Line cutters

The scourge of China. Many times I wished I had in my pocket a little pearl-handled revolver so I could do away with them “quickly and efficiently,” as PR people love to say. (No, not really, of course.) Great post, and I wish I had Dan’s fortitude (he actually stood up to the culprit).

I can’t imagine what goes through someone’s mind when the see a big line of people waiting patiently in line and they simply don’t understand that the line that begins at the counter is actually for people waiting to speak with the person at the counter. It’s revolutionary, I know. But close your eyes and just imagine, just for one second, that blissful sort of ignorance that leads these people’s lives. There is no fear of violating social norms because to these people those norms don’t exist. The line separating right and wrong disappears. There is no guilt. They are free…

If it’s any consolation, Dan, you’re not the only foreigner in China who’s harbored these thoughts. At least you did something.

The Discussion: 16 Comments

“I can’t imagine what goes through someone’s mind when the see a big line of people waiting patiently in line and they simply don’t understand …..”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find this to be a problem, not because I don’t see que jumpers on the Mainland, because I do, but rather because I don’t see ques.

The last time that I saw a long line of people waitig patiently in China, they were western POWs during the Korean war.

March 22, 2006 @ 3:41 am | Comment

On several occasions, when men have brazenly done this to me I’ve literally threatened (loudly) to break their arms.

And it always works. (Warning and disclaimer: kids, do not try this on your own, unless you’re prepared to back up the threat.)

When women do it I simply insult them and shame them in a loud voice, and that always works too.
Being female does not make one a lady, and if a woman behaves like a wild animal I’ll treat her like one. (umm….oops…just saw a double-entendre there. Poor choice of words. I mean, if a woman goes out of control then I’ll….oh shut up, you know what I mean….. 🙂

March 22, 2006 @ 4:52 am | Comment

I have two tactics:

1. Stick my arm out and just smile at them.
2. (If we’re in a maul) Push backwards to let other people through first.

March 22, 2006 @ 11:51 am | Comment

And for God’s sake will somebody PLEASE teach them to chew with their mouths closed?

I lose my appetite whenever I hear them making all those barnyard noises.

March 23, 2006 @ 3:44 am | Comment

Shouting in German also works quite well.

March 23, 2006 @ 6:14 am | Comment

Sure, line cutting pisses me off. But I’ve used the system to my advantage more than once. I remember a particularly long line to buy train tickets one Spring Festival. I feigned ignorance of the rules and walked straight to the front of the line. When the guard pointed for me to go towards the back, I told him, “I just want to buy tickets for Kashgar!” He let me buy ’em, and I vowed never again to curse all of those Chinese line-cutters.

March 23, 2006 @ 11:20 pm | Comment

Over the years I have had many line jumping experiences. At airports in China some people would give no consideration to the obvious waiting line and sneek in, looking so innocent and unware, but when I pointed out to them there was a line they usually go to the back. The putonghua I use is “pai dui.” It works mostly, but then I am not a short guy.

The most annoying to me are the people who come to the line to join with others already in line. I figure that if they haven’t been waiting in line wasting their time like me they don’t deserve to be ahead of me, so I make a point to tell them to “pai dui.” Sometimes they whine and complaint that they are just joining their group, arm-waiving and pointing. I just hold my ground and usually they move on. Recently, although I have not done it yet, I have decided to forgo argument with these kind of people and just point out they are line jumpers and just go stand in front of the group and let them suck on their fingers about it.

Some years ago I was buying a train ticket at the station, either in Ningbo or Hangzhou, forgotten which, waiting in a relatively long,slow moving line when I noticed two things. In the ticket hall there were 3-4 ladders resting against the wall above the ticket windows and men would climb them to oversee the ticket lines and then I noticed guys not in the lines , but at the front, to whom people would go up to talk to and I guess pay money and these guys would go to the front of the line to the ticket window and buy tickets for their customers. Pissed off, yes I was. So I told the guys who were working my line not to do it anymore or I would raise hell. Surprisingly, after doing it for one more time for previously paying customer they stopped doing it in my line and told other touts to stop.

That didn’t last long as one of the guys on the ladders came over to me and told me to go to the head of the line and buy my ticket. All this is by arm waving and Chinese which I don’t understand much. I was interferring with their private business I assumed and they wanted to stop me from screwing it up. I resisted jumping line on all the people in front of me, maybe 20, but the ladder guy insisted I go get my ticket. Reluctantly, I did.

The line was all Chinese beside myself. They all watched this, but none did anything about valet line jumping service, they just accepted it it looked like to me.

China is interesting and a challenge. Maybe that is why many of us are here.

March 24, 2006 @ 8:00 pm | Comment

“if a woman behaves like a wild animal I’ll treat her like one”

The thing is ….. er ….. In China, this isn’t considered to be acting like a wild animal.

You’re projecting your western stereo types onto a foreign country.

It’s not good to cut in, but maybe we should complain about it a bit less. It’s not like Westeners don’t do things that Chinese consider to be vile or uncouth.

