftops?" would it be considered off-topic?

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I did not vote either way on the mirror question, but I think there is a fine line on why questions. Most people interested in travel have an interest in observing differences from place to place, culture to culture. But questions on SE are supposed to pose problems in search of a solution. Otherwise, it would not take much for the site to be burdened with trivia about practices someone somewhere finds somehow unusual.

The measure of relevance, in my opinion, should be whether a traveler would use the information to have a richer, safer, easier travel experience.

For example, visitors to London will almost certainly use the Tube. The UK being a right-hand drive country, I expected people to stand on the left on escalators in the Underground— the opposite of the US. But they stood on the right, which put me off beat for a moment, and earned me a scowl or two. I thus find

to be valuable. In contrast, I don't see any value in

I would guess the answer is a marketing agreement between Time Warner and the companies that provide hotel television systems, but that is besides the point. What is the problem being solved? How does knowing why hotel TVs are tuned to HLN improve the traveler's experience? What valuable cultural insight is gained? It's trivia, not information.

As a community-driven process, the drawing of the line will be uneven in places, because the demographics of an English-language SE site will skew differently from those of travelers in general, much less the world population. But that is why I am skeptical of such questions to begin with. The most politically and culturally neutral way to respond to why is why not? Why aren't rear view mirrors in the West aren't set down the hood to minimize the blind spots?

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  • I follow your line of reasoning. The problem is that it is difficult to - as you say - draw a line here. Lets hypothetically! argue that the fender mirror is for passengers to use to safely get out. If not used you are liable for damage (again this is purely hypothetical). In that case it is good to know. I would argue that the drawing of the line would be guided by up-and-down votes and not so much by close votes
    – user141
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 16:35
  • It seems to me that the entire factoid tag could be called trivia idk..
    – neubert
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 16:36
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    @andra I think how the question is couched can make a difference, and that is not just limited to why questions. How many stairs are there to the top of the Eiffel Tower? is trivia, but How long would it take an adult to climb the stairs to the top of the Eiffel Tower is reasonable. So if you can demonstrate some kind of traveler need that would be fulfilled by an answer to the question, more would be inclined to keep it open. As to downvoting versus closing, I think the question applies across SE sites. I rarely downvote questions, but often closevote them, and I'm not the only one.
    – choster
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 16:48

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