General Question

Gabby101's avatar

Why do some cultures think it is okay to cut in line?

Asked by Gabby101 (2478 points ) January 4th, 2013

When I was in Europe, and now living in a fairly diverse part of the US, I notice that there are some cultures that appear to think waiting in line is optional. They will boldly march to the front of the line, with what appears to be no shame whatsoever. Does anyone have an explanation for this? I know there are rude people in every culture, but I was wondering if there’s more to it than that? Is line etiquette different in other countries? In the US, I would say it is generally, first come, first serve, with some leniency for those that seem too frail to wait in a long line (physical injuries, elderly, etc).

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38 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Different societies have different rules on pretty much anything. You only think it’s rude because that’s how you were raised.

Pachy's avatar

Vive la différence!

Deshi_basara's avatar

No…. it’s pretty much just rude to see yourself and your issues as more important than others waiting in the same queue for the same service….

bookish1's avatar

Different countries have different rules of etiquette, for lines and everything else. Lots of things that Americans think are no problem would be perceived as rude by people in other countries…

ucme's avatar

If anyone is fool enough to try that up here where I live, then they’d better be prepared to have their guts worn as garters.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ucme Yeah, because that sounds like a good response.

Coloma's avatar

I don’t think any culture would see cutting in line or going to the head of a line as acceptable, unless perhaps it has to do with caste or patriarchy perhaps.
I often allow others to go before me, especially in the grocery store when they only have a few things and I am loaded with a full cart, but…try to weasel in front of me and I will call you out. Diplomatically yes, but firmly enough that you will be busted. lol

ucme's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir No, it doesn’t just sound like one, it genuinely is.

JLeslie's avatar

I would bet cultures where cutting in line is normal, always see nothing wrong with saying to someone, “hey I was waiting, back of the line.” People push and speak up and that is just how it is. I remember once waiting on a looooong taxi line after a flight, long trip into the city, seeing my dying grandmother in the hospital and then getting downstairs to a hard rain and line for cabs. We are waiting and waiting, hardly any cabs coming through. I have my luggage with me it’s a little cold out, and some rain blowing in from outside the protection of the awning. Then this couple, who looked “foreign” which quite honestly dies not look foreign in New York, walk up to where people get out of the cabs, and gets into the cab. See the cabs let off, and then pull up to the queue to pick up. Anyway, as the man held the door for the woman to get into the cab a bunch of us started screaming at him. If it had not been raining and I did not have luggage with me I would have walked over and told them to get the hell out of the cab and get into line. I can’t believe no one did it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ucme inasmuch as violence ever solves anything.

CWOTUS's avatar

Oh, just wait until you travel in Asia.

There is no such thing (on most domestic flights that I’ve seen in Indonesia and China) as a boarding call “by row number”. There seems to be a general call, and a rush to the gate. No line whatsoever.

Even getting off the plane, many people leave their seats, grab their carry-on luggage from the overhead rack and start standing in the aisle… before the plane even touches down.

Otherwise, I believe that @Coloma has pretty much nailed it with “caste” and class. Some people just know that they are their gods’ (or god’s) favored ones, and automatically take the head of any line. And most let them.

Partly because of my age, gender, size (I suppose) and Western status / race and bearing, I am often accorded the same privilege, if I want to avail it. I often piss off some of my fellow travelers when I take the head of the line with them, and then stand aside to allow “women and children first”, holding other “favorites” in a line or mass behind me.

I’m not a big fan of travel in any case, but I especially dislike travel in China and Indonesia.

ucme's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Okay, all I was simply saying was that queue jumping is frowned upon across the UK. The terminology I used was just exaggerated that’s all, no one is going to resort to physical violence because of one person cutting in, i’ve frequently let the odd one take my place if they appear to be in a bigger hurry than I.
If, on the other hand, someone blatantly ignores the line & saunters to the front, then not only would the people in line voice their disapproval, but also any employees would insist they join the line, that’s just the way it is.

JLeslie's avatar

@ucme Yeah well the UK is famous for queuing up. You guys are considered experts in the field.

ucme's avatar

@JLeslie Apparently we drink tea & discuss nothing but cricket & the bloody weather as we queue…no wonder we get so pissed off when someone jumps right in.

Gabby101's avatar

@CWOTUS – yes, I was wondering if it has to do with status. Perhaps in some cultures, waiting in line is only for the “little people.”

@ucme – yes, I am originally from the midwestern US and, in general, it is more common to have someone speak up (either an employee or someone in line). People in California tend to be a lot more quiet about it.

I was recently at a fast food restaurant and a man came up to two teenagers who were behind me and introduced himself as a father of one of their friends. He said he was in a hurry and asked if he could go before them. They said okay and I noticed that there were about 25 people in line behind him. I asked him “What made you think it was okay to cut in front of all these people that are waiting?” He got very upset with me and seemed to think I was out of line (ha!ha!). I found it very curious.

JLeslie's avatar

@Gabby101 Well, he realized he was cutting in line, and you just shoved it in his face. He had asked permission. I understand he does not only delay the person he asked, but also everyone behind him, but it seems he had a special circumstance. He was in a hurry. Hopefully he allows people in front of him when someone else needs a break.

ucme's avatar

@Gabby101 There’s nowt as queer as folk :¬)

wundayatta's avatar

China doesn’t believe in lines. People essentially cluster around the entrance and push themselves to the front. Different cultures have different rules. China is supposedly very much into competition, although they have a peculiar relationship with competition in terms of business.

