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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. And did Martina just say “Taxes” instead of “Taxis”? xD

    8 years ago
  2. I don’t know why you think Korea is so safe in general. For women it’s definitely not. I got attacked and harassed by random men so many times there. Some guy even followed me home from work and broke into my apartment. I didn’t have my scooter stolen, but someone did steal the keys out of it (I guess with the intention of coming back to take it later), and they liked to knock it over and stuff trash in the hand protectors. Anyway, I lived in Korea for four years and I have to say it’s one of the most dangerous places for women I’ve visited, based on my experiences and those of friends. And yeah, absolutely insane drivers.

    8 years ago
    • Reading this is super surprising to me. I experienced Korea (specifically, Seoul) as one of the safest countries I’ve ever been to. Never once was I harrassed, attacked or generally felt unsafe in any way, no matter what time of the day or night it was. 

      8 years ago
      • Weird, I’ve heard some people say that and others say the opposite. Maybe it’s just bad luck or the fact that I went walking or jogging alone a lot, but I was in some really dangerous situations and am lucky to be alive. It just worries me when people say Korea is so safe and you can walk the streets alone at night, because I know what happened to me and don’t want it to happen to other women. I’m very glad you didn’t have any negative experiences!

        8 years ago
        • I agree Kya. It’s pretty safe for groups or single guys, but I know many occasions where single girls or two girls were harassed on the streets and followed home by drunk men, trying to get into their apartments. I’m not trying to say Korea is a haven for crime because it’s not. I loved my time in Korea. But it’s not that much safer than places in Canada and the U.S. especially for women.

          8 years ago
  3. At first I was like “Butter? The thing you cook with?” LOL. I like ‘Butter’ more than ‘Cutter’ (American) xD

    8 years ago
    • Yeah… Butter threw me off at first too… i’m like,”butter… like.. margarine?? ohhhh…. a cutter :p” Cutter could sound weird to others too I guess… like those people that cut themselves?

      8 years ago
    • Yeah… Butter threw me off at first too… i’m like,”butter… like.. margarine?? ohhhh…. a cutter :p” Cutter could sound weird to others too I guess… like those people that cut themselves?

      8 years ago
    • Yeah… Butter threw me off at first too… i’m like,”butter… like.. margarine?? ohhhh…. a cutter :p” Cutter could sound weird to others too I guess… like those people that cut themselves?

      8 years ago
  4. HOLY CRAP! I LOVE BUTTER! Butter on my pancakes. Butter on my cornbread. Butter on my popcorn…

    Wait. You weren’t talking about that kind of butter were you? (Mouth getting Martina-small)

    Anyways, yeah. I hate cutters (< that's the American word for it). I will do the same thing when I'm in line for the train. Somebody cuts and my arm goes out like WATAH! "Sorry buddy! See the long line of people behind me? Yeah."

    But, I do wanna see an addendum to this video where you 1) Just take a two minute video at an intersection. No commentary. Just so we foreigners can see the danger we're getting ourselves into, and 2) A setup in a cafe where you're chillin' in line and do the fence when somebody tries to cut. I'm curious what other people's reactions are when they see you two do that in public.

    Great video y'all. Keep it up.

    8 years ago
    • I too would like to see an intersection video. In dramas and movies, everything looks so safe, with giant crosswalks and what-nots. I totally believe you guys, I would just like to see firsthand what it’s really like. :) (without spending $2k to go there lol)

      8 years ago
    • well, I have to correct y’all: I’m American and I have heard people use butter and cutter.

      8 years ago
  5. Geez. I thought driving in my area was bad. All I have to deal with is traffic and people ignoring the green lights because they’re too busy eating/texting/doing makeup/contemplating serious world issues. I’d much rather sit behind an inattentive moron than fear for my life. And I don’t think I’d be able to contain my rage if someone cut in front of me in line. There are politics and rules involved, man. That’s important stuff you learn when you’re in elementary school that stays with you for the rest of your life.

    8 years ago
  6. Geez. I thought driving in my area was bad. All I have to deal with is traffic and people ignoring the green lights because they’re too busy eating/texting/doing makeup/contemplating serious world issues. I’d much rather sit behind an inattentive moron than fear for my life. And I don’t think I’d be able to contain my rage if someone cut in front of me in line. There are politics and rules involved, man. That’s important stuff you learn when you’re in elementary school that stays with you for the rest of your life.

    8 years ago
  7. yeh, sadly, it is true. as a korean, I am ashamed of it 

    8 years ago
  8. 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……….” 

    8 years ago
  9. 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!

    8 years ago
  10. I’m going to Korea on SUNDAY!!!! WOOO HOOOOO!!!!!!!

    8 years ago
  11. The update implies that you guys are okay xD

    8 years ago
  12. I thought the same thing when they were saying “butter butter” lol, it’s always been cutter for me, so maybe it is an American thing.
    Some of the worst times I remember dealing with this I was actually in Walt Disney World! We were in line for a ride that was getting ready to open back up because it had been raining earlier in the day. As soon as they started letting people in, there was a rush of people pushing from the back, grown adults pushing kids!
    And another time we had stayed to watch one of the light shows they have at night. As we were leaving it was so crowded my family walked in a single file line, holding onto each others hands so no one got lost. A lady in an electric wheelchair/scooter, (don’t quite know what to call it, its the kind you can get at a grocery store, at least where I live you can), was trying to push her way through the crowd that was already slow moving. As she headed around my family she ran over my sister’s foot and bumped into me! Cutting/butting/pushing is just not worth it!

