Harmonised world?

The anti-globalisation people complain about the power and influence of multinationals. They also bemoan the fact that the same products can be bought anywhere in the world.

Having moved around said globe a little, I can say that in many ways our world is not harmonised at all. Never mind language and culture, national governments and tax systems, what about the world of electrical plugs and sockets?

When I left Ascot for Istanbul in 1996 I think I took one or two electrical devices and bought an adaptor at Terminal One. Turkey uses the continental Europe ‘two fat pin’ system. By 1998 we moved to Italy; we had no more than five appliances, and of course they would work in Lesmo, being in continental Europe. 

I cannot remember the exact details of the Italian plugs and sockets, but things became complicated. We had certainly two and possibly three socket types. This involved two and three pins of different spacing between the pins. Isn’t Italy in continental Europe? We were fortunate to have Il Gigante nearby, a hypermarket. We quickly found that some of our Turkish appliances needed new plugs. We also acquired more appliances. We often bought the wrong plug feeling frustrated in as the three pin plug was slightly too small or big. (‘How can this be’?). I remember spending hours with pieces of paper in front of the electrical shelves.

Onto Madrid, which has the ‘two fat pin’ system; more pliers, re-plugging; the Italian plugs were no longer useful. Our friends from Rome came and we gave them a big box of Italian plugs, adapters and extension cables. We learnt that this is a gift an Italian family will treasure.

In 2004 Sydney was the next stop. Australia has a kind of diagonal, small, three-pin system. More pliers and re-plugging. We also used a lot of Europe to Australia adapters, made by Korjo. We bought a serious amount of white goods from Bing Lee and Harvey Norman. At this stage I was convinced that I wouldn’t do any more plug-related activity.

In 2007, we moved to the UK, with its three-pin rectangular plugs. This necessitated the purchase of Australia to UK adapters and UK plugs from B&Q. A two-year stay in France in 2009-10 led to yet more adapters, plugs (‘two fat pin’), extension cables and trips to DIY stores. Now back in the UK, I have UK plugs, a box is Aussie-related stuff (you never know) and one green Fuji multi-country adapter.

I was once cutting the grass in Kings Langley. It involved a ‘two fat pin’ to UK adapter in the socket, a French extension cable, an adapter from ‘two fat pin’ back to UK for the mower. It’s my own fault.

So, I say bring on globalisation and harmonisation. 

Andrew Knowlman

I am a 50-year old father of two children, married to Jane. I live in Hertfordshire, UK. I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in April 2015.

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