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So the top rated question for this week is “What are some of the aspects of the culture that you STILL can’t get used to.” Oh boy. This is going to be a difficult issue to discuss, because we’re worried that people might get offended. But, ah well! What we said here has to be said. People are really scary drivers in Korea, and they butt us in line a lot.

With the first point, we don’t want this to deteriorate into simply stereotyping Asian people as bad drivers, which is what we’re worried we’ll be accused of. Let’s say off the bat that we’re not accusing Korean people of being bad drivers. We’re accusing them of being recklessly aggressive. Allow us to tell a few stories: driving the scooter home today, right after filming this week’s TLDR segment, and a car pulled into my lane, into INCOMING TRAFFIC, because the driver he was behind was going too slowly. I leaned on my horn, and the driver that was coming right at me pulled off to the sidewalk (where people were walking) and I drove between his car and that of the slow driver. It’s crazy. I could have been hit today.

Two weeks ago we witnessed two different scooter accidents within the span of five days. In one of them we had to lift the car off the scooter driver. While everyone stood around and gawked from the sidewalk, we ran to the convenience store, grabbed some water and tissues, and cleaned the blood off his face to see where he was bleeding. We had to stop other people from trying to get him to sit up. What if he broke his neck!? Don’t move his head until the ambulance comes! The ambulance came and we walked away, while everyone still stood and stared. Five days later we were eating dinner and watched a scooter T-Bone a taxi and flip over the taxi. He was fine, somehow (must be the inner ninja in him) but the taxi’s window was shattered and passenger door crumpled.

Last winter we got into a taxi during a snowstorm. Bad idea. This guy wanted to drive as fast as he could, fishtailed around a corner, and lost control of the car and we spun out in the middle of the street. When the taxi finally stopped spinning we saw a bus barreling down at us, and we thought that this was it: we were going to die, because some jackass doesn’t know how to drive in the snow. The bus narrowly swerved away and we weren’t hit. The taxi driver straightened out his car and started driving us back home, only this time again just as freaking insanely as before. We feared for our life, genuinely, and got out of the taxi and walked home for an hour in the snowstorm instead.

It’s terrifying. Really. We have friends who have been hit by cars, and friends of friends who’ve been hit so hard that they were put into comas. We’ve almost been hit many times. We’ve been in taxis that have almost hit people many times. Buses have almost hit people many times. Seriously: Korea is an exceptionally safe country. We don’t worry about ever being mugged or attacked. We can leave the keys in our scooter and nobody will steal it. No vandalism, no drug related crimes (that we’re aware of). We’re shocked at how well behaved people are, and so we’re never worried about the people we meet on the street. Put them in cars, though, and we’re seriously scared of the damage they can do to us.

But these are just a few examples of bad scenarios we have been in. The vast majority of our experiences are decent, safe, and nothing to write about. So it would be totally unjustified to say that all Korean people are bad drivers. Our problem is, really, that some of the worst driving we’ve ever experienced was in the three years we’ve been here in Korea. Or maybe Canada is just the greatest driving country in the world, and all other countries pale in comparison (doubt that). We just know that the stuff we see here we’re totally unused to, and it really freaks us out. Red lights in Canada mean stop, not “ehh, creep forward a bit to see if you can make it through the lights before getting smoked.”

The butting in line issue is also one that peeves us off a bit, but at least it doesn’t endanger our lives. We just seem to, majority of the time, have someone butt in line when we’re waiting for either the bus or the subway. I swear, we’ll wait for the bus to Seoul for like, ten minutes. The bus will pull up, and people who just got there will rush to the front to get in front of us. No apologies, no nothing.

This is so painful to us, because it’s something that was heavily instilled in us as children. You cannot get back into the classroom after recess unless you are all in an orderly line. More than that, we were taught to demonize all butters of lines. Doesn’t matter if your friend was there, or that you put your hat down in line and that marked your spot in line. NO! YOU CANNOT BUTT IN LINE!! ARRGHH! Why isn’t it the same in Korea? Or is it? Maybe we’ve just had a string of bad luck? We’ve even had this happen to us in coffee shops. We’ll wait in line, and someone will walk off the street and try to order a latte right away. That’s where we use our broken Korean and let them know that there’s a lineup, to which they’ll politely defer. But, still! What the heck!

