June 23, 2011
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!