Wednesday, 6 March 2013

The Art of Italian Queuing

While Brits feel that they have the monopoly on orderly queuing, Italians can surely claim the award for simply hanging around waiting for something to happen. When a Brit queues, generally speaking there is an expected end to that queue: either you can see the amount of people in front of you or you have a rough idea of the time it will take to be your turn. This isn't the case in Italy. Here, a queue is often open ended, a state of being with no foreseeable end. Either you're expected to wait with your numbered ticket in hand or you're ordered to come back the next day (sometimes both!)

Let me take you the bus stop as an exemplary microcosm of Italian queuing etiquette. At an Italian bus stop, people wander up and down and drift in and out of a non-existent queue. It's more of a random cluster really. Today for instance, I had been waiting for the bus for about four minutes when an Italian lady nonchalantly tottered past me and plonked herself into prime position to get onto the bus. No one took a blind bit of notice. 

This is the land of the opportunist. 

Back on the other side of the Channel, this outrageous behaviour would have earned her several shaming 'tuts' which would no doubt have led to the lady retreating to the back with her tail between her legs. Indeed, in England, I wouldn't dare leave my allocated spot, mainly for fear of the patronizing phrase, 'did you know there's queue??' when I returned. I have been programmed by British customs to keep a mental list of who has arrived first and who has therefore merited the honour of entering the bus first. Without this order, society would surely collapse. 

That being said, this apparent disorder if far less stressful than being under the watchful eye of Brits actively seeking out queue-jumpers to chastise. Which leads me to wondering: is it possible that chaos can be calmer than order? 

What are your experiences of queuing in Italy, Britain or abroad?
Can social etiquette ever be a hindrance? 


  1. this is exactly the case when comparing Australia and Turkey... Aussies obviously take after the Brits with the queuing while the Turks take after the Italians. So whenever I travel to Turkey, I go crazy mad when I need to queue. I simply cannot push and shove and take another's right, but then I am left waiting and waiting and going craaazyyyyy :)

    1. Hi! it's funny you say that because my husband is Turkish and our approaches to getting on the bus are at opposite ends of the spectrum. He's planning the quickest way to both of us onto the bus while I'm calculating how many people need to get on before me and trying to hold him back. This clash of cultures is surprisingly stressful in the context of bus stops! I feel your pain : )

  2. In China it's survival of the fittest and those with the sharpest elbows. They look in disbelief if you hang back.....less of a queue, more of a scrum.

  3. Use your elbows, move quickly and aggressively, hurtle your body through an open window in the back if necessary during rush hour. That's how you get on a bus in Djibouti. At a dukaan, an outdoor kiosk, elbow your way to the front and start shouting. I am much better at it than I used to be, though I have yet to throw myself through an open window.

  4. Lebanon is much the same as Italy--random groups of people hanging about, apparently just all waiting to go. Go when you've got the chance, but don't be rude in the process. In the US it's like Britain -- wait your turn or suffer the social consequences!

  5. What I hate the most about queuing in Italy are the vicious old ladies in the supermarket who come right up behind you, often bumping into you with their trolleys, as if they want yo steal your spot!

  6. Canada too takes after Britain, naturally, in this regard. I just think it's polite and good manners to wait your turn. But whenever I go to Pakistan to visit, especially when getting in love for food at weddings, it becomes apparent to me that no order IS the order!

  7. Being a Brit in Turkey - queuing is a stressful activity. You'd think I'd have got used to queue barging after 32 years wouldn't you - but I haven't. At least now I can make withering comments to the queue jumper and leave them in no doubt that I don't appreciate losing my place.

  8. This post is interesting. In U.S. it is frowned upon to shove your way onto the bus though there are people who are not polite and do so anyway. I would say riding buses in certain cities in America is risky as soemtimes there are fights and soemtimes you have women being raped on the buses or on subways. Come stop by my blog if you like, read and comment.

  9. Happy Friday!
    visit and follow from Friday blog hop.
    Would be nice if you can visit and link up my Friday blog hop.
    Have a great weekend.

  10. I've only been in italy for a week and noticed this rather quickly.
    and this doesn't just apply to trying to board but also trying to leave. I missed my stop on the tram yesterday because people simply would not move when I was trying to get off.


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