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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. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. interesting i have a phobia of like dying from avehicle related death so i may rethinkn lving in korea lol

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

    8 years ago
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. oh my god this is crazy! >< oh now I'm a little scary about my wish to live in Korea..keke ^^

    8 years ago
  12. 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
  13. 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
  14. Oh well hates gonna hate.
    It’s like this almost everywhere.
    There’s gonna be these people that act like that.

    8 years ago
  15. 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
  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. I have never been to Korea so I did not make a comparison between the 2, just sharing my experience while in Toronto. I remembered clearly that people jaywalked everywhere and drivers step on gas when the lights turn yellow.  
    I’ve been to Bangkok and Jakarta, so I know for sure that Toronto is not as horrible as those 2 cities are.
    ps: I live in Vancouver

    8 years ago
  19. I totally know what you are talking about. Its so crazy. I’m from Las Cruces, NM and they also do that here but not as much (thank god). It happens mainly in the morning when they’re all out and about. It makes me want to flip a table. 

    8 years ago
  20. I’ve been told that the butting in line thing is because of Korean’s significantly smaller personal bubble. Any space around you? Well, you’re not in line. (obviously) Where Americans and Canadians at least, really like our 3 ft bubble and respect it in others, Korean’s bubble is like 2 inches. Probably because they don’t sweat…. because they don’t drink water…. so they don’t smell… it’s a vicious cycle!!!!!!

    Anyways, this happens to us everywhere…. grocery store, ticket counters, waiting for anything…. We found out that if they line butt, you can immediately step in front of them and kind of use your elbows to show them that you’re there. Nobody has seemed offended by this yet, I’ll let you know if we ever get into a fist fight over it!

    Do you guys get gently pushed too? Another case of invading my space. Anytime I’m in someones way, they don’t say excuse me, they just gently move me aside. Don’t come inside my bubble!http://kimskorea.blogspot.com

    8 years ago
    • Oh god, the pushing is even worse. This is when I start to “box out”. I have pretty good balance, so any old woman trying to push me out of the way to the door just kinda… bounces off. But oh it drives me INSANE. Especially when on the bus/subway and I’m obviously getting ready to get off the bus too. We’re all getting off the bus, there is no major rush!

      8 years ago
  21. I love love love your videos simon and martina! i’ve been watching them nonstop for the last couple of days and it makes me so excited to go to korea this summer! :) :) i hope i can run into you if i ever go by bucheon (lol, this makes me sound so creepy)

    8 years ago
  22. I’m planning on driving a motorcycle in Korea.

    I think I have a death wish.

    8 years ago
  23. I think the way we cue is a cultural thing in North America. I lived in Switzerland and the Europeans butt in line all the time. I think people who are raised in North America (regardless of ethnicity) are the only ones who understand the term “personal space.”

    8 years ago
  24. THIS is why I am 16 and without a permit or a license 
    I DON’T WANT TO DIE!

    8 years ago
  25. Korean celebrities are always getting into car accidents (sometimes fatal) and I always assumed it was because they were constantly rushing around at weird/late hours or getting mobbed by reckless fans. But I guess that’s not the case if you guys see it on a daily basis…talk about scary.

    8 years ago
  26. hahahahaha… Thank God you haven’t come to Venezuela, because in here is by far worst than in Korea… XD

    8 years ago
  27. I would have to say may be you’ve been living outside of Canada for too long because there has been a huge increase in line butters and horrible drivers going the wrong way in a one way lane. But thankfully we’re still good with the stopping at red lights..except for the usually rushing when its yellow.

    8 years ago
    • I was in Toronto last summer, and unless things have changed hyperdramatically in the last 10 months, it’s still nothing compared to South Korea. I have students with broken arms (and one boy who was in the hospital for 3 weeks and now wears a hat in class to cover the giant bandage over his head) because they were hit by busses. As crazy as the busses are in Toronto, I’ve never thought to myself “Wow, this is it, I’m going to die right now” like I have taken a bus in Korea.

      8 years ago
    • I agree with you, Faxa. Sorry Simon and Martina.  I visited Toronto bout 2 weeks ago and I must say that Torontonians are among the worst and reckless drivers in North America. My bus almost got involved in 3 different accidents during the travel from Kingston to Toronto. In addition, nobody lined up at Kipling station. Sorry, but Toronto did not leave me a good impression.

      8 years ago
      • Question: have you been to both Korea and Toronto?  How would you compare the two?  We haven’t driven in Toronto for over three years now, so maybe things have changed.  I do remember people obeying the streetlights, though.  Has that changed?

