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Crazy Driving and Line Butting

June 23, 2011

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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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Crazy Driving and Line Butting

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  1. After reading the comments, I’m thankful to be living in the U.S. where there is, for the most part, an actual concept of a line.  I’m a big believer in something called personal space…I dont want other people breathing on me.  Most people here are outspoken as well, so that if you cut in line, you will get an earful from them too.  One exception that I’ve experienced, is at the Asian supermarkets in places where a lot of Asians live.  Bad driving plus rude people, and I can say that because I’m Asian myself.  I’ve experienced some crazy driving before both here and in other countries…dont people know that car accidents can cost them their lives?   

    5 years ago
  2. Well, you guys haven’t seen anything. China is horrible, at least in Beijing . I didn’t see any accidents but the traffic was heavy and scary. I had never seen anything like it.

    5 years ago
  3. I’m also from Canada, but here at the bus stops, we NEVER line up :p No matter if it’s at the transit centre or Jr. High bus stops, everyone will just be hanging around, wandering around, and as soon as the bus comes, we patiently wait for people to get off the bus, then BAM!!! It’s like a mob to get on the bus. I’ve been pushed around a lot too : /

    5 years ago
  4. looks like the description that i heard of lebanon and egypt….

    5 years ago
  5. omg im planning on teaching in korea, and im kinda a pushover im the nice girl that lets ppl in front of her if they do butt in line and what not i dont think ill survive there lol

    5 years ago
  6. I came back from Korea a few weeks ago. I was shocked by the reckless driving! My first night there, I was at a stop light and a taxi drove over the curb and sidewalk to turn right. 

    Then they like to drive really fast. My boyfriend explained that the police do not worry or keep an eye out for speeding cars. Instead there are cameras that will take photos, but then, there will be signs or GPS systems in the car will warn the driver when a camera is coming up. 

    It is crazy! My boyfriend even admits it is insane. 

    5 years ago
  7. When I visited Korea last Winter Break (I went there in 10 years so things changed a lot, I guess), I was also freaking scared for my life. There’s whole bunch of little short cuts in Korea and they’re literally crowded and jammed. I took a  taxi and he started just zoom around it! There were old people walking on side, and there was even a car coming towards us from the other side! Somehow (it blew my mind) my taxi and the other car front of us managed to pass each other in that tiny path.. People drive SO recklessly in Korea.. and I hated how people didn’t politely say “excuse me” whenever they hit you on on the shoulder or something when you walk. BAHHH Other than that, I enjoyed Korea. lol I just don’t remember Korea being so aggressive when I lived there.. and bam. 10 years later my own related people started to look like foreigners to me. SMH. 

    5 years ago
  8. I can totally see you two trying to block people from budding at the subway with your arms spread out wide rofl now I can’t stop laughing ã… ã…  lol

    5 years ago
  9. kt

    went to taiwan and they had to put out public service announcements telling bus drivers to not run over the elderly when they cross the street. if public service announcements are for common problems in an area….then thats pretty sad…

    5 years ago
  10. Lol! When I go to India to visit my relatives its like that too! People drive wherever they want and people walk wherever they want. It’s scarry being a driver there too cause you might hit a person….or a cow… The cutting lines thing is pretty apparent there too, but I kinda like it :P maybe its cause im usually the one that cuts, or when i do get cut i just cut the person back…(O_O sounds like im emo) I guess all Asian people have recklessness in our blood…probs cause we study too much xD

    5 years ago
  11. being the fact that i’m korean, i am completely not offended. in fact i am laughing so hard!

    5 years ago
  12. haha when I heard Simon say ‘boxing out’ I immediately thought ‘that’s what they do in basketball!!” But I feel awkward doing that even when I play, so no way could I do that in the middle of the street waiting for a bus lol.

    5 years ago
  13. In my country, Argentina, there’s no line on the bus stop :(Kids push you off, no matter you age are, to get into the bus.I feel like I’m living in the dark age compared with Korea, and in the ancient egypt compared with Canada.:S

    5 years ago
  14. HAHAHA! this is SO TRUE! i remember when i visited korea and we commented how red lights do not mean to stop, but slow down and go through anyways especially taxi drivers. definitely crazy driving that we were so shocked by~

    5 years ago
  15. I agree with you Sannah about the subways/buses here BUT the line butting in Korea for places like Starbucks or stores is nothing like I’ve ever seen in Canada.

    5 years ago
  16. You should add the video footage that Mark got of that girl trying to butt in front of me at the food court at the Hyundai mall. I showed her!!! Muahahahahahahaha!

