Living in China

What do Chinese people think about cutting in line?

Queuing in line and Chinese people are an interesting combination. Interesting is also Google Analytics that tells me by using which keywords you arrived to my blog. Among those keywords and phrases there are also lots of questions. I decided to answer to some of them because you were clearly looking for an answer and might have been disappointed when you couldn’t find it from here.

Here comes the questions:

What do Chinese people think about cutting in line?

Someone might think that there are now lines in China because there’s more cutting in line than staying in the line. But I have experienced some very strict queuing here in Guangzhou so it can’t be totally true. If you wait for the bus B25 in Tianhe, near tiyu xilu (体育西路) metro station, there’s is a clear line waiting for the bus.

Now comes the confession! I tried to cut in that line once and failed miserably. Everyone is tired and  everyone wants to get a seat, but in this line everyone is also waiting for their turn.

You might think that the line is formed well because most of the people waiting are university students. Shouldn’t they be smarter because of their higher education? You will forget this very soon when you try to get into the B25 in the other end, at the University Island (大学城).

But if you decide to take a metro instead of bus, then you can use your elbows freely. There are arrows in the floor showing you where to get on (上车) and where to get off (下车) the metro. These arrows might have some meaning in the beginning of  the queuing, but as soon as the metro arrives to the station, the lines become a mess. There are staff working at the metro station and trying to shout to their microphones, but it has little to none effect.

Why Chinese people cut in line?

In my theory it’s all connected to this “if you’re family I do anything for you – if you’re a stranger you are nothing to me” mentality. It haven’t been too easy for Chinese people in the past and they learned to survive. And if you have to choose do you save your family member or some random guy on the street, it’s an easy decision to make. There are so many people in China (more than 1.3 billion and 14 million of them in Guangzhou) that it’s just too many to care about everyone.

P.s. I’m willing to change my theory if you can prove another one makes more sense!


  • C

    i always thought some of these people who do that are from the country area, fresh to the city like they came to a new world? well not always but when i was travelling to Egypt from Thailand afew yrs ago, there were a whole swarm of them that came pushing me through the aisle while i was waiting for someone to hurry up moving. i talked to a few of them. i couldn’t understand their accent but they told me they were from small villages in the country side. How i knew this? even though i couldn’t figure a word in chinese they were speaking to me in? It was their primitive mannerisms and the way they dressed. They also tend to snatch my passport and passed it on to the other guys. i was shocked. but thank god they couldn’t really read in english but they were just most into reading what year i was born. Pathetic


    Sara Reply:

    In my experience people love to cut in line no matter are they young or old, from the country or the city. I guess it would be easy to just say someone isn’t behaving because he/she isn’t educated, but in this case the reasons are somewhere else. Who would teach karma to Chinese people?


    C Reply:

    come to think of it.

    i could have shove them back and smack them with my heavy bag when they are already moving past me lol but i didn’t. i too busy thinking about how appalling by their incessant pushing.

    I’ll remember to do it next time.


  • Kam

    Hi Sara,

    About theory it’s not 100% correct.

    Mainly I think it’s because the Chinese government just makes most of Chinese people’s mind twisted.

    To survive is not easy in China, Since we’re kids, we need to fight for every single thing like: education, food, work, girl(boy)friends, houses, even fucking parking spots.

    So because of all this, we’ll cut the line only because in our subconscious we want a better spot than the others.

    This is my theory, btw I’m a Chinese. 1250%.


    Sara Reply:

    Hi Kam,

    I agree that history has a lot to do with how people behave and treat others today. Surely there was huge things going on in the 20th century that continue to have an effect for a long time to come. There are always lot of factors to consider when trying to figure out something like human behaviour. It’s a mystery to me to find out who Chinese people are and why they do things like they do. There’s no finish line, but I enjoy the journey. And enjoy lot of reading!

    p.s. Could it be possible that you are only 1249,99% Chinese? ;)


  • mike

    Thanks for sharing your point of view. I am here in China for my first time, from America. I strongly believe it is because of “jesus”. I was raised in a catholic family large but I no longer belive in any “God”. But this teaching of putting others before you has heavely influenced our culture. I don’t buy this, poor Chinese having to fight for food theory.


    Sara Reply:

    I’m wondering what are the major differences in China and in Taiwan, I have heard people are more polite and willing to queue in line than in the mainland. I think there is something else than religion behind there, even though I do think that religion can have a huge impact on how people behave.


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