A tale of the long wait…..swapping a foreign licence for an Irish one

No more driving the road hoping not to get stopped, I finally have an Irish driving licence! It only took 7 week and a lot of stress but it’s finally here. Here is all you need to know about swapping a foreign licence over to an Irish one.

What do I need to do?

  1. You need to make sure that your country has an agreement with Ireland. You can check on the NDLS wesbite, https://www.ndls.ie/holders-of-foreign-licences.html#holders-of-licences-issued-by-recognised-states
  2. Go to the embassy of that country and get a translation. This cost me 3 euro in the South Korean embassy in Dublin. It was a painless process that just involved showing my Korean license, filling out some forms, presenting my i.d. and I had it within 20 minutes.
  3. Go for an eyesight exam. Print the eye test page from the NDLS website, take it along with you and get your eyes tested. Then get it signed and stamped. As a student, this cost me 20 euro. * Be aware that in some towns, it can take 2 weeks to get an eye test.
  4. Fill out the application form. You can find this on the NDLS website.
  5.  Gather the following documents Passport, Birth certificate, bank statement, Public Services card. This covers the requirements to prove photographic identity, evidence of residency, evidence of address and evidence of PPSN. You can find the acceptable forms of documents here, https://www.ndls.ie/images/Documents/DrivingLicence/driver-licensing-in-ireland-a-guide.pdf
  6. Go to the nearest NDLS centre and hand in these documents. It is advisable to book an appointment online to avoid long delays. The payment fee is 55 euro.
  7. In the case of people swapping a South Korean driving licence you need to decide if you wish to keep the D categories on your licence. If you do, you need to print the medical check forms and complete that. If you don’t, you need to fill out the Surrender forms. You can find this on the NDLS website.

My story:

I applied for my Irish licence on the 4th September. I walked in off the street with everything you could possibly need and sat with the lady. She had never swapped over a South Korean one and was thoroughly confused by the entire thing. She rang everyone and their neighbour and even though I had all the required documents, it took 2 hours to complete the application!!!! I didn’t mind too much as she kept apologising. She warned me that it would probably be sent back as she really didn’t know what to include with the application and she gave me a number to call in three weeks to check up on the progress.

Almost 3 weeks later, I receive an email from NDLS stating that their was an issue and could I possibly send on the original translation from the embassy. Understandable. As it was my only copy, I sent it by registered post which added a cost of 6 euro to the bill. I thought this was the only issue and expected my licence in a week or two.

Two weeks later, I receive another email from NDLS asking if I want to keep the D categories on my licence. If I do, then I need to get a medical check. If I don’t I need to fill out the surrender form. By this stage, I had had enough. It was a vicious cycle of no one knowing anything. So I called them to voice my opinions. It takes about 5 minutes to be connected while they go through every option under the sun. Then I was put through to a lady and I explained the situation. Was it too much to be told of all the issues in the one go? I don’t have the time or money to be filling out and posting additional forms. She was not at all sympathetic so I decided to write a complaint via their website but surprise surprise, I still haven’t received a reply.

I had no choice but to send the surrender form and finally today, after 7 weeks of waiting and 85 euro out of my pocket, I have the licence!!!!!

My tips:

  1. Don’t be in a rush for it because this is a long process.
  2. Don’t expect people to know what their doing, because clearly they don’t.
  3. Be ready to send on additional forms.
  4. Send the original of the embassy form but keep a copy yourself.
  5. Walk in off the street at a random time and you might be lucky enough to find a space. It worked for me even though I had been told that there weren’t spaces for 2 weeks.

Feel free to comment on your experiences or ask any questions!

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Selling your car in Korea- all you need to know.

It’s all well and good to find a buyer for your car, but where do you actually go to transfer ownership and so on? That’s what I asked also. After some research, I found that if you live in Goyang (like me), you go to the Goyang Car Registration centre, here.

What this website doesn’t tell you is what you actually need going along with you. First, you need to visit the centre with the person you’re selling to.

The seller needs;

  • Alien Registration Card
  • Registration of the vehicle. You got this with the car.

The buyer needs;

  • Proof of insurance for the car.
  • Alien Registration Card.

In Goyang, there is not one word of English to help you on your way. So, just do your best at the information desk and the lady should present you with these two documents;

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Fill them out ( yes, they’re in Korean). I think one is a sale document and one is transfer of ownership.  Top section is the sellers information and the bottom is buyer’s information. Then there’s a bit about the car information.

Then get 3,000won and walk to the bank and get this;

11720583_10153005068818016_429922831_nTake a number and wait your turn.

When you get seen to, they will check the car for outstanding fines. Unfortunately for me I had a few. You MUST pay them before you can proceed.