        8 years ago
  28. Bus drivers, taxis and delivery motorcyclists in Korea are under tremendous pressure to meet their target. Some taxi drivers may not be paid or even pay penalty out of their pocket if they fail to bring enough cash receipts. Bus drivers have to make a certain number of trips per day or penalized. Delivery men are paid per delivery. This is why they drive like crazy. I find bus drivers who run according to preset schedule, such as airport buses and school buses drive cautiously: No reason to hurry. So it will be difficult to change their behavior under current working condition. Running red lights can be and will be reduced by ticketing offenders caught on surveillance video installed at various cross-sections.

    8 years ago
    • I agree. It’s simply true…… you pointed it out exactly. They have to meet the time, customers, an amount of money……. I already confessed to S&M that crazy driving is true in Kor below, but now I’d rather say this is the big excuse. Anyway, we’d better correct this unreasonable system in a whole society.

      8 years ago
  29. LMAO wow I had no idea that the drivers were like that, well not every place is perfect their are cons and pros in any place people may live in. I just moved to Westchester this year which is a suburban county in New York, being a city girl who is use to corner stores and quick transportation this place has been kinda dull. Anyway I’m use to living here already and I love going to the mall that isn’t too far and waking up to birds chirping instead of police sirens and city people is much better! :D haha  

    8 years ago
  30. That whole red lights are suggestions things and the buss gunning it and making people fall happen a lot in Mexico too….I’m glad you told me so that when I come to Korea someday I will know what to expect.

    8 years ago
  31. Koreans are lovey wonderful people…until you put them behind the wheel, then they (for the most part) turn into crazy gotta be first monsters.  In order to get to work I have to cross a four lane road even when the crosswalk light is green I wait a few seconds before crossing and even then I have a near miss every morning.  After nearly 10 years of living in Korea I still can’t get used to the crazy driving…and don’t get me started on the cutting in line business….sigh…but other then that the people are lovely and the food is good..so I’ll look both ways many times before crossing the street and pray..a lot…LOL.

    8 years ago
  32. did you guys use a new editing system?

    8 years ago
    • Yeah, we upgraded to the new Final Cut Pro.  Don’t like it :(  There are some things missing from the old one that we really miss.  

      8 years ago
  33. Korea and Brazil have more things in commom than I thought kkkkkk Come to São Paulo, the biggest brazilan city and you’ll will taste what is living a huge urban city adventure just like Korea haha

    8 years ago
  34. Friends of mine who’ve traveled a lot say that US and Canadian drivers are by far the most law-abiding in the world. So I think we’re the exceptions, really, while Korea’s drivers are more typical of drivers around the world. That said, they scare the heck out of me, too, and I would be terrified to drive a car in Korea. In fact, I’m a bit reluctant to even bicycle here! And yeah, it’s dangerous even being a pedestrian–I learned that “look both ways no matter what” and “don’t expect cars to stop at red lights or stop signs” thing pretty early in my stay in Korea.

    8 years ago
  35. Then I should be grateful of the traffic laws in my country. Here people are very respectful and if you had an accident you have to pay for everything (I mean everyything) or go to jail. Red lights are law and you even can step on a side of the street and cars will stop to let you cross the street. But I wish the worst we could see were a few people playing badminton in the middle of the night xD I think here in Chile is the extremely opposite of Korea xD

    8 years ago
  36. oh guys, you seem so cute and innocent on this video to me HAHAHA because I seriously understand that coming from a country like Canada, that is like the Heaven on Earth, you get scared and find crazy all those things you just mentioned here HAHAHA I think I would be able to survive well in Korea since here in Mexico is the same with the driving thingie HAHAHA buses drive like crazy and also you better look on both sides of the street because yeah sometimes some cars can drive in the opposite side they’re supposed to, oh and also, don’t cross the streets even if the red light is on because some cars just don’t stop when they have to HAHAHA

    So yeah, I found it funny, I wouldn’t be so amazed about those things you just talked about (:

    8 years ago
    • That is so true I lived in Canada for 5 months and I can honestly tell that Canadians are one of the most peaceful people whaen it comes to driving ~ I was surprised that in Canada drivers actually stop and calmly wait pedestrians pass :) 

      8 years ago
  37. Every country has it’s good side and it’s bad side. :)

    8 years ago
  38. This story was just released about an expat in Seoul hit by a taxi: http://t.co/c. I never realized just how much more on my guard I’ve been crossing streets and rushing to sit down on buses, but you’re right. Didn’t notice butting in line until my first trip to Busan, when an ajumma just walked dead in front of me waiting for the bus tickets.

    8 years ago
  39. The only time I was able to take my time and sit down on a bus (actually several buses over a few days) was when I had crutches, I also was given seats and people held doors and carried stuff for me.  Koreans are lovely people, but driving and pushing (butting) in are some of the worst things in this country.

    8 years ago
  40. di

    NY taxi drivers are scary!!

    8 years ago