We really hope this isn’t taken out of proportion. Every time we say something remotely negative about Korea we get a backlash from netizens who say “If you don’t like it then leave you dirty Americans!” even though we’re Canadian. We’ll say it again: Korea, we love you, and we think you’re a fantastic country. You’re not perfect, and, really, if our two biggest complaints about you are how you drive and cut in line, then that’s a good thing! Oh well!

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  1. When I was in India, lines didn’t really matter, they just kind of assume that if you aren’t pushing, you don’t want it… and I mean EVERY line, bathroom lines, movie lines, train ticket lines, everything. But if someone cuts and you just tap them on the shoulder and politely say “excuse me, but there is a line” they get extremely apologetic and move to the back. They just don’t realize that there could be a line. I think its just so ingrained in western culture that we just assume that there IS a line, even when sometimes there isn’t. Those moments when you don’t see anybody but that one person standing to the side and you feel compelled to ask “I’m sorry, are you in line?” and they look at you like an idiot with some response like “um, no. I’m just posting a flyer on this bulletin board here….”

    Or maybe its only me who has those awkward moments… *sigh*

  2. Waiting in line for the bus. LOL. Actually where I grew up in Portugal, there were two different bus companies, one from rural areas to the city and the one inside the city. Rural bus line: nonexistent, you simply pushed your way in when the doors opened or waited to the side until the worse was over. City bus line: mandatory, you would not even consider not respecting it because you would get some very nasty stares and people would actually call you out.
    Driving, well, we do have some bad drivers but it isn’t usually considered very serious, it’s more that we like to drive fast.
    Oh, and we have to take a lot of lessons on traffic rules and tons of driving lessons and there is a test for both of those.

  3. I was in vietnam on holidays and they have this crazy driving problems too. But If you want to cross the road however the scooters will most likely just drive around you there aren’t a lot of crossings in vietnam and traffic lights

  4. i’m with u guys 100% on this one. driving manners are soooo bad in korea. but if you got like a million ppl in one small area where the traffic is always bad, you gotta no choice but ignore every traffic rule to go to your destination otherwise you will be stuck in one spot forever.

  5. i know this guy that does that all the time! the rest of us have been waiting for like 30 min and he just shows up and stands in front of all of us and gets on the bus! we’re like wtf! I wonder if he’s korean lol : )

  6. I’m Korean-American and the invasion of my personal space here in Seoul drives me absolutely crazy! There are really only a handful of countries in the world that queue up: UK and Commonwealth, US, and Japan. I also hate when cars come very close to me as I cross the street within a crosswalk. It probably doesn’t help that I look like one of their own, but in fact I am quite foreign.

  7. I hate that!!!!!!! last week i took the subway….there were some boys like 9 or 10 years old…line up? Don’t think about it!!!…anyways… there were some blind people wanting to get outside the subway..AND THEY DIDN’T CARE!!! they just kicked their way inside!!!!!!! i mean wtf????!!!!!!!!!!! And that was not in Asia it was in the middle of europe!!!

  8. When I went to Seoul in 2007, I was propelled into the aisle since I was sitting in the middle of the top level seats in the bus…oh, and one time this ahjussi slam dunked into me in the subway station and didn’t even apologize! I was so ticked that I swore at him…just to get a long lecture from my parents :/

  9. i think this is an asian problem lol. same thing happen to me in vietnam. n my friend who was in china had similar experience. goodness!

  10. i think this is an asian problem lol. same thing happen to me in vietnam. n my friend who was in china had similar experience. goodness!

  11. i think this is an asian problem lol. same thing happen to me in vietnam. n my friend who was in china had similar experience. goodness!

  12. i think this is an asian problem lol. same thing happen to me in vietnam. n my friend who was in china had similar experience. goodness!

  13. i think this is an asian problem lol. same thing happen to me in vietnam. n my friend who was in china had similar experience. goodness!

