I quickly learned that, besides making tea, if there's anything the British are good at, it's the act of forming a line and waiting, also known as queuing. It's so prominent that there's even an entry on it on one of the London visitor guide sites.
The word "queue"--other than 80% of the letters in the word being redundant--is often surrounded by "orderly", and it's a rare time in the UK when a queue is anything but. And God forbid if someone enters the queue randomly, cutting in front of someone else. The act of "queue jumping", to the British, seems to be right up there with murder as a lock-you-in-the-dungeons-worthy offense, though the queue jumper will be punished through stern, reproachful looks and upset mumblings by the other queuers instead of a dawn hanging at the Tower. But you can tell which the other queuers would prefer happen...
|Not quiiiite like this, but you get the idea.|
It always amazed me how queues would be created out of nothing. I was at a bus stop one day in Cambridge--I'd been out for a full day of shopping, and it was far less expensive for me to take the Park and Ride in and back to my car instead of paying to park at one of the multi-story car parks. Anyway, I was waiting to take the bus back to my Park and Ride destination. I was the only one there, at least at first, so I stood up by the bus sign signifying which buses used that stop, prepared to wait. A few minutes later someone joined me, but unlike in America, they just took their place behind me. More people joined in, and the group of people could officially be called a queue. The whole thing was orderly (of course) and just kind of happened.
In a country where there isn't a lot of personal space, queuing makes sense. Things will happen when they happen--the bus will arrive; the supermarket shop-girl will ring up the next customer; the light will change at the roundabout--and you will get through it. There's no sense in complaining--stiff upper lip and all--so might as well be orderly about it.
*None of the pics are mine, though, as always, they should be back-linked.*
R is up next!