I went out with some very good friends while in Anchorage, post orientation. Our discussion led to a certain restaurant in town which one of us knew. Since culture and the way we communicate was on the front of my brain I noticed how differently we located this restaurant. Now, I am very familiar with Anchorage as it has been my re-supply town for many years now and I have had to attend all manner of conferences, training events, and meetings there. My friends are equally familiar as they live there. But we don't locate ourselves by the same type of landmarks.
All of my references were to trail heads, parks, the ocean, and creek accesses where as theirs were all street names and malls. When I described to them where something was they would respond by saying "oh, near the intersection of Street X and Street Y?" and I would look at them confusedly because I never noticed the street names there, instead I noticed the creek that went under the bridge and the beaver dam that you can see from it. Clearly the things that I key in on and are important to me are not the same as theirs. Perhaps this keying in on these non-human made signposts explains why I tend to be more disoriented in urban areas then in the woods. Throw me in any patch of wilderness and set me off in a direction and then at the end of the day tell me to return back to the beginning spot and I will do it unerringly. Do the same thing in an urban area and I will generally go in circles for awhile.