Terrified does not even begin to describe the feeling I had walking out of the airport in Korea. I knew this was the beginning of my new life overseas, but that is not quite what I was so scared of. I knew as long as TJ and I were together, we could handle living in a foreign place (a little cheesy, I know). No, it wasn’t that. It wasn’t the strange food, the overwhelming surroundings, or the new people. It wasn’t the fact that this was my very first time being a true Army wife living the true Army life. It wasn’t even the fact that I could say two whole words in Korean. “Hello” and “Thank you” were pretty much all I had under my belt when I first arrived. (Honestly, it is still all I can say. I’m still working on it.) It was the “oh my goodness, they really just did that” driving. It was the chaotic traffic. It was the driving laws/rules that still don’t make a whole lot of sense to me. I spent our entire drive home from the airport hanging onto the door handle for dear life, like that was going to help. I finally just had to close my eyes and trust that he would get us home safely, which, of course, he did. I said right then and there that my parents should just cancel my car being shipped over. I was not ever going to drive in this country. Ever. I couldn’t wrap my head around anyone wanting to drive here. TJ had warned me beforehand about this new driving situation I was coming into because he knows that I am a safe, very defensive driver, and this was pure chaos. I don’t like chaos. I like order. I like following rules. I pride myself on my wreck-less record (knock on wood). I have never even been pulled over. TJ, on the other hand, well, he really, really, loves driving here. He is crazy. I’ll explain.
Speed limits? What are those? I mean, there are little signs above the red lights (that really are just suggestions, as well) that state, in kilometers, what the speed limit is. Does anyone follow the speed limit? No, not really. Do police pull people over for speeding? No, not really. They actually drive around with their lights on all the time. How would you even know they were trying to pull you over? That still confuses me. Back to the red lights. They do at least have red lights, I will say that. Taxis, buses, and motorcycles, however, really don’t think they actually apply to them. This kind of ripples down into other drivers thinking that the red lights (or stop signs, for that matter) don’t always apply to them either. Now, don’t get me wrong. If heavy traffic is coming, everyone usually stops. Motorcycles, not so much, but everyone else, yes. Also, we in America make left turns on green. If nothing is coming, then that is totally acceptable. Here, it is “illegal” to make a left on green. Most of the time, they really won’t. They will run a red light, but a left on green? No, no way, that is going too far. Pedestrians have no reservations about just walking out in traffic to cross the street. If the road is a 4 lane, it really is just a 2 lane. The 2 outside lanes are usually taken up with parked cars. Park 2, maybe 3 deep on the side of a road and sidewalk? Why not? Leave your car in neutral so that someone can move it for you? Sure! Cars cut people off every 2 feet, and buses, well, just stay out of their way. You are in the lane they want to be in? You had better move. Quickly. The only way to get a ticket, really, are the cameras on some red lights. They are clearly marked, so just don’t run those, and you are golden.
All of these reasons, and then some, are reasons why my husband is in love with driving here. This is probably how he would drive back home if he wouldn’t get arrested or cause a few thousand wrecks in the process. He is just as crazy as the rest of the drivers here (love you!), so, therefore, he is a good driver. You have to be aggressive with your driving here. You can’t be a timid driver because that will cause a wreck. And you never see a wreck! I am sure they have them here, but I personally have not seen one yet. Slamming your door into someone else’s door is common, but real, car-totaled wreck? No, not so much. I just didn’t get it at first. They drive like crazy and don’t get in wrecks. But, I have discovered their secret. They expect every other driver to be just as bad as they are. Therefore, they are ready for that bus to come over in their lane with no blinker whenever that big bus feels like it. They are prepared for that motorcycle to run the red light trying to make a quick food delivery. That, my friends, is the secret to driving here. I haven’t actually driven here yet because I am still slightly scared for my life, but when I do, I have the secret.