Thursday, 10 January 2019

The British Art of Queuing, Culture and Egalitarianism

"People usually choose to queue because it is fair. In fact, queues are places where people are obsessed with fairness, and where cutting in line is seen as a terrible crime that can lead to all sorts of scuffles, fights and frictions. (...) While the need to queue depends largely on the activity, a person’s willingness to queue occurs in varying degrees around the world. Britons, in particular, are renowned for their orderly and regimented approach to queuing. (...) The stereotype of the Anglophone countries is that queuing is something they specialise in. The more charitable view is that there is a strong tradition of egalitarianism in many of these places – and the queue is a form of equality, where if you seek a service first, you are served first, regardless of your social position."
Nick Haslam

“The British have a well-established culture of queuing and a very specific type of queue conduct, one that has been known to confuse many a foreign visitor. In a time when Britain is changing rapidly, and the ways in which we queue are shifting, the psychology behind British queuing is more important than ever – it a one of the keys to unlocking British culture.”Adrian Furnham
The least accepted "no-no", according to a survey conducted by Privilege Home Insurance, is queue skipping since it goes against the principle of "first come, first served", against the British social system of linear queueing and as it sparks a sense of injustice. Other "no-nos" are starting a conversation while queueing and accepting an offer to go ahead of someone in the queue. "In British queueing culture, not only will acceptance be perceived as impoliteness, it will also lose the individual the respect of the remaining queuers" (via).
"When humans encounter a queuing situation outside our personal and cultural expectations, we become dumb and anxious." (via)

photographs by Nina Leen (1958) via and via


  1. Replies
    1. I wished the British exported the art of queuing to Central Europe ;-)

  2. Replies
    1. Ah, how I envy the British ... every single time I have to queue here :-)