Thursday, January 20, 2011

Driving in Korea

I've been driving here in Korea since last September. It took me a while to adjust to the new driving etiquette. To the faint of heart, driving in Korea may feel like a random mix of speeding and ignoring lights. However, there are subtle rules...

1. If a light is red, it is merely a suggestion. This is particularly true if you are a taxi, it's early in the morning, or you are rushing to pick up some ice cream from the store. Also, if you're a taxi, you can just flash your brights to signal that you've got places to go and thus won't be stopping or slowing for the light.

2. If you cut someone off, which all drivers in Korea are wont to do, you may choose to flash your hazards for a few seconds. This is like saying, "Oopsie. Sorry I'm a jerk. Please accept my lame apology as I slow down in front of you after cutting you off."

3. If you are upset at another driver, either for something they did to you or for no specific reason at all, you may choose to flash your brights. Why? To frustrate the other driver. It works.

4. All cars, even the nicest of the newest import vehicles, have little cushions on the outside of their doors. These cushions look cheesy, but they serve the all important purpose of protecting your door from the various obstacles which may get in your way in tiny parking lots. ***For help understanding this idea which I find extremely difficult to describe at this particular moment, see the edited photo below:

5. No parking? No problem! Just pull into the right hand lane, intended originally for thru traffic, and park! Don't forget to turn on your hazards so all the people forced to change lanes so you might run in for a quick errand will feel happy that you at least feel some small semblance of remorse.

6. Should you see a police car, drive in your normal way. There's no need to slow down or follow any rules more closely than before. Why? Because the police have better things to do!

7. Never ever go into the pedestrian walk way during their green light. This may sound logical, but it feels slightly counterintuitive. Pedestrians only have about ten seconds of freedom near the roadways, during which they can be assured that they need not fear for their lives. The rest of the time, pedestrians must be ever vigilant because cars will NOT stop for them, even if the pedestrians are wielding a double stroller or riding in a wheelchair.

8. It is customary to back into your parking spots. This is so you can show off your mad skills. However, after a long empirical study (involving one failed attempt to back into a space), I have decided that backing in takes longer than just pulling into the spot and backing out later.

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