March 25, 2006 @ 1:48 am | Comment

I take issue with your moral relatisim argument, ACB. It is fundamentally wrong in any culture that those who follow the rules are punished by the assholes who feel they are above the rules and thus cut to the front of the line. We’re talking about fundamental rudeness and selfishness. What are the things Westerners do that are the equivalent that offend the Chinese? I’m sure there are some, though I can’t think of any.

March 25, 2006 @ 10:22 pm | Comment

“It is fundamentally wrong in any culture that those who follow the rules are punished by the assholes who feel they are above the rules”

I would counter that by saying that ‘standing in line’ is not rule in China, only a general guideline, and that the same score that lets a person push in, also entitles you to push back in front of them and thus even things up.

“We’re talking about fundamental rudeness and selfishness”

No, we’re talking about a more ‘me first’ culture with a little less etiquet than you arre used to, which is simply part of Chinese life.

What I’m trying to say is that your using your own national standards to judge a foreign country, and that’s not entierly fare.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about.

I studied in France for several years, and many of the French looked down on your country in a similar way that you are looking down on China now.

They said that you were rude and disrespectful because your idea of manners were different from theirs.

They said that your food was swill, because it was different from theirs.

They also said that you were agressive and anti-social because you have a more direct culture than theirs.

From the French perspective, these are all reasonable complaints. From your prspective however, I’m sure that you would disagree.

Similarly, if you compare Britain and America, a Britain could rightfully call America a land of fundimentalist religious fanatics, and America could call Britain a faithless wasteland.

Both are comparitive terms based on each of the parties own perspectives.

March 26, 2006 @ 1:27 am | Comment

The last time that I saw a long line of people waitig patiently in China, they were western POWs during the Korean war.

ACB, waaait a second…I missed this first time I read the comments. Surely you weren’t a witness to the Korean War in China?!

March 26, 2006 @ 2:20 am | Comment

ACB, you’re beginning to sound like ANOTHER anti-American chatterbox who used to go on and on about “ethnocentricity” and “cultural relativism” here.

At least you’re not cutting and pasting yet, but all of your arguments are adding up to a pattern of a cheap factory assembly line: “America” + “is not perfect” + “sophomoric presumption that this is big news to anyone” = “another comment by ACB”

March 26, 2006 @ 11:05 am | Comment


Your justifications for mainland Chinese behavior maybe true, but it is absurd to do so. How do you justify crowding into a line to buy tickets and the line jumper gets the last ticket? How do you justify people sitting at a bar or restaurant enjoying themselves then crowd in front of other people who have been standing in line for 15 to 30 minutes?

Here is an experience I had in Beijing a few years back. While waiting in a line/crowd, at least for me it was a line, a young guy crowded, pushed and scrambled his way onto the bus, literally almost over people and got a seat, sitting on the aisle. Since the seat on the window next to this guy was empty and other seats were all taken, I tried to get by him. He refused to move or let me go by to sit down. Then all of a sudden he move to the window seat as his girlfriend/wife who had gotten on after me slipped into the aisle sit.

The was not rude. It was a calculated barbaric way to benefit his selfish interests. (Fortunately for me and to their everlasting credit either the bus ticket lady or other passengers offered me a stool.

My point being that line jumping is not a civilized solution of common re-occuring situation. I view a line jumper as intentionally bettering him/herself at the expense of others.

Your effort to palm off your excusing the line jumping conduct, with your comparisons using the French and the English are intellectually dishonest. How can you take comparisons of American food with French food and equate that with someone taking advantage of a situation to the disadvantage of someone else. Pretty poor thinking.

March 27, 2006 @ 7:23 am | Comment

It isn’t “thinking” at all, it’s pure bollocks. Excellent comment, Pete.

March 27, 2006 @ 7:35 am | Comment

I was recently in Shanghai and found the complete lack of regard for other people astounding. The Chinese people in Shanghai have no manners when it comes to waiting their turn, whether it’s at McDonald’s or just crossing the street. Shanghai may look a lot more like a modern these days, but the people are just as rude.

July 16, 2006 @ 6:31 pm | Comment

The worst thing i ever saw in Zhaoqing was inside a posh western resturanant (UBC) 3 businessmen looked about late 40’s drinking and smoking and having a laugh and they weren’t that loud in talking so it was ok. Suddenly, ‘arrrch too’ one business spat out on the floor and this is a wooden floor, it was sooo disgusting and they kept doing it and created nearly a puddle of spit on the floor. I felt sorry for the waiteress they treated the waitress like shit and nothing was done about it. Now if you did that in the UK and i guess in the USA you would be chucked out for having a manners of a pig. Anyway, one did it again i could not take it anymore so i said “Wad dad lou” (hope that is the right spelling) meaning dirty old man, he just looked at me as if what’s the problem and looked at his friends and carried on talking. China maybe developing but the people still got a long way about mannerisum and not having manners of a pig. They can learn alot from Japan. Period!!!

August 24, 2006 @ 7:14 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.