Most people think driving rules are driving rules. unless you are driving on the other side of the road, they consider there can’t be many possible differences from country to country, but here in Korea, even though the laws are the same, the rules are different. There are parking differences too. My daughter and I took a drive today, and we had to use some of the different rules, and then, when we got to our parking lot, we had to use some of the different rules again. If you drive in Korea, you have to know these rules, and I will explain some of them to you.
To begin with, there are no policemen monitoring how fast the traffic goes. There are cameras only above the roads that monitor the speed of the traffic. The only time you can actually get a speeding ticket is if you speed where the camera can take a picture of you. Otherwise, they speed between cameras and slow down at the camera. However, as an American Christian, I have trouble with this idea, and I can’t speed between cameras. If you are speeding and don’t see a camera, you are in trouble, and you will receive your ticket in the mail, then you have to go to the bank to pay it.
When you are driving and want to change lanes, it can be a real chore here. People just don’t like you to change lanes. You have to be extra careful, even more so than in America, if you want to change lanes. You can check the next lane and see a car far enough behind you that you can change lanes, then put your turn indicator on, and go to the next lane if you are in America, but you can’t do that in Korea. After you check and there is a car far back in the other lane and put your turn indicator on in Korea, you have to hesitate. If you try to go to the other lane like you would in any other country, you may be hit. When that other car sees your turn indicator, they think it is a sign they need to speed up so when you change lanes, you won’t be in front of them. After I put my turn indicator on, I don’t go to the other lane here. I slow down and let the other car speed up, and I change lanes behind them.
Many times, if you put a turn indicator on here, they still won’t let you over. You could have an emergency or just have to get to the other lane so you can turn, but it doesn’t matter, they will block you. If you just have to turn and they aren’t cooperating, You have to roll your window down and stick your hand out the window. Then, they will let you change lanes.
When you get the parking lot, there are several rules also. The first one is that you must always have your phone number posted either inside on the dashboard or on the window where they can see it. Their parking lots are not always arranged the same way ours are. Often, there are two cars parked where one is blocking the other. It is just arranged that way, so if the other person wants to move their car, but you are blocking them, they must call you to move your car, or if they are blocking you, you call them to move their car. If you don’t come exactly when they call, they become really irate! In one apartment building I lived in, my parking space was behind my neighbor’s parking place, and I always blocked him in. If I got there first, he couldn’t get to his parking space. We solved the problem, but it took a lot of trust. He gave me a spare key to his car, and I gave him a spare key to my car. If the other person was in the way, we just moved the other car. We traded our spaces back and forth which ever way was more convenient. If I got there first, I parked in his space, and then when he got there, he could park behind me. If he parked first and the next day came out finding my car behind him, he didn’t have to call me, he just moved my car, pulled his car out, then parked my car again. I did the same with his car.
In the parking lot we use now, it gets kind of crazy sometimes. Korean parking spaces are smaller than American parking spaces, and that makes it harder to park. I have actually learned it is easier to use a back up camera to park between two cars in parking lot here. Without my back up camera, life would be much harder! At times, they insist all the cars must be parked facing the same way, either backed in first or going in front first, they must be uniform, or they could put a big yellow sticker on your windshield that is a pain in the neck to scrape off. The big yellow stickers are like parking tickets. If you put your car in the wrong place, you could get one of those big yellow stickers too. There are parking tickets if you park in certain places they send to you in the mail, but usually, you get the big yellow stickers if you park somewhere they don’t want you to park.
If you come home and find your parking lot full, you still have to put your car somewhere. At that point, you park your car in the driving area in front of some cars and leave it in neutral without the parking brake on. If one of the cars has to come out that your car is blocking, they just push your car out of the way. If the building attendant comes out and finds that your car is parked blocking the others, but he sees your wheels slightly turned, he calls you, even late at night, to come down and straighten your tires out because they say that if someone pushes a car with the wheels even just slightly turned, the car will go the wrong way and either block the parking lot more or roll into another car.
When you actually get to park in a parking space, you must park right in the middle of the parking space. If you don’t the building attendant may call you, yes even late at night again, to come and put your car in the space better. Everything must be uniform. The side mirrors on the cars here are made for you to push in and make more room for walking between the cars. Some people feel it is rude when you park if you don’t push your mirrors in. If you don’t leave your mirrors pushed in, someone else may push them in when you aren’t there, and when you get in your car, you need to notice or you may be driving down the road and all of a sudden realize you can’t see anything in your side mirror because someone has pushed it in. Some of the cars are equipped with automatic buttons in the car to put the mirrors back in place. However, to make it cheaper, I didn’t get those buttons in my car, so if I find someone has pushed my mirrors in after I begin driving, I can roll my window down and push it out on the driver’s side, but on the opposite side of the car, someone else must be in the car with me to push the mirror out. It can be very inconvenient. If I am in the car alone, I have to pull off the road and fix mirrors.
As you can see, there is a whole other mindset toward driving and parking here in Korea than in other countries. The first time I saw a car parked up on the sidewalk here, I was in shock, but it happens. The land space is small, and it causes them to make parking spaces smaller, but it also ends up causes crazy rules everyone has to learn that are different from in other countries. The only reasons they are obstinate to people changing lanes is because each Korean has the mindset that they must go first and they must be the best. There are many more people with college degrees in Korea than in other countries, and whether or not they went to an Ivy League university or not is much more important to them than to people in other countries. They must be the best! They must be first! An American friend of mine left the country and came back, and when they got off the airplane in Incheon, they said, “I knew I was back in Korea because everyone around me was pushing to go first.” It is just a characteristic of the Korean people. They must be first. They must be best. They will accept nothing less. If you want to drive in Korea, you must know these rules to keep yourself out of trouble.