Culture Shot: Being A Pedestrian

“How different could being a pedestrian be?” I thought in my innocence when I first got here, “It’s not like I’m unused to walking to where I need to be”. How wrong I was ladies and gents, how very wrong I was.

First, the footpaths are a crowed place with people headed to a wide variety of places for an even wider variety of reasons. In order to navigate through the masses, I have found it best to square my shoulders, point my elbows, and march as quickly as possible to where I’m going. The pointed elbows are a key point in this method, as without the jab of an elbow to remind folks coming too close you will be overcrowded in seconds.

Secondly, the five Ds: Dip, Dodge, Duck, Dive and…Dodge your way around old people and couples as these meanderers will hold you up for half a week and are guaranteed to step right into your way every time you attempt to overtake. And don’t for one second think that you can step off the footpath and go around wide because the streets are not the place for a pedestrian!

Mostly because a car might decide to park on your leg should it happen to land anywhere off the footpath, and hey that’s the driver’s prerogative.

Following on from the danger of stepping off the footpath for even just a second, you can forget about just strolling across the roads, no matter how small or narrow. This is due to the fact that Korean drivers have two settings: driving like a lunatic and stationary. I believe this is the reason everyone has automatic cars here, because no one could shift through the gears manually at the rate required for the short-distance bursts of speed drivers favor here. Well, aside from maybe The Flash that is.

Now I know this attitude of strolling across the road is possibly uniquely Irish, or perhaps just Galwegian, as our Medieval streets afford crossing in two strides or less throughout almost the entire city. Luckily, I’m a quick learner and have not been foolish enough to wander across the 8 lanes standing between the supermarket and my flat. 

Most of you are probably thinking “Ok Emmet, we knew you should stay on the footpath (or pavement,  if you’re from the US) you’re in a metropolitan city not a town with a cathedral”. I hate to break it to you folks the footpaths here are not all that much safer!At any given moment cars, in setting number one, can come hurtling forth from a concealed entrance to an underground car park or an apartment building, and it is your job, as a pedestrian, to see them because God knows they are not looking for you. However, as if the dangers of Crouching Toyota, Hidden Daewoo weren’t enough, another danger lurks on the sidewalks.

Zipping from place to place. Zooming around trying to make good time and be a general menace to society these creatures pose a threat to anyone brave enough to walk to work. What are they? Scooters.

This cheerful chappy has hit 3 children and a granny for a total of 150 points!

Not the silver steel children’s variety either, but full-on motorized scooters that require a licence to drive. These mainly belong to the delivery men of fast food chains like McDonald’s and Lotteria but can also include workmen and people who are just too terrified to drive on the road.

So, between dodging other pedestrians, and avoiding stepping into the lanes of traffic you must also avoid the ‘toot-toot’ and the ‘put-put-put-put-put’-ing of the delivery scooters who are looking to deliver their precious cargo of fried food by the quickest possible route which includes going through you if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In fact, the other night the man who brought my 3AM McDonald’s also delivered to my doorstep, four casualties and a flattened teenager he had struck while bringing my McChicken-something-or-other.

I think this is one of the biggest changes I’ve had to get used to over and was a shock to the system that I can be in mortal peril if I don’t keep my wits about me and my eyes open on my journeys every time I leave the house.

Listening to an iPod carries a massive health and safety warning too because if I miss even one ‘toot-toot’ it’s curtains for me!

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