  14. Byeonguk Yook

    Korea used to be #1 in traffic fatalities. I’m suprised people are still maniacal Indy500 drivers.

  15. I was just in Hong Kong for 3 weeks and had these same exact experiences! Being born and raised in Vancouver I wasn’t used to the scary traffic, and line butting. The first time I got into my boyfriend’s car I quite literally started squirming every time a car got near his. His explanation of it was that if you leave a gap you basically let anyone and everyone who’s trying to get into your lane in and you’ll never make it anywhere. So when everyone was trying to merge out of an ending lane you basically just have to get your front end right up against the bumper of the car in front of you. Line butting was horrendous, we went to Disneyland and I have never felt like knocking out so many people all at the same time before. They would cut you off like it’s a Nascar race every time there was a corner at the line up. Me and my boyfriend basically had to stand far apart from each other holding hands so people wouldn’t walk in front of us! But I guess it’s something you have to get used to if you live in Asia. 

  16. LOL I thought these were problems only in China! The line-butting is just ridiculous there, especially because it is so crowded, and a lot of people live in the countryside, where there isn’t a need for lines. However, some people will actually learn to cheat up lines. This one guy (at the Korea Pavillion at the world expo in Shanghai…which took us more than three hours to get into) was actually telling his kid to push up the line and say that his dad was there, and a few minutes later, he would push up the line, saying that his kid was further up on the line. He even ended up yelling at his other kid (both kids were only six to eight years old) for not cheating up the line!

    I don’t think that Koreans (and Chinese) are BAD at driving…but perhaps a little too good. They’re better enforcing the red light thing, but not so much the actual driving. Lanes? What’s that? If your car is small enough to fit between two cars, between two lanes, you do it. I don’t think any Canadian driver can pull that off, even if they wouldn’t get into trouble with it (even my dad was amazed, and he’s every bit angry, crazy Asian driver lol).

    I guess it really has to do with how crowded the country (or city) is, because sometimes, if there’s too many people and you’re the last one in the line, you might not be able to get what you want, so people get really anxious and just cut in line like it’s nothing.

  17. Anonymous

    THEY ARE SUCH BUTTERS…..  lol.  I was happy when I found out you had to get a ticket number when going to the movies to buy a ticket.  However, some people STILL BUTT.  They don’t even get a ticket and just stroll up there when there are like a good dozen or so people just hanging out and waiting for their number to be called.

    The driving thing….. I agree….. geez.  No comment…. 

  18. The main reasons for this are that Korea is a crowded place and Koreans are a bit impatient by nature.
    I’m not in Korea right now but I’ve lived there.  The traffic jams in Korea can get really crazy bad, so it kinda drives you bonkers and it’s not surprising that taxi and bus drivers feel the urge to speed and drive aggressively. 
    I know I’m kinda like that too.  I live near New York City, and when I drive around in Manhattan I drive much more aggressively than when I’m driving in the suburbs. 

    As for people cutting in lines, well, that also has to do with the crowdedness.  Korea is densely populated, so often there’s a lot of competition for everything and long lines.  Add in some impatience, and people will cut in lines.   But things will probably improve, as South Korea currently has one of the lowest birth rates in the world and it probably won’t be as crowded in the future, as well as Korean kids being taught better manners these days.

    • You know, though, our Korean friends have told us that they also hate it when people cut in front of them?  It seems like it’s just the older generation that are butters.  Hopefully butting will soon not be as rampant…

  19. wow… i’ve experienced some horrifying driving too, it was when our class went for a trip to russia, and we were allowed to go to a store on ourselves, so yeah, we are going to the store (four 12-13 year old girls), we go accross the street and this HUGE jeep like comes out of nowhere and almost hits us, i swear i felt the cars wind in my hair O_O that moment i was really like, cmon, you cant drive like this when there are CHILDREN CROSSING THE STREET?

  20.  I am a Korean but I am also annoyed so much by the bad driving and butting.. I can totally see what you would feel.. Honestly, I hope it gets better in Korea.