Gabby101's avatar

@JLeslie – I’m sure in a line that long, there were plenty of other people who were in a hurry, too. Getting your Chipotle fix at lunch is not an emergency.

Adagio's avatar

@ucme What is the middle symbol in your smiley face called?

Shippy's avatar

Some people are just narcissistic.

ucme's avatar

@Adagio That’s what I like to call a nose, as for the symbol itself…I’ve really no idea.

Adagio's avatar

@ucme I’m using voice-activated software and need to know the correct names for symbols in order to say the right command so they will type, I love the nose on your smiley face, maybe someone else will know what it’s called……

woodcutter's avatar

It generally shows either that person has a lot of gall or balls to assume their time is worth more than everyone else’s. It’s how orderly societies conduct themselves, by forming a waiting line or que. Hell, who isn’t in some kind of time constraint? If we look the other way for one cutter do we do it all the time or do we hold people to account, and when we do, that’s assuming it’s ok to sometimes cheat? Who gets to and why? We all take their word for it because they said so? Then everyone is going to want to be special. I think the cutters are gambling that the shock of them doing it will catch the rest off guard and they won’t want to speak up. Or maybe they have that terse way about them they use to get their way through life and it works for them.

JLeslie's avatar

@woodcutter When the vast majority of the people do queue up and wait patiently, pretty much everyone trusts that if someone asks to cut the line because they are in a time crunch that they likely are telling the truth. If every time I went to the local fast food someone tries to cut the line I would stop trusting, but if it happened once every two months, I would figure they likely are in a bad spot, or maybe they don’t follow the etiquette rukes, but one every once and a while, just let the noncompliant idiot go ahead.

woodcutter's avatar

I would tell them it’s alright to cut in front of the guy behind me. Shouldn’t piss him off, right?

Nullo's avatar

@Coloma In Italy, lines are more like suggestions than concrete concepts. You might have been ten people from the counter, but unless you work to hold your spot, you’re going to end up at the back of the line. This goes equally for the supermarket, the post office, the train, and the bus. In places with regulated waiting areas, like hospitals or offices, you don’t get any of that.
I expect that the justification for this is that everybody does it – and everybody does, because otherwise you never make it to the counter.

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antimatter's avatar

It is not a culture thing that I can assure you, it’s an arrogance thing and it’s straight forward that people who cut the line is simply arrogant and have no respect for their fellow man or for themselves. It’s like New York’s cab drives they simply don’t care who they cut off in traffic.

woodcutter's avatar

I think its safe to say that the cutters know they are pulling some shit right there and are bound to expect some flak from at least one person in the line they cut but….maybe not, even better. I think the habitual cutters must have a spiel ready for those they expect to complain because they have so much practice. If not then they maybe feel like a shitass for doing it but hey they be in a hurry right now and not proud of it..

JLeslie's avatar

@woodcutter For sure there are people out there who think they are the sun and the rest of the planets should revolve around them.

skfinkel's avatar

What about drivers who cut in line, with no ramifications except angry horns sounding impotently, as they ignore all those waiting their turns. The brazenness of those acts never fail to shock me.

JLeslie's avatar

@skfinkel That is even more easily done because the guy cutting doesn’t really have to face the guy he cut in front of, except in those rare crazy cases where the guy he cut off has a gun or something, God forbid, or gets pissed and crazy enough he crashes into his car.

woodcutter's avatar

The deal with car cutters is most of us have cars we don’t want banged up so usually if some jerk wants to make his point it goes unchallenged because of this. More so if the cutter drives a piece of crap car and its obvious he cares nothing about it and it might look like he’s won a few disputes that way. There is an exit of a turn that all drivers are approaching together and time is running out fast so thats why the crazy driving. If we are all standing in line it’s hard to justify spit second decision line cutting. And driving cutters are bound to be more crazy because they are going to get away quickly and leave you in the dust with your bird.

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

If somebody cuts in where I stay (Scotland) then there are often a series of sarcastic remarks that can be thrown at them. I do remember standing in a supermarket queue at the self-service checkouts once and had been doing so for a while and as I got to my turn a woman just walked up and stood in front of me. Her argument for jumping in? Ladies first!!! My reply? OK just tell me when one comes along and I’ll let her in.

She stood at the back of the queue.

SABOTEUR's avatar

People (in the U.S.) cut in line because they can. They know it’s quite unlikely anyone will say or do anything about it.

I served briefly in the US Navy, an organization which has a strange fixation concerning standing in lines.

While I’d prefer not to, I have no problem standing in line if it’s not too long. I think because of my military service, I’m especially keen to “orderly line formation”. I’ve observed that people, in general, usually resist creating an orderly line. And depending on where you are, some people will (like you say) march boldly to the head of the line without blinking an eye.

If I’m first, I’ll advise the person the line is to the rear. But I’m usually in and out of line so quickly it’s not worth the potential aggravation that’ll result from making an issue about it.

JLeslie's avatar

@SABOTEUR What does, “while I prefer not to,” mean in your sentence? You prefer to cut the line, but will obey the rules? Or, if you see a line you might skip what you planned to do? Or, you purposely shop, bank, and eat out when you know lines are likely to be short or nonexistent?

SABOTEUR's avatar

@lol…it means I temporarily do without whatever it is I must stand in line for, if possible.

If not, I just get in line.

And yes, I’ve developed a habit of shopping where lines are short or nonexistent.

Fortunately, I don’t do much shopping or eating out. There again, if it’s unavoidable I just stand in line.

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