Posted by: Hereandthere40 | November 23, 2011

Standing In Line: A Key Indicator into a Countries Character

A line or a queue is the most common sense creation civility has ever produced.  However, some countries didn’t get the memorandum on etiquette.  I believe you can tell a lot about a countries character and culture by how its citizens stand in a line.

In some countries like Egypt or the Gulf states it is quite normal for one family member to stand in line until they get to the front, then call the whole family up, which can make the line about 1/3 longer.  This can be frustrating for a foreigner witnessing this from the back of the line, especially when not accustomed to such etiquette, but it is forgivable.

In England the lines are single file, each person ensures not to invade the personal space of others by leaving ample space to the front and rear, and talk and excessive noise are kept to a minimum.  Some would view this as almost over the top, but to me it shows respect for others, and pride in civility.

In the United States the citizens may not have the most orderly lines, but generally speaking, people do not cut.  When they do, people speak up, they will confront the cutter.  When I was a young teen my Grandpa Buck and I were standing in line for ice-cream in the U.S, some teenagers cut in front of some older ladies that were in front of us.  My Grandfather, without thinking twice, told the teens to get to the back of the line.  They laughed and acted like it was funny, but they listened.  I remember being proud of him for that.

In countries like Nepal, India, and Venezuela, the majority of the population will cut in front of you in a line if you leave more than a half a meters distance between you and the person in front of you.  Once in Kathmandu I was standing in a very long immigration line to enter the country and a family of about 4 Chinese nationals cut to the front of the line.  Everybody in the line was sighing with disgust.  I walked to the front of the line and tapped the father on the shoulder and told him, “hey buddy, there’s a line here, you need to find the back of it.”  He looked at me like I had no right to tell him anything, he just turned his head and ignored me.  I then told the immigration officer that these folks had just cut the whole line.  The officer instructed the family to go to the back of the line.  The Chinese guy looked at me like I had just slapped him on the face.  I remember thinking, “if Grandpa were here he would be proud of me.

Over the past two weeks in Venezuela I have been cut in front of in lines on a daily basis.  This caught me off guard because the rest of the Latin American countries are not like this, the folks tend to adhere to such simple etiquette.  The first few times I would confront the person, generally by mentioning that there is a line, and perhaps they accidentally failed to notice.  My patience grew thin after several instances, eventually I would cut right back in front of that person, even if it was an old lady.

A person that cuts in line is basically saying to you, “I do not respect you, I think I am better than you, and I believe my time is more valuable than yours.”  When this tends to be the norm in a country, it tells you that the country lacks character.  Whats worse than the person cutting in line, is the several dozen people behind him or her who say nothing.  Thats how I judge a country, not by the violator, but by the ordinary citizens who stand by and let such nonsense occur.  Regardless of which country I am in, I will respect the differences and values, and I will bite my tongue.  Unless of course its a line cutter.


  1. In Italy people don’t like to queue, they just gather in a group and it is every man for himself. People regularly push in front of me here, but I have learned to sharpen my elbows and push right back or I don’t get served.

  2. Intriguing marketing, Luke, surpassed only by the subject of your essay, “Standing in Line.” Certainly very well thought out and expressed.

    Realizing that not only is this common occurence indicative of culture by country, but have noticed while shopping and living in Michigan, attitudes and behavior of locals in line vary by age, venue etc. You should see the Seniors at the local casino cut in to get their extra $10!

    Thankful for you this Thanksgiving.

    Love & Hugs,
    A. Pat

    • That is hilarious. I can picture it now. I think that sometimes the casino brings out a different side in people.

  3. Interesting post!

  4. If I didn’t confront a blatant line cutter, I would be less of a man.

    • I feel the same way. If someone cut Eric, he would punch them in the face, I would probably start with a verbal confrontation:)

  5. so true, so true! It is amazing how the lines at customs and security are so different from country to country. You can also see the way some people are annoyed and say nothing (often me, but not always) and how others will get into the cutters face! Crazy! Oh well – it makes for some interesting people watching as we shuffle on through the lines!

  6. My patience grew thin after several instances, eventually I would cut right back in front of that person, even if it was an old lady.

    i could see you doing this. take that ya old bag!

    • Its all about the golden rule, if you treat people like $hit, youre going to get $hit on. Nuff said 🙂

  7. Never considered queuing as a gauge of a countries character, but I do like the way you presented the argument.
    My daughter and her friends had gone in to town to spend the night queuing for .tickets for the latest boy band. They were reasonably near the front, however when the ticket office opened everyone dashed to the door, and she did not get in before it was closed. She rang me in tears, devastated.

  8. I wanted to get a ticket to a pro baseball game in Nicaragua. There were no lines, just people pushing and shoving to get leverage. It looked impossible. While pointing this out to the man accepting tickets to let people in and telling him it was impossible for me, he let me in.
    In India I mostly just laughed when people blatantly cut in front of me. I ended up giving up waiting in line at some Indian train stations and just shelling out the 100 Rupees or $2 to a travel agent for a ticket in minutes…

    • You have a lot of patience and understanding. I have never minded waiting in line, but I cannot stand a line cutter. India is ridiculous, agreed, there comes a point when things are so out of control that all you can do is laugh.

  9. Waited in line for 3 hours for immigration office in Thailand to open. Once opened, people just swarmed in, cutting everyone. I was 20th in line to start but 175th when given my ticket once inside. It was maddening. Only the Westerners respected the line. For everyone else it was a free for all dash.

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