Travel Issues, The Standing in Line Dilemma – Wait Your Turn or Push In?

Malta Bus Chaos

This year we visited the tiny Mediterranean island of Malta.  Malta used to have an efficient local bus service which was subjected to privatisation and the whole thing turned belly-up.  The service bombed and suddenly the orderly process of getting a seat on a bus became a competitive mad scramble.

This has made me think about the whole issue of good manners in a queue or a line.

A couple of years ago or so I went to an all-inclusive holiday resort in Turkey where you really did need sharp elbows!  At meal times the crowd started to gather around the locked doors in something reminiscent of the waiting period before the start of a European Cup Final or the US Super Bowl.  As the tension mounted they began snorting and stamping like impatient bulls waiting to be released into the ring, agitating like ancient warriors preparing for a deadly battle and arranging themselves like combatants in a French bus queue.

Five minutes to go and the tattooed ones start to perform a HAKA and terrified men behind the doors  suddenly opened the locks and ran for their lives as a tsunami of greed was released.  The whole thing was rather like the first set scrum of a British Lions/New Zealand All Blacks Rugby Test Match, muscles bulging, eyes popping, sweat dripping, elbows flying and fingers gouging and this, let me tell you was only the women!

Catalonia Steeple of People

The majority of the hotel guests were from the UK but there were also quite a lot of people from Russia and Scandinavia and from most other countries in Europe and the nationalities all behave differently when lining up (or not, as the case may be).  Russians and Ukrainians especially don’t like standing in line but I was at an advantage here because I had been to Russia only a year before so  I knew not to hang back when these people are around and I sharpened my elbows and got straight in!

If pushing in was an Olympic sport then Eastern Europeans would be picking up a lot of medals especially if there was a category for barging in because this would require no finesse at all and would be based on simple brute strength as they muscle their way to the front of the line.  Italians would do well in the stealth category because they can slip in with the speed of a stiletto knife and I’d back the Greeks in the opportunistic category because they can slide into a space as thin as a cigarette paper almost as though they had been beamed down from outer space.

Sadly for all of them however they would be destined to be like a British tennis players and they would only ever be left fighting for second place because they would never be able to beat the undisputed champions of pushing-in – the French.  The French don’t believe in distraction or sneaky moves they just move right on in ahead of anyone as though you are holding a door open for them and then look you straight in the eye with a Gallic sneer that says, “I am French and it is my God given right to push in”.  

They really believe this and with the advantage of this being hard-wired into their national psyche they would win over and over again and would be especially good in the being completely rude category.  You would need a police road block to keep your place in a French queue.

Along with the UK, other countries that would not do so well in the games would be the Americans and the Germans who both display exemplary discipline in line but absolutely the worst at this would be the Swiss who I can guarantee would come last every time.

In a French queue, if I am challenged about pushing in my plan is simple, I give an arrogant Gallic shrug, say something like “Bonjour Monsieur, Allez Oop, Vive Jeanne d’Arc, Vive Charles de Gaulle, Merci Beaucoup”  and give a contemptuous sneer as I asserted a natural French divine right to barge in.

So, how do you do it and who gets your vote for best at pushing in?

An orderly queue/line


35 responses to “Travel Issues, The Standing in Line Dilemma – Wait Your Turn or Push In?

  1. Andrew this is hilarious. Have you stood in line with Canadians? We tend to be ridiculously ‘nice’. In other countries we have really had to ramp up our line behaviour. In Istanbul we practically dove into the train.


  2. Australians are also infected with the queue gene. It must be the impact of the old Empire.
    In my experience, the Chinese could give the French a run for their money.


  3. Aussies would lose out too – such orderly queues and lines – must be inherited from the old days of Great British Empire. Having lived in Croatia for quite a few years the pushing to get onto trams, bus etc is relentless – competitive sport I often think and I could never understand how it came to that. Perhaps the whole of Eastern Europe didn’t have adequate public transport far back in history and the only way you got on was by stepping over someone’s foot, pushing through etc. Things have improved in Croatia I noted last time I went especially in banks, post office, galleries etc – orderly queues. Getting on a tram or bus also getting better – needs more work though 😀


  4. Indians would be good contenders for winners – take a look at Mumbai local trains in rush hour! The first time I had to catch one to work at least five sailed past with me left behind on the platform slightly terrified! After some time I joined in the scrum and spent my journey hanging out the carriage by my fingernails with the rest of the commuters – not a sport for the fainthearted!


  5. I’m far too polite to push in, but after a week in Hong Kong I was tempted. The locals there would challenge the French and Eastern Europeans for that gold medal.


  6. Beijing is pretty bad for a Canadian looking for a queue. Standing on a commuter train platform though a local took pity on me and pulled me in and stood me in a corner!


  7. Loved this post Andrew and especially your humorous slant at a frustrating scenario. I was always amazed at the lack of discipline in airport queues in Europe but this takes the cake! You’re right – Americans wouldn’t do well here! Thanks for the heads up!!


  8. LOL! But you completely missed my favorites. I think if Asians, particularly Chinese, were included in your competition we’d just have to give them the trophy and forget about it. Unlike the others, they just pretend you are invisible. My first taste of this was in Paris near the Eiffel Tower. I actually opened a door of a stall to walk in. Before I could get in, a small
    Asian woman scooted in and jerked the door out of my hand to close it behind her. I actually stood there with my mouth open for a while. Then I had to wait until she was through, because it was a pay toilet and she’d gone in on my only coin.


  9. Sue said it all about Canadians. We truly are too nice to elbow anyone. Maybe if there were a fire… 😀 😀
    Merry Christmas Andrew, to you and all your family. ❤


  10. Too funny. Not only do I hate unorganized lines, I can’t stand crowds. This strategy does’t work so well with public transportation, but my habit its always to just take the rear of the line and wait. I do eventually get in, and with a much better frame of mind.


  11. There is a reason why they don’t show crowds in travel brochures.


  12. I don’t care who is the worst or the best – what I hate are cars with black windows that hide anyone who is driving and they never let any other car in. Try merging two lanes into one where all the black windowed SUVs are around. I hate those cars, Happy Christmas Andrew thanks for the ride this year, John (Suchled)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. You’re right about Americans in that we’re taught to be polite and not to cut queue. I haven’t had any experience with Europe, but after riding the subway in some of the larger cities in China, I can safely say that the Chinese would be strong contenders for your competition. However, they can’t get past a hip-check from a big American (like myself), and they tend to shy away from “the Crazy Angry Westerner” routine.


  14. I remember being embarrassed at my mother’s shoving into lines. It’s definitely a cultural thing. She grew up in Latvia, while I became quite Americanized. It used to horrify me when she’d shove me along to bust into a polite line of Americans. These days, I live in the boonies and manage to avoid crowds altogether.


  15. No one has mentioned the ultra-polite Japanese! Most of my experience was on the Shinkansen, but even as a trained, polite, line-standing American, I did just fine on the Japanese subway too. I got some scolding looks and body language, when I did something distasteful like bring a bunch of luggage onto a full train, but experienced not a single push in 5 months of Japan. Their queues in public areas are a feat of fantasy.


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