  21. Just to balance out, I experienced a crazy drive in Paris no less.  My wife and I were coming back from a trip to Europe and I guess the taxi driver who picked us up from the hotel was running late.  He was going REALLY fast on the highway.  I could feel it and was afraid to look at the speedometer. 

    Someone I know in Seoul mentioned drivers in Busan are worse than ones in Seoul.  I guess he thinks Busan drivers don’t yield while Seoul ones do.

    Again 2 sides to all stories and that’s why I like simonandmartina.  :)

    • Actually, the speed limits are REALLY high in Parisian highways. In Toronto, the fastest speed limit for highways I’ve ever seen is 100km/h, but in France, it was around 120km/h. The highways also aren’t as wide as ours, so it FEELS a lot faster, too.

  22. Anonymous

    …is it bad that im not even bating an eyelash at the driving you described….lol i really don’t know what it is about big cities =___=   Mexico City it is the saaaame thing, (although not as safe as SK in the aspects you described unfortunately) but when it comes to driving people are CRAZY here as well…and also lol, there were some streets with NO LANES, so people were kind of making them up as they went….. O.O

    I guess I have visited my family enough times in M.City, that im kinda used to it when i go there…….and the line thing, people kinda form blobs lol, no such thing as lines >.<

  23. I can totally agree with this, cuz I just had a vacation at Seoul for 5 days and I always took the taxi or the bus, I can compare the drivers in Korea with the drivers in Hongkong, on both ride you really need to hold on to your seat, but they have great balance, you know the peeps standing inside the bus, wow! even in heels they can keep their balance. But I still love Korea it’s such a beautiful place, I will definitely come back ^^

  24. OMG! That explains why I am always reading articles about kpop idols getting into car accidents. I am gonna have to warn my friend when we go to Korea because she does not pay attention on the roads lol

  25. whats the craziest thing you’ve done, in Korea, since no one knows who you are?

  26. OMG !!!!! While you were saying all these thinks about dangerous driving and about the lines i thought u were talking about Greece XDXDXDXD I can totally understand you !!!!

  27. definitely agree. even some bus drivers here (mostly i mean) are reaaaalllly rude :'( 

  28. Oh, man, I’m so taking a poll of all koreans to figure out why they butt in line.  It makes me want to freak out every time it happens.  Like, why I am I standing here?  Just for fun?  No, I want to buy some coke light.  

  29. Anonymous

    Do they not have polices or are they just not doing their job?

  30. Wow. I will prepare myself and practicing my basket squats for Korea! Thank you!

  31. downthelane

    mmm I was in korea for one month! *sob* we were only trying to get to cosco*sob* they…they wouldn’t let us in! We just wanted cheese…..*sob* never should have drove there…..
    and went to Soraksan (yay)……….so much traffic…..took us 8 hours!

  32. Anonymous

    Lol……NZ drivers sometime drive like that…..

  33. Anonymous

    A friend of mine was visiting korea recently and told me the same thing about the drivers in seoul. He said it was pretty dangerous but he loved everything else about korea. 

  34. I agree 100% that drivers in Korea are the worst part of being here.  I love driving and miss it soooooo much, but not enough to risk getting a scooter and trying to drive myself.  It’s bad enough that I bike on these streets!

  35. urmmm… what happened to the house tour?

  36. Ha my mom is Korean, she has been living in the States for over 26 years and she STILL butts in line! It drives me crazy, I have to pull her away to the end of the line and apologize to all the angry people.
    As for the safety issue, I’ve heard many stories about people getting robbed in more rural, people on scooters or motorcycles will drive by and snatch peoples bags. 

  37. Random Person

    I’m going to Korea on SUNDAY!!!! WOOO HOOOOO!!!!!!!

  38. Grace Lee

    thats funny, because korean women in america are known to be bad drivers in general.

    “ahhh, wth is that person doing??!?!??!!?! does she not know how to drive?!?!??!””oh…she’s a korean lady……….” 

  39. daeyoug kim

    yeh, sadly, it is true. as a korean, I am ashamed of it 

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