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Do we really love queuing?

February 4, 2014

On Simon Mayo’s BBC Radio 2 Drivetime Show last week, your man Mayo was interviewing the fellow who organises the ticket-selling and queuing procedures at Wimbledon, and they both gleefully pushed the absurd yet very widely accepted claim that ‘The Brits love queuing’. Most clichés have a grain of truth at their heart; that is why they’re clichés. But this one doesn’t. I have never met anyone, British or otherwise, who relishes the thought of joining a queue. We only do it because we have to.

And nor do I understand why queuing is thought to be a peculiarly British institution. Americans do it, though they call it waiting in line. I’ve been in queues at Paris Metro stations that are at least as long as anything London Underground has to offer. And Tokyo is so crowded that people form long queues on the pavement to get into bars and restaurants, and even to cross the road at busy junctions. You will find queues in airports all over the world. 

So the next time someone tells you that the Brits love queuing, just ask them what the evidence is. The question is, why is this myth so dear to our hearts? Any theories welcome. 

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One Comment
  1. I suppose it’s because queuing is a polite, but boring thing to do. Not only do we find ourselves endearingly uncool, but we also suppose that brash foreigners are probably shoving each other out of the way all the time, not like us. What could be more British than being selfdeprecating *and* xenophobic at once?

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