Getting a Driver’s License in Korea

This is not converting a driver’s license from your home country to an international license.  This is rather actually obtaining a driver’s license in Korea – I do not have my license back at home in America.

Story is my main school offered to help me get my driver’s license since they have a car that I may utilize for transportation to all 4 of my schools within this area – thank goodness I may add; one school is 1.5 hours or more out by an express bus, with a transfer!

The process is similar to how it is in America, but slightly different – it’s essentially a 3-step procedure.

  1. Written Exam
  2. Functional Test
  3. Road Test

The school sent me to an academy to prepare for all sections to get my license.  I sat for close to 5 hours reading poorly written English practice Q&As, and then went to the local DMV to take the written exam; not that the American written exam is difficult but I recall one or two questions that weren’t 100% clear – it was much worse here, but that comes with the territory.

The next step is where things deviate quite a bit.  Here you are tested on things such as turning on your lights, high beam included, wipers, signals, emergency brake, and suddenly stopping for hazards.  It’s a pretty straight-forward section but this time it was not in English.  I was panicking on the inside because it was too much Korean to memorize in such a short amount of time.  This time I had only 2 hours of practice before taking the test, but I got used to the procedure and managed to pull it off without a hitch.  We don’t have this section, and I suppose it wouldn’t hurt but it sort of is unnecessary – I guess they assume our parents teach us those small details.

The road test is very similar but the school has 4 routes that you practice on and you are actually tested on 1/4 routes of which is chosen at random.  You follow a computer-operated program telling you when to turn and such, but after 6 hours of practice you should already have memorized all 4 routes anyways.  I’m in a small town in the countryside and I turned out to be the only one out of five taking the road test for a car and not a truck so I went last.  Man, I was tired of waiting and anxious to getting it over with.  Luckily I didn’t rush through the test and all.

A couple of days later, I have the license in my hand! 🙂 This definitely opens up new doors for future travels!  Looking forward to converting this to an international driving license someday soon!  Here’s to a city-kid growing up!

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The Korean Age System

You may have heard that South Korea considers the 9-months in the mother’s womb as 1 year when a baby is born, if not well now you know, but it is slightly more complicated than that.

But before we get into further details, let’s just review how we calculate our age:

  1. We start counting from 0 when we are born
  2. We age one complete year on the day of our birthday of that respective year, and this continues forever

Now, the Korean:

  1. You are 1-year-old when you are born
  2. You gain an age at the beginning of each respective year on January 1st after eating a traditional soup called ddeokgug with your family, while your birthday counts for nothing but for presents as a child (some young adults still celebrate but it is not as significant to the Koreans as it is for most other western cultures)

So it seems pretty easy and cut-clean right?  Not exactly!  When you are trying to calculate your Korean age, it is a bit difficult getting used to thinking their system.

  • For example, if you are 19 years old today in the USA, how old are you in Korea on February 22?
  • How about if you are 30 in Korean age today – how old are you in England on March 3?
  • Now let’s say you are 24 years old in Australia and your birthday is on May 2nd, but today is July 1st, how old are you in the Korean age?

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Episode 1 – Journey to the Land of the Rising Sun

There are 4 things that I specifically wanted to share with everyone.

  1. EVA Air
  2. Japanese Customs
  3. Rookie Mistake
  4. Train Ticket

1.Eva Air TicketsEva Air
I flew with EVA before on my way to Cambodia for the first time during my senior year in High School.  The first time I flew with EVA, I was blown away by the services and conveniences provided by the staff since it was my first international flight; however the second time was not as interesting, in fact it was a bit of a disappointment.  This is not because EVA has bad service, food, or whatnot; it was just because taking everything into consideration, it was not as great as the Korean Air experience.  The flight was good; the food, entertainment, and service was more than satisfactory.  The only comments worth noting was that the entertainment was very selective to their target audience in that I was only interested in 2 movies, and the chicken served had bones and skin in it; I don’t know about you but I don’t want to bother with bones with my meal with such limited space to eat.  It wasn’t a big deal but it bothered me more just because (2) I was in the beginning of a section where the TV and tray comes out from the side or bottom; the tray is at least half the size of the normal tray and it is very close to the body which is just too uncomfortable altogether.  If you’re wondering why I got such a terrible seat, it is because I booked the flight with STA Travel and the low-cost tickets they receive don’t allow the passenger to select their seat until you check-in for the flight.  Regardless, I watched a couple of movies and shows, ate, drank, and rested as much as I could for a successful flight to Taipei and Osaka.

2. (Random Pictures from the Taipei Airport)2013-09-27 05.45.18 2013-09-27 05.45.44 2013-09-27 05.46.422013-09-27 06.40.57
After finally landing in Osaka, I arrived at Terminal 2 and had to take a shuttle train to Terminal 1 where customs, luggage, and everything is located.  The customs process here is basically the same as it is to get into America; where they separate locals and foreigners, require a filled-out small rectangle white card, and confirm all your credentials.  I never had to be issued an ID at the airport in America but I did in Singapore when I studied abroad there for a few months and it’s very similar in that you pick it up at customs at the airport upon arrival.  I also provided the agent/representative my application allowing me to work part-time if I decide to do so; FYI I was informed and thus did nothing in this regard while abroad in Singapore.  The whole process took probably 20 minutes, yeah it was quite a while so if you are coming to Japan do not stand behind someone who may be coming in as a new student and hop behind someone who is obviously a tourist!

3. (“credit saison”)DSC02616
After customs I picked up my luggage and ran to the nearest Japan Post ATM to withdraw money.  Japan is mostly cash based so it was definitely required considering I only had a little over 20 USD on me.  Little did I know that this was going to be such a painful task causing me to miss my train to Kyoto!  Unfortunately I pulled a rookie mistake, one that I did not make prior to this, I did not call all of my banks informing them of my travel plans so my debit card was being rejected!  Using what little, broken Japanese I knew, I found my way to a pay phone to call the number on the back of the debit card.  After making it through to the hotline and getting myself a representative to assist me with my withdrawal issue, I was informed that, that was not my only issue because I was trying to withdraw above the daily limit.  I asked her if there was anything that could be done because I needed to withdraw about double the limit to pay for my apartment and living expenses until my new account is set up and funded; thankfully she was able to increase it!  That took about 20 minutes alone too!  I knew that Japanese schedules are known to be always on time so I didn’t bother rushing and took my time to the station and in getting my ticket.

4.DSC02615
Getting the ticket stressed me out a bit too; considering that I almost was stuck with no cash and means to get to Kyoto and pay for my reserved apartment.  I figured since I had time that I would stand in line to get a ticket from a person rather than a machine just to be safe rather than sorry, and to see if I could put my ISIC student card to use by getting a discount; half way through the line I see a sign in English stating that if I was trying to purchase a ticket to Kyoto to please use the machines outside.  So I went outside to look at the different machines in attempting to purchase a ticket.  I skipped around from one to another trying to figure it out.  There was only a couple of machines with the English option and eventually figured out how to get my ticket.  Now if you did not know, Japan has many different train lines, routes, options, and protocols that isn’t exactly common knowledge to an average NYC commuter so I was mentally prepared and aware that I needed to make sure what I was doing, which trains I was taking was definitely the right one.  The ticket from the Kansai International Airport in Osaka to Kyoto on the Haruka Express train as unreserved costed me about $28 and took about 75 minutes; yeah not exactly cheap for the cheapest available seat on the train, but it was the best value among all other options in getting to Kyoto so I was satisfied.

Apologies for the long post, hope you enjoyed it though!  Stay tuned for more 🙂
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