    8 years ago
  13. interesting i have a phobia of like dying from avehicle related death so i may rethinkn lving in korea lol

    8 years ago
  14. Hawaii is TOTALLY LIKE THIS! Maybe it’s because we imported it with the huge Asian population/tourists? Anyway, I’m ashamed to admit that I totally act like this now, too. I don’t even realize I’m doing it, though, and whenever I go back to the mainland people look like they want to shoot me when I drive or stand in line. I agree with the comment that the best way to stop people from cutting is to practically hump the person standing in front of you, though. It’s all that works here!!!

    8 years ago
  15. Oh well hates gonna hate.
    It’s like this almost everywhere.
    There’s gonna be these people that act like that.

    8 years ago
  16. While I freely admit to not having lived in Korea (yet)… I have lived in Kuwait.  Lets just say the roads are deathtraps …. even more so AFTER the war than during it I think.  They have this lovely little term in Islam –  “inshallah” (as God wills it) – and they use this in their driving everyday.  The great thing is that the government, when there is a fatal accident, will sometimes leave the managled car by the side of the road as some morbid “example” …. “ok people, don’t drive like this bozo did or you’ll meet Allah a little earlier than you probably thought”.  Well, some people also told me it was because of some other traffic or insurance laws … but I’m buying the “example” explination.  Leading cause of death among Kuwaiti’s under 40 …. take a wild guess.  Oh, and don’t get me started about watching a car go by at 90 mph with a young mom in the front seat holding her baby on her lap ……Inshallah everyone !!!

    8 years ago
  17. i got sooooo annoyed by the people who sat on disabled/elderly/injured/pregnant seats and refused to stand up for someone who actually needed it. 

    8 years ago
  18. Awesome video guys!!!  These two things frustrate me to no end every single week in Korea!  Thanks for sharing in you always humorous and fun way.

    Sorry to hear that the bus drivers drive like race car drivers to the detriment of grandmothers everywhere in Korea.  We had hoped it was a hardship only Ulsan’s Grandmothers had to cope with.

    8 years ago
  19. SO Accurate!  I drive in Korea, which is so convenient compared to taking the death buses you mentioned.  However, I arrive at my destination COMPLETELY pissed off no matter how far I’ve driven.  Everyone passing you on the left or the buses forcing you into oncoming traffic.  Scooters who edge you out because you’re trying not to kill them.  It’s all ridiculous.  I swear I will not remember how to drive properly when I get back home.  Thanks for sharing this hilarious video.  I love Korea, but I do not love its drivers!

    8 years ago
  20. Sounds like it will be an extremely good idea to stay away from the road as much as possible when I am walking along the streets of Korea! Not to mention, staying away from the curves as much as possible as I wait to cross the street. I will let others go first, look both ways, and leave the house earlier than needed when I am meeting people :p As for line butting, it happens back at home, too (fellow Ontarian here!). I hate it when people will push their way past you, or stand directly in front of you when the bus or subway comes.. it is even more annoying when they bump into you and glare at you for it –; But unless they step out of the line, I ignore them (because there are just way too many psychos out there these days!).

    8 years ago
  21. What do you guys think of Daesung’s car accident?

    8 years ago
  22. im going to use the boxout everywhere!! thanks simon and martina!!

    even in public bathrooms im going to boxout all the bathroom doors muahahahaha

    8 years ago
  23. This is something I knew, and it is something that I dont like about korea,( I have never been there, but many people say the same thing and also there are always many news about car accidents there)

    Anyways, here( Puerto Rico) people drive a little crazy too, not that much, but I really prefer not to buy a car and use public transportation or walk, and I know that doing so in korea is not safe, but I love so many things about Korea, that I just thing that it is not perfect, but there are so many good things that this kind of things dont turn down my wish of move there!!!

    I think that what we can do, is run at the intersection, forget about personal space( if we dont, we will get angry everyday XD), and have more than two eyes( just be really careful and always be alert)

    I always love your videos!!!

    8 years ago
  24. oh my god this is crazy! >< oh now I'm a little scary about my wish to live in Korea..keke ^^

    8 years ago
  25. Hehehe.. Loved the rage guy meme in this video :D It must be tough with such crazy road conditions… Ive only started driving recently and I already panic at the idea of driving in suburban rush hours. I think the problem is not so much that Korea has a lot of bad drivers or lower standards of driving, I think it has more to do with the fact that the more people driving in a city/country, the less likely it is for drivers to be patient when there are s, so many other cars and people on the road. 

    In Canada, Ive never had to deal with such conditions because in my city our roads are wide and our population is definitely lower than an average Korean city. In addition, we have houses rather than officetels, so the general population is more spread out, thus less traffic per road versus Korean roads. At least, this is what I think is going on.

    8 years ago
  26. PLEASEE consider getting rid of ur scooter and buying a car!! I’ve seen a bus in Korea collide at full speed with a scooter, and my heart would break, as I am a huge fan of your videos, if something even remotely similar to that happened to you guys (sorry if I sound a bit stalkerish). 

    2. I know a lot of Koreans cut lines, but that doesn’t mean that we’re mean-spirited (not that you suggested it in your video). Schools here don’t emphasize the importance of public manners to students as much as they do in the Western Hemisphere… A lot of people here do stuff (spit, cut lines, smoke inside buildings, etc) without realizing that it would piss off other ppl. In other words, we Koreans are not intentionally sneaking in in front of you guys to annoy you. LOVE

    8 years ago
  27. 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 :/

    8 years ago
  28. 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!

    8 years ago
  29. 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!

    8 years ago
  30. 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. 

    8 years ago
  31. 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!

    8 years ago
  32. 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!

    8 years ago
  33. 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 years ago
  34. 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 years ago
  35. 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*

    6 years ago
  36. 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

    7 years ago
  37. 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.

    7 years ago
  38. 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 : )

    7 years ago
  39. 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.

    8 years ago
  40. 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.  

    8 years ago