Gadling is a blog for frequent travellers that I peruse from time to time. In between the tips and tricks for getting through security a littler faster and aircraft takeoff/landing trivia, they occasionally post travel observations from different countries. This one compares / contrasts queueing culture and asks readers for theories on why some places are so much more orderly than others -
If you’ve tried to buy a train ticket in a place like Morocco or Indonesia, you know that this seemingly simple task is actually a full-contact sport. Rather than forming an orderly, single-file line, people are forced to scratch, claw, elbow, and gouge their way to the ticket window, in a process that even an Ultimate Fighting champion would describe as unnecessarily painful and violent.
So why does this happen? Why can’t people in certain, usually less-developed countries form neat, single-file lines? Here are a couple possible explanations:
p>India is NOT one of the countries mentioned but I’m guessing most folks would toss it into the “lining up is a UFC match” camp.
p>Gadling proposes a few hypotheses for why folks behave this way and I thought mutineers would find ‘em interesting. To their set, I’ll also toss in my own pet hypothesis derived from broader research by folks like Francis Fukuyama and Robert Putnam: orderly queueing is a sign of interpersonal trust.
Queueing up in India could be a zoo because low levels of interpersonal trust mean that it’s rarely worth your while to “wait your turn”. Why? Because queueing requires believing that everyone else will correspondingly wait their turn and that the ticket window will behave appropriately. However, the more you worry about the new guy cutting in line & getting served before you, the more likely you are to nudge next to rather than stay comfortably behind the guy ahead of you. Repeat. Toss in a few non-linearities. Add a ticket window that’s as likely to serve the first, most annoying hand in its face as any other…. and voila, you quickly end up with a mob rather than a line…. Sans some pretty strong, exogenous cultural reinforcement, the whole thing is a self-reinforcing prisoner’s dilemma.
(Yes. I’ve been the poor schmuck trying to wait in line once or twice )
Same thing happens at lines for clubs in downtown SF. Or buffet lines at Indian weddings. Sometimes with even less interpersonal trust.