Bus Drivers in Korea

Most bus drivers are just there to do their job; they are neither friendly nor rude.  Some bus drivers are nice to foreigners and double check their tickets for them to make sure they are on the correct bus.  The bus drivers I’m about to mention, I have a more ‘personal’ relationship because I usually see the same rotation of bus drivers on my daily hour-long rides to and from work.

Bus Terminal

Bus terminal

Wait…did that just happen?

In my village where I work, there are two other foreigners.  Last week, the other American girl joined me for a bus ride to the city I live.  She has limited experience in my city and she wanted to head towards a certain restaurant and find a hotel for the night.  So, I was talking to her on the bus—at a normal volume.  Within about 5 minutes, I hear this bellowing voice.  My friend and I pause our conversation because it slowly clicks that the voice is speaking English.  In fact, it’s the bus driver.  The only words I catch are “quiet…other side.”  In other words, he told us to shut up because we were speaking in English and we should be quiet out of respect for the Koreans on the other side of the bus.  (I have NEVER heard them yell at Koreans for talking too loud.)  While I had been warned about this behavior by bus drivers and took it in stride, my friend had never experienced this treatment and was shocked and offended.

Taking things too personally

If you don’t remember how much I hate the cold, then either read here or just know that I despise being cold.  Keep in mind, that I think any temperature around 0C/32F is freezing.  If I can see my breath, I’m not happy—put it that way.  In that previous blog, I also mention about how my bus rides always begin as trip in a refrigerator…that slowly warms up.  Although the weather is slowly warming up—no longer -3 to -14 C (down to 6F), there are still days where it’s 0C/32F.  On these days, I have entered the bus, noticed the heater isn’t even ON, and so I announce that I’m cold (in Korean).  One particularly nasty bus driver yelled at me (in Korean so I have no idea what he said), and then waited 30 minutes to turn it on.  Another bus driver, who I’ve officially nicknamed a**hole, agreed with me that it was cold and then did NOTHING—the entire hour-long ride!! I was freezing!  It was -2C (28F) that day.  He also took his cigarette break (about 3-5 minutes) and left the bus door open the entire time.  >.<  This was 2 days ago…I’m still bitter.

Saved the best ones for last

There are genuinely nice bus drivers, though.  PROMISE!  In December, I got stuck on a bus for 2 hours because of an accident in the snow; the bus driver gave me and the one other passenger apple juice and some of his fishy-tasting crunchy chips (they’re popular here).  The other nice bus drivers have appeared as I’ve gotten more familiar with them.  On my morning bus rides, I’m usually asleep: partially because I stay up late and partially because sleeping is a great way to ignore the fact that I’m freezing to death.  There is a 3-5 minute stop on my bus rides in the morning; usually the bus drivers go out for a cigarette break or grab a cup of coffee.  On these instances, I have had 3 different bus drivers grab a cup of coffee for me. (I think I’m up to 6 cups of coffee.)  Although I don’t like coffee, I appreciate the gesture and will drink it.  One of these bus drivers loves to practice his (very) limited English with me.  He is really awesome, and discounts my bus fare when he’s driving.  Also, he has bought me orange juice on the afternoon rides (twice), and a chocolate candy bar (once in the morning).  I’ve tried to make it up to him; I’ve given him a croissant and shared some of my cookies.



  1. Liked this blog very much.
    Since I am always taking the train I haven’t met any bus drivers over here in Japan but I have been yelled at by Japanese riding along with me ’cause I was talking with a friend in German.
    I sometimes believe this is only because they cannot follow the subject then. What do think?

    1. I think it is either because the foreigners are too loud or because the native speakers can’t understand what’s being said. I have seen it in the United States as well. If you aren’t speaking the official language, the native speakers become angry (and maybe they think you are saying bad things about them).

      1. Yea but you know most won’t go yelling at someone speaking spanish over here. They would be too afraid of getting stabbed 😉

        Good luck with these crazy bastards that seem to live in various nooks and crannies around the world. I’ve decided the best solution is for you to act as childish as possible when addressing d-bags like some of these fellas.

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