Growing up, you were taught to be polite and to always wait your turn. But when you find yourself in China and doing everything you can to win points with your special Chinese lady, being a nice guy will get you nowhere fast... at least, when you’re only doing what your mother taught you and what any other well-mannered and sensible person would do and queueing when you’re supposed to.
Wake up and smell the lotus flowers, laowai! You’re in China now, and the Chinese don’t like following straight lines! If you ever want to get to the front of that line, purchase that bus ticket, and arrive at your destination in time to meet your Chinese girlfriend, you better start learning to stick out those elbows and do what every other Chinese around you is doing – and that is cutting in front of other people and not letting anybody cut in front of you!
It’s a skill the Chinese spend their life honing; this means you have to be more aggressive because you are up against hordes who have more experience nudging and elbowing their way to the front of the tangled mass of commuters. Where you would even get the idea that there was a line and that you were in it is a question you should ask yourself later (maybe when you’re finally on that bus and on your way to meeting your Chinese love).
You don’t even have to feel bad about cutting in front of a dozen other people who look like they’ve been there longer than you; they may look it, but it’s very likely that they also just cut in front of others who were “pushovers.” The Chinese are unapologetic about this particular behavior. Everybody else is doing it, so unless they don’t intend to ever get closer to their goal – which is the ticket booth – then they really have no choice but to push their way ahead. The same reasoning applies to you.
So don’t make the mistake of standing still. As soon as the person in front of you takes a step forward, or sideward (because he saw an opening or somebody else cut in front of him), occupy that space right away! If you’re too slow, another one will take that space that is supposed to take you closer to the front of the mob. You literally have to be always on your toes!
Speaking of toes, you may have to step on more than a few for you to successfully claim any open space as your own. Don’t worry; everybody else in the jumble of bodies with you knows what they got themselves into. They’re all used to having their toes stepped on as much as they’re used to stepping on other people’s toes and not really giving a second thought about it.
Again, stick those elbows out and stand with your feet firmly planted on the ground and as far apart from each other as your space will allow. This should keep others from successfully invading your space and taking it away from you, or squeezing in front of you. Always be on the defensive, and always be ready to move.
If you have backpack , you can also use this to push away or block people who will try to squeeze their way past you. Of course, don’t keep anything valuable in it because tight crowds are a pickpocket’s ideal environment. You can also wear your bag around your chest, instead of on your back, to keep it safer; worn this way, you can use it to push your way to the front.
Lastly, don’t lose your temper and simply bear the inconvenience and the seeming rudeness of everyone around you. You will have to be aggressive, yes, but you must also practice tolerance. Balancing these two, very different attitudes can be tricky, but becoming angry will get you nowhere closer to your goal. The only way to successfully forge ahead is with lots of patience and agility.
Okay, okay, the above is a bit of an exaggeration, but just the same fighting through a queue in China can be a nightmare, and there are times and places where will never get to the front of the line without following some of the advice just laid out here.
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