    5 years ago
  17. A driving ajumma… or a ajumma driving a taxi without security belts at the back -_- 

    5 years ago
  18. Omg its sooo true. i go there every summer and its sooo scary :(

    5 years ago
  19. Sadly, I have to agree with you guys. I came back to Korea from Canada a month ago, and I know where the gentlest people live in the world. ;) But, I also saw some drivers who drive exceedingly aggressive with their convertable cars(sports car) in Canada. I think we should know these things and surely correct.
    In my opinion, cutting in a line is slowly disappearing but still some ladies like ‘ajumma’ or old women.. grandma ;) halmuni (haha) do that.. I rarely see youngsters do that. Only some people who don’t consider others act like that :/ I hate that kind of behaviors, either -_-
     
    BTW, I’m glad you guys say ‘we love Korea’. Before I went to Can, I didn’t care about ‘foreigners’ at all. But after I came back here, I rather want to ask them ‘why did you come(stay) here’. Of course, this is my country so I love it so much but while I was staying in Toronto and traveling many cities in Canada and the US, I realized Korea is a bit difficult country to live as a non-Korean. Even though I just stayed there for 8 months, but right after I got back, I wasn’t really adapted myself to the circumstance first. (I perfectly got my rhythm back now) Everything is fast, busy, changes a lot… I’d like to say it’s very attractive for me, but I just want to know how you think about here. I guess maybe you came here to teach English. (Surely Martina)
     
    Anyway, good postings and video, thanks! :D

    5 years ago
  20. Sadly, I have to agree with you guys. I came back to Korea from Canada a month ago, and I know where the gentlest people live in the world. ;) But, I also saw some drivers who drive exceedingly aggressive with their convertable cars(sports car) in Canada. I think we should know these things and surely correct.
    In my opinion, cutting in a line is slowly disappearing but still some ladies like ‘ajumma’ or old women.. grandma ;) halmuni (haha) do that.. I rarely see youngsters do that. Only some people who don’t consider others act like that :/ I hate that kind of behaviors, either -_-
     
    BTW, I’m glad you guys say ‘we love Korea’. Before I went to Can, I didn’t care about ‘foreigners’ at all. But after I came back here, I rather want to ask them ‘why did you come(stay) here’. Of course, this is my country so I love it so much but while I was staying in Toronto and traveling many cities in Canada and the US, I realized Korea is a bit difficult country to live as a non-Korean. Even though I just stayed there for 8 months, but right after I got back, I wasn’t really adapted myself to the circumstance first. (I perfectly got my rhythm back now) Everything is fast, busy, changes a lot… I’d like to say it’s very attractive for me, but I just want to know how you think about here. I guess maybe you came here to teach English. (Surely Martina)
     
    Anyway, good postings and video, thanks! :D

    5 years ago
  21. AHAAHA! the bus and driving thing is so true. The “Village” buses are crazy~! I had the misfortune of standing (more like flying around inside) in one of those before. Dont forget those crazy taxi drivers too!!

    5 years ago
  22. So did you guys actually save a scotter driver?  Good on you guys for acting quickly while everyone else was just looking. 

    5 years ago
    • We didn’t save him, really.  He was going to be alright.  His lip was cut open badly, but it wasn’t life threatening.  The ambulance came and took him away.

      5 years ago
  23. Omg, the driving situation is like EXACTLY the same in China! When I went back to visit my relatives a few years ago, I was scared for my life every time I went into a taxi XD. But I don’t know if this is similar to in Korea: my parents told me the rule is generally not pedestrians are responsible for avoiding cars, but cars are responsible for avoiding pedestrians. Like random people will just try and jaywalk across the street, so you have to watch out. Nevertheless, I’m content to just driving in the US.

    5 years ago
  24. HA HA HA! LOL!! i think that was like one of tyour funniest videos!

    5 years ago
  25. XD OMG!!! I think is exactly the same in the city I live now (Puebla, Mexico),
    well… if I go to Korea Im going to be used to that ^^
    Thanks for the video!

    5 years ago
  26. I have to say that for me they totally don’t take security as a serious matter. For me (France) when you’re in the car you must put you selt belt, but I take a taxi and didn’t even find it. (i was scared aha) Futhermore event in a normal car the sit behind the driver I couldn’t attache it. The kids keep going to the driver seat and back to me while his parents were driving. The bus, well you can get used it. but the first time or after I nearly fall down. >..< I love korea as well, but please, try to drive safter it's scary TT.TT

    5 years ago
  27. i am living in Korea and i must say its ALL true! though i must say Simon and Martina have elaborated this 2 issues as gentle as they can. Especially about the line butting. One thing scares me is when some random ajumma just randomly walks up to the front of the line as if there was no line to begin with… Oh and i must say Simon, riding the bus is like surfing. All about the balance and focus! Though i never surfed before but feels like i am when i am on a korean bus. Whooosh!!!