When everything is clear, you simply show these documents and the ones listed above and it’s done. The new owner will get a new registration form that has the car in their name.

I recommend you bring a Korean speaker with you in case you have fines to pay. We had to call so many people to find out how much the fines were and the bank account to pay the money into. Nobody at these places spoke English.

I also recommend you get the number the second you walk in the door. We originally had number 75 and they were only on 43 or something like that. Fortunately, some old guy gave us his number because we were foreign.

You need to check where to do this in your area. My coteacher told me it was city hall and when we called them they said that Goyang had its own car centre. Other areas like Seoul may have different places so be sure to get someone to call and find out.

Overall, after the fines were paid, the whole thing was really easy. If you have any questions, just let me know!

Emart Town- Ilsan

When regular Emart combines with Emart Traders, Emart Town is the result. On June 18th, one opened beside Kintex and my coteachers came back with stories of how brilliant it was.  I headed along myself to see what all the fuss was about.

Where is it?

This Emart town is in Daewha, Ilsan. It’s next to KINTEX. Honestly, unless you have a car, it can be a bit difficult. It is on the road opposite Hyundai Department Store. It’s very well signposted. If you want to go but don’t have a car, simply get out at Daewha station and get a taxi to Emart Town. It’ll be a 5 minute or so drive.

I believe the 062 bus stops there but cannot be certain.

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What can I buy there?

Everything! There is an Emart, an Emart Traders (for Costco style shopping), restaurants, a hairdressers, beauty shops, a pet store, an Electro Mart and possibly many that I’ve forgotten.

I went to the Traders section and was over whelmed by the sheer quantity of products available. I spent about an hour picking up my things but I could easily spend an entire day there.

Random Tip- The green trolleys are for the Traders section and the yellow trolleys are for the regular Emart.

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Do I need a membership card or special credit card?

No. The best thing about Emart Town is that you don’t need to be a member at all. You can pay in cash or by card. If you have an Emart points card, you can use it but if you don’t, no problem.

Worth a visit?

Definitely. There are a few things that make it a better shopping experience than Costco;

  1. The place is HUGE so while there are a lot of people, it doesn’t feel like that.
  2. No membership card needed.
  3. Great range of food. In my opinion, better than Costco.
  4. It has a regular Emart so if you don’t want 5 million of something, you can buy it there.

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Staycationing for Chuseok.

My friend and I have just bought tickets home for Christmas. Our other friend is leaving Korea soon. Combine this with expensive plane tickets, sold out KTX tickets and lots of traffic on the roads and a staycation really was our only option. Not that we were complaining. Doing and seeing all the tourist sites in Paju was on my to do list for a while and this was the perfect opportunity.

Of all the places to find expensive hotels, Paju wouldn’t have been top of my list but at 300,000won for a large room for the night, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Of course this was the VVIP room complete with jacuzzi and sauna and all the rest. After visiting a hotel called Vom, where rooms came complete with poles and the staff couldn’t understand why we didn’t want it for “short time”, we settled on the more affordable and normal “Great funny hotel bus”. I’m not making that name up. That’s really what it was called. Points deducted for the fact that there actually was no bus there but added for the fact that there was a circle bed, the room was huge and it was cheap.

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Next we found ourselves in Heyri. For the day before Chuseok, it was filled with young couples, families and groups generally having a great time. This is somewhere you could spend the entire day, but instead we found ourselves seeking shelter from the unforgiving sun and what better was to do that than to paint some cups and plates.

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cup

 Thursday morning, we were on a mission. Some real sight-seeing was going to happen today. Off we set in the trusty Spuddy.

spuddy

First stop, Provence. Provence is a themed village with the most colourful buildings and the cutest shops. It also houses a famous bakery by Ryoo Jae Eun, where we ate breakfast and with rude staff and middling food, it was a little disappointing. Although most places were closed for Chuseok, there were several large tourist buses there and it was a nice way to spend the morning.

bakery

provense

While looking for the standing Buddhas and navigating some serious Chuseok traffic, we found ourselves at Paju Samneung or the Three Royal Tombs of Paju. These have been a UNESCO world heritage site since 2009 and somewhere I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time. The entrance was free for Chuseok (usually 1,000won). There is a little museum on the way in but everything is in Korean so we didn’t spend too long there.

