I will get this out right up front: driving in Korea is exhausting. I grew up in SoCal where the driving is insane. People there are !@#$%^&^% but they are predictable !@#$%^%s - you KNOW the guy in that lane next to you is going to whip into the 5 foot space between your front bumper and the rear bumper of the car in front of you. But those !@#$%^%s follow the traffic laws, for the most part. Here in Korea, the traffic laws are more like 'guidelines'. I like to call the driving over here 'aggressively defensive'.
When we first arrived, we were warned - do not cut off the buses and watch out for the taxi drivers. That's no joke - they are both nuts. We took a bus back from the airport when we arrived and just being a passenger on the bus was stressful. They do not give an inch. The taxi drivers rival Formula 1 drivers with their skills and speed. And their abilities on their horn are unrivaled. I had heard that the delivery scooter drivers were nuts but didn't realize HOW nuts until we were heading home one evening and one whipped in between us and the car waiting in front of us (all of a 3 foot clearance) in order to DRIVE ON THE SIDEWALK. Insane.
Red lights are optional. In the states, one would never think of running a red light but here it is actually more dangerous NOT to run them as you might get rear-ended by someone who is coming up behind you, expecting you to not be sitting there. Or you might get clipped by a crazy Formula 1 taxi driver whipping around you. Also, some of the red lights are in the most ridiculous of places - some are at driveways and crosswalks and they aren't sensored so they go red even though no one is there to use the crosswalk. So people run them. It's crazy.
Add all of this on top of the fact that it's challenging to read the street and highway signs (some of it is in English but not all of it. And even the stuff that's in English isn't necessarily helpful) and the fact that there aren't addresses like you have in the States and it makes navigation...difficult. When people give directions, it's a lot like getting directions in the South - people use landmarks as opposed to street names and building numbers. In an area that is unfamiliar, getting places can be exhausting.
But we're learning. I had a wonderful friend get me a GPS and pre-load it with local maps. I've also been messing around with a great little app called Waze - a community-based traffic and navigation app. It's been helpful but not perfect. There are the GPS routes, the 'back roads', and the 'back-back roads'. The neat thing about the Waze program is that it 'learns' your preferred routes. Possibly, between the GPS, my Waze program, and experience, I might not come home exhausted every time I go run an errand.
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