Some cultural differences are both surprising and annoying. On Sunday Josh and I went to the Atominum in Brussels (which is this giant structure of an an atom that rises into the sky). As a side note, it’s cool to look at but not much to do inside.
Anyway, we stood in line for about 20 minutes and reached the middle of the line. To our suprise and annoyance, a group of people (a woman and six children) appeared out of nowhere beside us. They were speaking French so I’m not sure what they were saying, but one of the girls appeared to say “but the end of the line is over there.” The woman waved her hand as if to say “shhh!”. Josh and I were appalled that the woman would set that kind of example for the girls with her, and Josh and I discussed what would happen in the US if someone tried to do that… someone would probably comment and stare and say something like “the back of the line is over there, buddy!.” We talked about the fact that to most Americans, jumping ahead in line is like saying that you’re better than everybody else, and of course it isn’t fair to those who have waited patiently.
From the time we enter school when we’re 4 or 5, we’re taught that butting or cutting is one of the most serious of offenses. I remember the taunts and protests of the kids in line in grade school if someone dared to try butting. When caught, the offender would most certainly have to shamefully walk back to the end of the line. Don’t get me wrong- people do it all the time when they are older, but they know that it will probably result in someone calling them out, or honking, or some other form of retaliation.
In our case at the Atominum, nobody said anything to the lady after they inched their way into the line behind us. We couldn’t beleive it.
As the day wore on, we found ourselves in another line at the top (which is really poor planning, by the way), and passed the time by watching people. To our suprise, we counted 5 more groups of people do the VERY same thing. They would look at the end of the line to see where it is, choose a point in the middle, and then pretend to be so engrossed in something and slip into the line. It was amazing.
I talked to someone about it afterward, and while they said that cutting might be a French thing, it doesn’t mean that the others in the line weren’t annoyed. They just didn’t say anything.