Road rage is real no matter where you live. What do you do if you make another driver so mad he gets out of his car and comes after you or tries to ram your car with his? That is really tough, and it has happened to me here in Korea, and I have figured out ways to get away, but it is easier to try to prevent it from happening in the first place, and I hardly every get anyone coming after me anymore. Here are some things I have done.
First of all, I don’t want other drivers to know I am a woman or that I am a foreigner. I am always afraid that if they get bothered by me, and they realize I am a woman and a foreigner, they are more likely to try to push me around. When I was molested once, I heard the perpetrator in the police station after they arrested him yelling, “It’s okay because she is a foreigner! We can treat foreigners like that!” I know there are people out there who think they can treat people bad just because they are foreigners. I also know from hearing men talk for years about “women drivers” in more than one country that many men think women are inferior as drivers, so if I can fix it so they can’t see me in my car, there will be no preconceived notions about me because I am a woman and a foreigner, and that is better.
I headed a lot of problems off at the pass when I bought my car. I chose a car that looked like most of the cars the Koreans drive. They offered me a red car, and it was pretty, but Koreans don’t usually drive red cars. They drive black or silver cars. I chose a silver car to blend in, not a red one to stand out. I also got tinted windows. I have dark hair, and if the windows are tinted, no one can see in and tell if I am Korean or not. My hair is long. I don’t know if they can tell from looking at my car or not, but maybe not. With tinted windows, I could be any other driver. If I do something they don’t like, they don’t know who I am. They can’t feel justified at harassing a foreigner or a woman. For all they know, there is a Korean man in the other car, and if that is true, they are less likely to mess with me.
Living in other countries, I have learned that I don’t want to look vulnerable to anyone. If you look vulnerable, there are people who will want to take advantage of you. When I was pregnant in Romania, we had a landlord who beat loudly on my door and screamed and yelled like a mad man because he thought he could get away with it. He wanted our hot water heater, and he thought terrorizing me, a pregnant woman at the time, would get it for him. In Nigeria, a Nigerian policeman wanted a bribe, so he came to my side of the car where I had a two year old baby sitting on my lap and screamed in my face and my baby’s face, not my husband’s face. The man who tried to molest me here in Korea thought that the street was deserted, and I was a woman, so I couldn’t get away, but a neighbor accidentally interrupted him, and I got away. Yes, some random guy tried to grab me and kiss me once upon a time. He got his arms around me, but couldn’t kiss me because the neighbor interrupted him, so I was able to extricate myself from his grasp and jump in my car and lock the door, thankfully. Do you see what I mean? People everywhere try to push women around, and if the woman is pregnant, sick, crippled, old, is alone, or has a baby, she is in even more danger of having someone try to push her around. If someone is mad at the other driver, and that other driver is me, it is best that they don’t know that I am a woman, and best they don’t know that I am a foreigner. I drive incognito for protection. They are going to scream at a woman before they will scream at a man because they are more scared of men. They will also scream at a foreigner before they scream at a Korean.
Another thing I do to protect myself from road rage here in Seoul wouldn’t have to be done in America, but I am not driving in America. My daughter has been studying a driver’s license manual from Oklahoma, and what these drivers here do is actually illegal in Oklahoma and probably in several other states. If I am ready to change lanes in America, I put my turn indicator on, check the other lane, and if another car is back behind me a way and the lane beside me is free, I can change lanes. It is illegal for the car back behind in the other lane to speed up, and in fact, in the driver’s manual, it tells them to slow down to make sure I can change the lanes easily. However, you can’t do this in Korea. If you put your turn indicator on and think you can check to see if the lane is free and then change lanes, you are sadly mistaken. When your turn indicator goes on, that is a signal to the other driver here in Korea to speed up because they want to go first. They will go so far as hitting your car if you get in their way. They must be first!! If I tried to change the lanes after I put my indicator on and realized the lane was free, it would just cause trouble. If I make it to the other lane without getting hit, the driver behind me will be mad and honking their horn. I have learned to put my turn indicator on, check the other lane, and not change lanes right away even if it looks free. I wait because I know that car back behind is going to take my turn indicator as a signal that they better speed up or someone will get in front of them. I let them speed up and pass me, I slow down, and I get in the other lane behind them. It takes more patience, but it is also safer when you know what the other drivers are like in Korea.
There are times that drivers get mad no matter how cautious I am and how much I try to stay away from them and hide, but there are ways that I have figured out how to get away from them. If I see another driver is bothered by me, honking their horn, seeming to try to follow me, or opening their window and screaming, there is no way I am going to stop at a stop light, but I won’t run it either. Once, a driver got mad at me and at the stop light got out and walked around my car screaming and beating on my car as I sat inside with my door locked waiting for the light to change. I cracked my window a little to talk to him, but he was just screaming like a mad man, and my Korean wasn’t very good then, so I didn’t know why he was so mad. He was actually mad, come to find out, because I was going the speed limit. Anyway, I never stop at stop lights when I think someone might be mad at me anymore. When we get to the stop light, I get to the right lane if possible, and I quickly stop, then turn right on red and go off into a neighborhood and get away from the car. They don’t expect it, and I have never been followed. I do everything I can to prevent accidents and to prevent other drivers getting mad. I also do everything I can to prevent letting them cause trouble for me if they get mad. Road rage is real, but I can usually prevent it from being directed at me.