The tombs , from the Joseon dynasty, Gongneung, Sulleung and Yeongneung hold the bodies of 4 royal members. You can get an information booklet in English at the gate and the grounds are incredibly well-kept. We must have spent over an hour here although in cooler weather, it would be possible to spend an entire afternoon exploring the vast grounds.

tomb 2 tomb

The Standing Buddhas were next. I was super impressed by these since I didn’t even know of their existence up to a few months ago. You can see the tops of the Buddhas long before you get to them.  The legend of the Buddhas is super cool and the temple and surrounding area is also very beautiful and peaceful.

buddhas

buddhas legend

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Not too far from the Buddhas are other smaller tombs which we explored. Public transport to all these areas is possible with careful planning but ideally, one would have a car. Staycationing was definitely one of the best things I’ve done for Chuseok. We were able to get away but not go so far away that we need a holiday from our holiday.  I’m planning to do a more in depth blog on each of the sites we visited once I get my camera to work properly and have my own photos.

*All photos were from Pratishka Ruthun. Her blog can be found here; http://koreantimes25.blogspot.kr/

A day in the life of Shauna.

The alarm rings and I turn it off. The next alarm rings and I do the same. Five alarms later, I decide to get up. It’s 7.30am and the start of a whole new day. I’m up and ready, eating my breakfast by 8ish. I spend the next 30 minutes watching whatever English programme happens to be on tv at that time of the morning.  These days it’s usually Poirot or Miss. Marple. At what is supposed to be 8.30am but in reality is 8.40am , I leave my apartment and head to school. The journey takes just 20 minutes in my car, Spuddy.

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Classes start at 10.10am but the teachers are all there for 9am. I use this time to prep for the day but mostly I use it to think of little games we can play at the beginning of class.  Classes in my school are only 25 minutes long so I try to play one game with each class before doing book work. The curriculum is made for me so I know what I have to do in each class.   It’s also a good time to say hello to the children and since there’s always a drama at school, I can hear all about it during this time. I teach children from Korean age 4 to Korean age 7.  Let me describe to you the sounds you hear from the staff room in the morning.  Imagine a child still using their outdoor voice and multiply this by 50. Then throw in a crying child and two fighting children and you have a good idea of the chaos here in the morning time. To be fair, once we get over the initial “I’m at school again” shock and excitement, they calm down.

The day goes from 10.10am first class to 2.30pm all classes over. Then there’s a special 40 minute class from 2.40pm to 3.20pm and then desk warming until 5pm. My school isn’t an English kindergarten it’s a Korean one so the children all speak Korean except to me where I make them speak English. If there’s ever a way to improve your Korean, it’s work at a school like this.  I’ll never forget the first few months I worked here. My Korean was pretty basic so when a child asked me to go to the bathroom, I would have no idea what they said and would spend a long while looking them up and down trying to decide from their general posture what the matter was! Like all things in Korea, it was a learning experience.  They learned to use hand signals and I learned how to speak better Korean. With the exception of 3 teachers, the majority of teachers here don’t speak English so if I want to report an incident in the classroom or talk about a student, it’s done in Korean or Konglish.

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Since this is a day in the life, lets take my Monday. Class schedule looks like this; 7yr, Free, 6yr, 6yr, Lunch, 5yr, 4yr, Free, Special Class.

The seven-year olds are a great class to start with. We talk about the weekend, we do some book work and then they play a quiz game similar to hangman where they have to guess the letters. These days they’re actually getting really good at guessing the words. I’ve had to turn those words into sentences and today they got the sentence ‘ I had a banana and bread for breakfast” before their lives ran out.  The class is brilliant. They make up their own English and speak to each other in this unique language “Robin, this eat no don’t do that not so good” Great effort and great use of all the key sentences I use.  The class leader also disciplines them and I love to watch how the whole thing works.

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Sixes are a different story. Some of them have never learned English and some of them have not only been learning English since they were 4 but they have home tutors.  This makes for an interesting class, every class.  The dynamic is often fragile as the faster students pick on the slower ones. I start all their classes with a game that involves easy vocabulary like colours or animals to level the playing field but sometimes that doesn’t work. Today we’re talking colours and one (there’s always one) says dinosaur.  The game is over. Book time and yes there is one for everyone in the audience ( I really do say that). Best thing about sixes is that they aren’t afraid to give themselves praise.  They spend the class pointing to their work going “teacher, good job, good job”(not a question, a statement)

Lunch on a Monday is the calm before the storm. The five and four-year old classes on a Monday are the worst. The fives are so unpredictable. I never know what they’ll be like. I try singing and they look at me like I’m crazy. I try a game but they don’t get it so I go straight to book and they don’t want to do that either. So it’s a terrible waste of a class.

class

Awful, shocking and now to finish the day on a low note is the four-year olds. Of the three 4-year-old classes in my school, these are the worst. The first 6 weeks, they spent every English class crying hysterically when I entered the room. I didn’t even say anything. Now it’s May and only one of them hysterically cries. He gets so upset that he’s not only crying but sobbing uncontrollably to the point of almost vomiting.  These days he’s taken out before I arrive which calms things somewhat. The other students have been bribed to not cry by the homeroom teacher. So finally the class begins. By this time it’s 1.30pm and these poor little children are so tired. We sing a song and they don’t react in any way. So we sing it again, with a little more enthusiasm and only one joins in. Enough with that, I take out the book we’re supposed to be “reading”. Except by reading , I mean looking at the pictures and learning single words and making appropriate noises. So, the frog goes rweeebbuddd and I jump up and down, which also gets no reaction. The same goes for the elephant, the cat, the snake and the fish. One child has fallen asleep. One is engrossed in the contents of her nose and the other is just staring into space.