    5 years ago
    • I used to ride a bus that would go up, up, up but… then it would go down, down, down. All this with curves and high speed. I’m an expert at bus surfing.

      3 years ago
  28. Ohhh I had similar experiences! It was especially irritating when people don’t wait until you get off the subways:(

    5 years ago
  29. agreed, I was visiting Korea a few weeks ago and thought that if there one way that I would die here, it would be from a motor vehicle accident

    5 years ago
  30. well, maybe you guys want to try the traffic in Indonesia
    It’s even more interesting… :D

    5 years ago
  31. i completely agree! i just came to korea for 3 weeks and seriously, the way taxi drivers drive here IS FREAKING SCARY. they barely slow down during turns (even sharp ones) and we always fear for our lives when crossing the pedestrian crossings here because the cars would NEVER stop for you (very much opposite in Singapore, where it’s a MUST for a car to stop when pedestrians are crossing). :( i hope you guys will be safe!

    5 years ago
  32. The cutting in line I’ve experienced has only been from older people, who, I’m guessing, feel that they’re older and therefore have the privilege not to wait in line. Like, I’ve waited in a 10-minute queue for the port-a-potty, and out of nowhere an ajumma will step right in front of me while I’m reaching for the door and go in instead. I’ve learned that when the line is long enough, you have to stand directly in front of the stall door and risk getting smacked in the face when it opens to prevent an ajumma from sliding into the space in front of you. Even better is when I’m at the bank or post office, and I will be IN THE MIDDLE of a transaction, like paying a bill or posting a letter, and an ajeosshi will slide right up next to me, stick his arm out in front of me, and demand that the teller or postal worker take care of his business. That’s not even cutting, it’s absurd! Every time, at least, the teller or postal worker has apologized to him and asked him to kindly wait a moment.

    But you know, most Koreans find this pretty frustrating as well, haha. (>_<)

    5 years ago
  33. I actually heard that “bad driving” is somehow connected to how young/old the driving culture in a country is. In Europe and USA people generally drive well and take heed of the rules because we’ve had cars for a long time. But in countries where cars have only started appearing since after WWII or later it’s different. (not a 100% sure on this though, feel free to correct me)
    I’ve certainly experienced the bad driving and butting in line in Shanghai as well, and in China’s case I can attribute those to the aforementioned reason, but I don’t know about South Korea?

    5 years ago
    •  

      Bad driving
      has nothing to do with the “In Europe and USA people generally drive well and
      take heed of the rules because we’ve had cars for a long time”, it’s more a question
      of social awareness about driving. You can have bad experiences with bad driving anywhere in
      the world, I live in a European country and I sometimes see people that shouldn’t
      be allowed to have cars -.-.

      5 years ago
  34. hahaha.. as for the situation in getting on buses and trains.. the same is true for us in the Philippines. I used to really hate that when we came home from Australia and NZ, but there’s absolutely no way to avoid it. If you wanna get on the bus/train, you have to squeeze through everyone. BOX ‘EM OUT. LIKE A BOSS. lol

    5 years ago
  35. I think most of Asia is like that, except maybe for Singapore. In Malaysia there are road rules, but motorcycles weave in and out of traffic and even drive on the sidewalks on the wrong side of the street. Cars have the right of way. In Indonesia there are no rules, traffic just slowly merges together. No one ever stops. 

    5 years ago
  36. I’d like to think I have experience handling fast bus drivers cause I live in San Francisco & rely solely on Muni buses… I guess I’ll find out soon enough! haha

    5 years ago
  37. i guess its not just korea, we have drivers here in Singapore, what ive encounter is a bus driver actually rush through before the red light comes up. you never know if the other junction’s car would just do the same.

    5 years ago
  38. Hello from Toronto *yay* (sorry thought I’d just throw that in there~)
    No kidding about the busses! Ahahah, I couldn’t keep my balance in any of the busses in Seoul/Daegu because the bus drivers drove SUPER fast! Anyways love your videos and I’m excited to be going back to Korea again ^___^

    5 years ago
  39. I remember hearing somewhere that drivers in Asia in general (ie. China, India, etc…) were not very good drivers simply because many of them were 1st generation drivers and had not necessarily grown up using/driving cars, whereas many westerners are familiar with cars from infancy, and thus it is essentially now a part of the culture…..I guess I’m thinking more of India, but the road systems are also not as developed as they are in countries like North America, only because the road systems there have been around since the early 1900’s. 
    That’s what i’ve heard anyway…..I would love to hear another viewpoint :) 

    5 years ago
    • I’ve never heard about that, but I do think your opinion is pretty reasonable :)

      5 years ago