This past weekend, we spent some quality time with our newest family member, little Mac. Mac is our brand new-to-us (aka “pre-owned”) Kia Morning, and we had great fun picking out this little guy. We went in with this silly idea – ok, it was all mine – that we needed an SUV, especially for the dogs’ sake. Well, within 10 minutes of being in the car lot and:
a) seeing there is pretty much no difference between the “smaller” and standard-size SUVs here, and
b) comparing the price difference and resale value between SUVs and compact cars,
…we (ok, again, I) threw in the towel and accepted our fate.
Yes, J fits in the car with plenty of comfort, even though he is a giant around here.
I didn’t want to post about Mac before we settled on a name, as is necessary for any car owner of our generation. After much debate, we found that as with every addition to our family, an M name just fits. Driving around town, we had some laughs about a play on “morning” and came up with “McMorning” (which is the Korean name for a McDonald’s McMuffin since the letter f is not in the Korean language). That morphed into into “Little Mac” (as opposed to Big Mac), or “Mac” for short, which morphed into “Macklemorning”, a reference to our renegade, uber-stylized car juxtaposed to his size. Or to the ironic awesomeness of jamming to the song “Thrift Shop” while riding in an ultra-compact car.
He’s already living up to that name, being the cool one of the pack, at least for the Kia Morning competition around town. We often see bright blue or green ones, and a lot of pink in the similar Chevy Spark variety. I loved the mushroom color of Mac, as well as his clean lines and metallic wheels, and shortly after purchased realized the striking similarity between Little Buddy and Mr. Mac.
See any resemblance? No wonder we ended up with Mac.
Ok, Macklemorning is way cooler looking than Little Buddy, so I guess it’s a step up, but Mac may actually be a bit smaller. At least when it comes to trunk space. Still, around here, compact cars are very common, so we’re not terribly out of place.
Parking is super easy, even though we’ve given up a bit of trunk space.
This brings me to a topic I could complain about for days. Korean drivers are the current tribulation in my life as an expat. Driving in another country always seems a little raucous, but usually that stems from driving on the opposite side of the road or being in a taxi, which does not represent the average driver in any particular culture. Maybe it’s because this is my first experience driving myself in another country, but I have some things to say about Korean drivers. Now, you know that I try to avoid stereotypes and generalizations, and hopefully my opinion will change over time. But at the moment, it just seems that Korean drivers have no situational awareness when driving.
Yeah, yeah, I bet you’re thinking about the guy in front of you on I-10 who cut you off today. I get it. Drivers are the worst in [insert your city name here]. But, I beg you, just play along here for a minute and think back to the last red light where you stopped. Do you recall a driver behind you getting so annoyed that you’re not going through the light that they drive into the oncoming lane of traffic, around and then in front you, and proceed ahead through the red light? Happens daily here.
Or, how about that scooter-taxi accident you saw where the scooter driver was laying in the road clutching his leg, scooter strewn about in the middle of the road? Seen this happen twice already. We’ve been here one month.
Oh, and what about the guy in front of you who is watching TV while he is driving? No, I’m not mistaking a GPS, he’s already got one of those suctioned to his windshield. I’m referring to that smartphone hanging from his rearview mirror. He is watching. television. while. driving.
And don’t get me started on the high rates of alcohol consumption and how that adds a completely different and scary dimension to this. If you didn’t know, South Korea is just behind Eastern Europe as having the highest alcohol consumption per person, per year, in the world. Although, there is a well-used designated driver service here, so that may not be as big of a problem as I worry about.
We are learning by trial (and not a lot of error, thankfully) that you have to be confident and claim your space here, otherwise it will take you forever to get anywhere. And you’ve got to be vigilant and defensive, which absolutely means no texting or talking while driving …if you even thought about doing that here, you’d be injured, burdened with expensive car repairs or even dead in your first day on the road.
On that note, distracted driving is a whole different thing here – generally I don’t see a ton of people talking or texting while driving, though it happens. The real problem is that people are simply and completely unaware of what and who is around them and being respectful of others’ space, whether it be for safety or personal reasons. That goes for waiting in lines and navigating the grocery store with a cart, too, but that’s another post for another time when you’re less bored of me repeating myself.
Let’s just hope Mac survives a couple of years on the road with us. Now to take him on a road trip so he can become Minnie- and Murray-approved.
[Note: It is easy to critique another culture from an outsider’s perspective. Imagine how easy it is to complain about drivers at home, and then pretend they are all foreigners. However, I still stand behind my frustration, and here’s why.
I’ve done a bit of research, and it seems most of the issues about which I have complained stem from the fact that driving was adopted at a much later time in history in Korea compared to Western nations. Thus “rules” (such as speed limits, stop lights, yielding, etc) have not been gradually introduced as cars have adapted and developed like they did in the US (i.e. faster speeds, growing population of car owners, etc).
Here, the rules and traffic systems were just thrown in all at once along with vehicles. This, combined with an urban environment where prior transport methods (walking, scooters and bicycles) had no real laws or regulations, led to the acceptance of driving “laws” as more of a set of “guidelines” that don’t always apply.
While I understand that this is a cultural phenomenon to which I am going to have to adapt – and that efficiency/”logic” may tell you it’s okay to run a stop light in the when no one is coming – for safety purposes as well as having effective laws, it’s got to be a more rigid system, especially to improve on Korea’s traffic accident statistics. End tirade.]