Every time I drive in Korea, I morph into my alter ego. It’s one that only comes out when I drive. It gives me special powers. I notice everything, I’m hyper alert, extra vigilant and have a serious anger issue. I can’t help it, it’s my alter ego and dissipates when I get out of the car.
After just two months of daily driving in Korea I have learned the following;
1. Anything goes; You can just about do anything while driving here. Ah late for work. It’s ok, I’ll put on my make up while driving. I’ll talk on my phone, while driving. I’ll watch that t.v. drama I missed last night…..while driving. So while I’m sitting like a loser, just driving, my fellow drivers are doing whatever it is that they feel like doing.
2. There are no rules; There are no rules here, merely suggestions. What are those strange lights I see? Must be a suggestion to stop and go. Red light? I’m in a rush, just as well it’s a suggestion to stop or I’d be in some serious trouble. Green light? I was going to drive on anyway so this is a bit of a waste of electricity. And that orange like must mean go a little faster through this junction.
The white lines on the road are also just mere decorations to keep some poor soul busy. They definitely don’t guide the car along the correct path when turning left. No, no.You should ignore the white decorations when turning left and instead drive as close to the car on the side to which your turning as possible. This might scare that driver, but its ok, keeps them on their toes. Every man for himself, surely they know this?
And those white lines that seem to divide the road into lanes are sort of useless. Waste of taxpayers money really. Drivers should feel comfortable driving as close to the white line as possible and score extra points if they drive on the line.
Let’s talk about those random numberS that we seem to see marked all over the road. 60? 70? what????? What’s going on here? Surely a mere suggestion that that is the minimum speed at which I should drive? Don’t these people know that I have somewhere to be and to be an efficient Korean, I should strive to get there as fast as possible.
3. Indicators are not necessary and possibly come as some random extra in Korea cars; Thankfully my car comes with indicators so I feel it necessary to show my wealth by using them all the time. However, it seems like all Korean drivers are not fortunate enough to have them. So I’ve learned that to make all road users feel equal, we should not use our indicators and that’s it’s perfectly fine to just cut in front of other cars, over 2 or 3 lanes, whenever you feel the need. It’s also ok to cut in between two cars where there isn’t really a space for a car. It’s ok, no problem! The mind reader in the car behind you will see your move coming and adjust their speed accordingly. Anyone who actually uses their indicators is just showing off. In my case, it’s ok because I’m foreign.
4. There is always something blocking the way; If you’re unfortunate enough to be driving in the Paju/ Ilsan area, the chances are the foreigner driving the yellow car is blocking your progress. If not, then it’s those damn pedestrians strolling across the street. Don’t they know that we all have somewhere to be?????? GET OFF THE ROAD!!!!!!! Other times its other drivers. Just because their light is green……….they think they’re all that……………
5. You can stop and park anywhere; It’s a true story. In Korea, it’s perfectly fine to take over 2 spaces, park in front of other cars (they’ll call me if they need to get out). In fact, you can stop anywhere to pick up passangers or drop them off. Busy intersection? It’s ok, I’ll just stop for 30 seconds to pick up my friend. The mind readers behind me already know what I’m doing, no need for any warning.
My alter ego, I feel, is just having problems adjusting to the sheer brilliance and uniqueness of Korean driving. I’m sure in a few more months, my alter ego and Maggie ( my GPS) will be calmly bombing around Paju.
While we’re on the subject of GPS systems, let’s talk about mine. Her name is Maggie and to say that our relationship is tumultuous, would be an understatement. She’s always so calm. ” In 300 metres, turn right”. Ok first, how far is 300 metres???? There are about 12 right turns in the next 2 minutes of driving, which one is it????????????? I can’t afford to take my eyes off the road because the great drivers all around me may make a move that I’m trying to anticipate. So I usually take the wrong turn. Then Maggie makes me feel all kinds of stupid by saying ” re calculating”. Re calculate all you like. Next time, be more specific. Something like “After the Home Plus, turn right” There I would get places faster.
But it’s ok. Now I drive minus Maggie for the common routes (school, emart, etc) and try to actually listen to her and occasionally glance in her direction for the routes I don’t know.
In one word, I would describe my experience of driving in Korea……………………entertaining.