Snack time followed by special class.  Special class today is for the 7 year olds and I only have two. We turn on the computer and the material we’re using have a special programme of interactive activities. That’s how they spend the first 15 minutes. Then t’s book time.  The book is pretty difficult for students who don’t learn English all day so it’s a slow process. Today, I want to jump out the window. The activity is a comparison of the two stories and they have to tell me the differences. Except they don’t see any so I try to hold back the frustration. Eventually, we find 3 differences and manage to write them down correctly so it’s not a completely wasted effort after all.

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The final hour of the day is spent chillaxing in the English room (above).  The children have all gone home so I take in the rare moment of silence.  This is when the weekly report gets done or any preparation is completed. But usually I catch up on whats happening around the world.

For your entertainment, this is what happens on the first day of term when no students show up to class…..https://www.facebook.com/540988015/timeline/2013#!/photo.php?v=10151324946708016

This blog is dedicated to Brian Healy and Edel Feely. The coolest followers I have. Thanks guys and keep the suggestions coming!

Let me tell you a story……

Back in the day when I lived in Ireland, I had a driver’s license and a car. I would bomb all over Ireland in that great car (which has since passed away). This is the car, Suzy. Apologies for the fact that she’s sideways.

Suzy

In the 3 years, I was driving in Ireland, I only got breathilised once.  And what a great adventure that was.

It was a Friday night and my sister, Kathryn (I have 2 sisters) and I were returning from a Chinese in Nenagh.  We were driving the home car.  At the time, I’m pretty sure Suzy the Suzuki wasn’t yet on the scene.  It was a really quiet night and there were hardly any other cars on the road.  We were almost out of the town when we saw the flashing lights and realised that we were going to be stopped at the checkpoint.

Normally, this would freak people out but for me it was the first checkpoint of any sort since I got my full license so I was pretty excited.  We drive up to the Garda, roll down the window and after the usual small talk (where are you going, what are you doing here etc) she asked if she could test my breath for alcohol.  By this time, I was so happy that it was really happening that I replied “NNNNNNNOOOOOOOOO problem”  The Garda looked at us and said ” I thought you were saying no. I’m just out of Templemore*, I wouldn’t have known what to do”. When I stopped laughing at this she gave me the instructions,

1. Blow into the bag

2. Stop when you hear the beep

It was that simple.  Not knowing how long it would be until the beep, I took a deep breath and blew into the bag. However, after about 2 seconds I heard a beep so I stopped.  It was more of a puff than a breath really but a beep is a beep.  At this stage, I’m pretty sure the Garda thought there was something wrong with me (possibly I had been drinking????) So she had to change the bag and then gave me the second set of instructions,

1. Blow into the bag

2. Stop when you hear the big beep.

If she had said that the first time, there wouldn’t have been any problem to start with.  So, once again I blew into the bag.  Except this time I almost ran out of breath listening carefully for the damn beep that eventually came.  I passed (surprise) and so we went on our way back to Ballybrowne.  That was the last time I was breathalised until………..a month ago.

Skip 5 years to my driving in Korea.  I’ve had my car (Spuddy) since November. In the last 4 weeks, I’ve been breath tested 3 times. That’s twice more than in my 3 years driving in Ireland. But the whole experience here is a little bit of a let down compared to the adventure in Ireland.  My first breath test here was driving home from Ilsan.  At first, I thought it was an accident scene, until the traffic was reduced to two lanes.  It eventually dawned on me that it was a drink driving checkpoint and again I was super excited.  I knew there was a blog coming out of this.

I drive up, roll down the window and expect to see a device similar to the one in Ireland.  Instead the police officer put a rectangular shaped device in front of my mouth and told me to blow into the square.  It took a full 2 seconds before the light turned green and I had to drive away.  What a let down.

The other two times I got stopped were coming home from Munsan and randomly outside my apartment complex in Geumchon.  I think there’s a conspiracy here somewhere, but that’s for another day……….

*If you’re not Irish;

a Garda is a police officer

Templemore is where the Gardai train

Nenagh is in Tipperary

What I’ve learned from driving in Korea.

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.