Britishism – The Tea Queue

I got chatting with a Hungarian colleague at work whilst in the very small kitchen my department shares. This kitchen is small enough that you can only barely squeeze two people into it at once. At certain times of the day, you will find people queuing up outside, awaiting their turn at the kettle. I termed this the ‘Tea Queue’, and my colleague commented that those two words together summed up everything British.

Now, my colleague hasn’t been living in the UK all that long – and she told me a story about her own experience of British Rage when she inadvertently jumped a queue. I felt kind of bad for her – she hadn’t been here long, and had been in a rush to not miss her bus. The bus station is very busy, and the stops quite close together. She hadn’t realised that the long queue she ran past had been the queue for the bus she was aiming to catch. This resulted in a woman in the queue giving her a massive scolding, which has stuck with my colleague even now.

Here’s the thing. In the UK, we’re conditioned to honour the queue. Queue jumping is one of the biggest faux pas you can commit. Seeing queue jumping in action will incite us to fury. However – the majority of people do not mean to be rude, I find. Sometimes, they make an honest mistake. Queuing may not be such a huge thing where they come from. In all the times someone has queue jumped in front of me, I generally find that a polite ‘Excuse me, I think you missed the queue here!’ usually results in the queue jumper looking a bit embarrassed at their mistake and taking their proper place in the queue.

Granted, swallowing your rage can be difficult – especially on a bad day. But I find it pretty sad that all too often, people will let loose their rage without realising that people sometimes have just missed the fact that there is a queue. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t give someone a bloody good telling off if they are unrepentant of their rudeness when you attempt to politely correct them. Still. I wish that the woman who told off my colleague had been a bit nicer. I fear that my colleagues first impression of Britishism may be tarnished somewhat by this experience, and that makes me sad.

Above all, the main Britishism should be politeness first, and fury at impoliteness second.

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