Today I am going to talk a little bit about driving in Korea, because driving culture is very different than what I have experienced in America.
I first noticed this disparity in attitudes as soon as I got to Korea. I had to take a four-hour bus from the Incheon/Seoul airport to Ulsan, and I was exhausted, so I was going to take this opportunity to claim two seats for myself so that I could try to sprawl out a bit and take a nap. Well, I successfully fall asleep to be abruptly awoken 20 minutes later by the loud, long honking of the horn by our bus driver. This clearly sent me into alarm, thinking that we were just cut off or in some way in danger of getting in a wreck. After surveying the area, I realize that nothing seems to be amiss… I shrug it off and go back to sleep. Much to my horror this continued for the entire bus ride at the very least every ten minutes. I was clearly convinced that my bus driver was a crazy asshole.
A few days later, I noticed that this was a similar pattern and began to understand what I was seeing. Honking your horn is not an aggressive move in Korea. It is not a form of “yelling” at another driver. It is merely a form of communication to help traffic go more smoothly. This actually makes a lot of sense. You can’t talk to the cars around you so why not use your horn to try to bridge that communication gap, instead of utilizing it to blow off steam when somebody makes a dick move on the road.
Another divergence from my learned rules of the road is that oftentimes stoplights serve more as a suggestion than a strict rule. I will admit that I have been one to speed up when the light turns yellow to beat the red; but here I have been on multiple buses that I have mortifyingly watched straight up blow a red light. I looked around the bus, shocked that a bus driver would do that, and not one other person was fazed.
I have mostly gotten used to the horn culture (although it still makes me jump, its hard to override 22 years of socialization), but I am still super scared every time a bus just cruises through a clearly red light.
Lastly, I have had a few people ask me for my address. If you would like to send me a letter or a package, I would be more delighted. I will hang up any letter than I am sent on my “happy wall” where I have hung a couple of notes and drawings and am hoping to add to soon. J Here is the address of my school which is where I have my mail sent. I would love to hear from you all!
Sang Ah Top Foreign Language School
2nd Floor, Sang Ah Top. Dong-bu-dong Dong-gu
Ulsan, South Korea 682-800
Until next time, I miss you all!