Dear Professor Gus,
Sometimes I'll be waiting in a queue and someone cuts in front of me as if I'm not there. I want to say something, but I don't want to be rude; I just want to bring the fact to the person's attention that a) I was waiting, b) I don't appreciate being cut like that, and c) some gentle implication that the person is an inconsiderate ***** would also be great.
What do I say?
Last in line
I have spent some time investigating the possible cultural reasons why this lack of line etiquette happens more often in Korea than other places, but found only conjecture and anecdotal evidence. There were two explanations that I like the best:
The competitive nature of Korean society has leaked over into things like getting on the bus or subway, ordering food, paying for groceries, getting on the bus or subway, buying tickets for anything? Being first is a great achievement for some Koreans, even if it means being the first person to order nachos at the movie theater.
Certain Asian countries have, in their recent history, been subjected to extreme shortages. As a matter of survival, one had to be first in order to feed themselves or their families. This may have shaped their cultural view on queues somehow. In China, foreigners report that the lack of line-up logic escapes most of the native people there too, and thus led to the government announcing National Queuing Up Day on the 11th of every month. That would make buying my peperro on Peperro Day (11/11) a lot easier.
It’s not just an Asian phenomenon. Many European countries sport world-class line cutters and have very little regard for the other people who have been waiting. Whereas British people, as well as the Japanese, win the gold medal for queuing up.
In their defense however, many Korean people are equally irked by the rude queuing behavior of some individuals. However, the non-confrontational nature of most Korean people doesn’t allow them to say anything except for the occasional under-the-breath “Ai-Shee”.
I have a solution. After several years of having people cut in front of me, I had a revelation: I’m going to say something to them! I started by tapping them on the shoulder (in order to look them in the eye) and said politely but firmly with an annoyed look on my face:
“I was here first. You have to wait at the back of the line.” 'jay-gah yogi-saw mohn-jaw wah-soy-yo! Men dee-ay kee-taw-ryaw-yah-day-yo! ?? ?? ?? ???. ? ??? ??????.
Then I pointed to the back of the line only to notice the multitude of smiling and satisfied Korean faces.
It works every time. The cutter usually becomes very embarrassed and capitulates immediately. If someone does ignore you, you only need to say more forcefully, “I’m serious!” Cheen-jah-yo! ???! The Korean people waiting behind you will usually take it from there.
I think that the most appropriate analysis on this situation was given by Snoop Dogg in the song Gin and Juice : “Now this type of S*** happens all the time, you got to get yours before I got to get mine.” And he’s right. In America, I have experienced many equally rude people trying to be first in line. And have you ever been to a party with only expats, when food is involved? There are always several individuals who have no regard for the fact that other people need to eat and may like to try something that’s been laid out for all the guests. So last, keep your mind on your money and your money on your mind!