Jan
6
2009

Culture Shocks #1: The Queue Starts Here

Ask any Indonesian to make a line and he will stare at you as if you ask him to take off his clothes!
We have been taught (usually by bad experience), that queueing is futile and actually won’t get you anywhere.  Any opportunity to jump the queue must be taken whenever possible, and nobody will complain or even get upset, because everybody is doing it!
Ok, maybe I am too exaggerating , and I’m sure (hoping) that we are getting better at this, as we get ‘older’.

As for the Brits, one can see how they view queueing by just watching the following episode of Mr. Bean :)

In the UK, you can find queues everywhere you go, anywhere you need to pay or get services at counters, at the bus stop, even during traffic jam (nobody is trying to use the hard-shoulder).  People would queue for hours, often under freezing winter cold or blazing summer heat (sometimes with fatal consequences).  At some places, queuing is often enforced by putting a snaking rope to constraint the line, sometimes with a sign ‘The Queue Starts Here’ to mark the starting point and in a few occasions, a Bouncer (or two) will guard the end :)

It’s not that people like it, oh no no no, they would moan about it (another of Britain’s favorite), especially when it takes too long, but nevertheless they will do it. Anybody who would dare to try to jump the queue would be instantly treated with contempt, scolded and shouted at, like criminal.

Queueing is part of the UK norm, part of their culture, and it’s one of the Culture Shocks that I like very much. It’s one of Britain’s cultures that I have managed to integrate into myself.  Personally I think it has made an improvement to my own sense of discipline. So much so that when once I went back to Indonesia for a visit, I forgot that I didn’t have to queue and had to watch with horror while people kept jumping in front of me.  Of course then I was forced to ‘relearn’ this old habit and started jumping like the others (sadly).

As a final thought, I believe every nation should learn to adopt this habit.  I think it promotes fairness and teaches us how to be patient :)

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Related Posts:

Culture Shocks: The Intro to the series

Culture Shocks #2: Do You Take Milk With Your Tea ?

15 Comments + Add Comment

  • Bloody true. But it’s not because everybody do it. It’s more of a survival instinct here. Well, part of it because everyone else keep taking our turn.

  • Going to the bar on a Saturday night is a wierd exeperience. People are drunken, rowdy & insufferable, except when they go to the bar. There it's patient lines once again.

    It's inbuilt in our system, sorry! :)

  • Mind you..the queue is also the responsibility or concern of the bartender or the cashier till keeper as well. They will warn you fiercely before other people in the queue as soon as you by pass in. I suppose it is part of commercial ethics or quality assurance for serving customers. I will decline to return to a bar/ shop who do not stand by me if other jump the queue. Pitty in Indonesia this sense of fairness has not been understood or adopted.
    Salam kenal from Indonesian in London as well..

    • Salam kenal juga. Dimana London-nya ?

      • Hi..Live in Camden but work in Baker Street. Keep posting..these are all interesting. I have saved this web to my bookmarks. Will follow your posts regularly. Also I ticked 'Receive email updates for this post'. Cheer. B

        • Cool, I live in Ealing, working in Fulham. Do you know that we have Indoexpat mailing list ? Just in case you want to join our conversation :)

          • What's the URL of Indoexpat mailing list? I want to join.

  • It's done all over Western Europe and the United States as well . . . I used to not be able to imagine shoving and shouting, and then I went to Italy . . . .

    • … and all hell broke loose :)

  • Don't be sorry, I love the queue :)
    I forgot about the Bar Queue, that IS amazing, isn't it. Once I queued for 15 minutes just to get a pint :)

  • It's the same in NZ and Australia: jump a queue and you're likely to get lynched. The great thing about queues is that if they get too long it will generally force action. I'm thinking about traffic, especially. I wonder, if Jakartan drivers suddenly started using the lanes marked on the road, and forming lines at lights, toll gates, etc, the city would probably come to a complete standstill. Wouldn't that force action?

  • Actually I am not sure, it's never been done :) That would be nice to see (experiment?) though.

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