The cultural axes of punctuality and waiting in line

Even ten minutes after my conference talk was scheduled to begin, people were still wandering into the hall. My host explained that in Portugal, nothing starts on time. (This Web site goes so far as to say that arriving a half hour to 45 minutes late is customary.)

I asked whether the Portuguese form orderly lines when waiting for things. The answer: No. They just form a crowd.

One would expect that punctuality and waiting in orderly lines would be correlated traits in a culture, since they both reflect a degree of attention to detail and order, but there are exceptions.

In Taiwan, people form very orderly lines. For example, lanes are painted on subway platforms for people to stand in, and everybody waits their turn in line to get on. On the other hand, punctuality is not a Taiwanese trademark.

In the United States, waiting in line is taken for granted, but that doesn't always align with punctuality. It is important to be on time for business meetings, but the rules for social gatherings are more complex.

  • If invited to meet someone at a neutral location, you are expected to be there on time, and if you are more than five or ten minutes late, you should call the other party to let them know; otherwise they may abandon waiting for you.
  • If you are invited to dinner at someone's house, then up to about ten minutes tardiness is excusable, but under no conditions should you arrive early.
  • If invited to a party, you should arrive ten to fifteen minutes after the announced start time. The term for this is fashionably late. Again, under no circumstances should you arrive early.

Is there a correlation between punctuality and waiting in line in your country?

Comments (58)
  1. jcs says:

    Hmm — it would be interesting to know how your guidelines for punctuality in the US were derived.

    In my social circles, arriving to dinner 30 minutes late is accepted, and most people will arrive at a party about 1 hour after the announced start time.

    Culturally, the US is very heterogeneous, and I imagine that it would be hard to come up with one set of rules that satisfies everyone.

  2. dave says:

    The type of people I usually do social things with often specify a target time and a standard deviation.

    But maybe we’re just weird.

  3. KT says:

    I usually show up to parties at least an hour after the start time (I’m American).

  4. Linus says:

    In Germany, being late is considered an insult, and an affront to god (just don’t I’ve been told), however queuing in contrast takes on a mob eat-our-be-eaten mentality, the old and the young are to be left behind.

    In contrast, queue jumping in the UK will have strangers accosting you and you will be quickly ejected by an angry mob, however punctuality is on the shabbier side for the western world (a courteous ‘I’m really late, ohh you too!’ phone call is expected).

    Any correlation between these two social traits appear to be purely by chance.

  5. Spike says:

    I was ordering a taxi once to take my girlfriend and I to a restaurant for dinner.  The table was booked for 8pm and since the restaurant is less than half a mile away, the taxi journey would take a little over a minute.

    So I ordered the taxi for 8pm.

    My girlfriend (Canadian) hit the roof.  She said we were now obviously going to be late for the dinner reservation and that that was terribly rude.  I pointed out that we would probably be 90 seconds late and the restaurant would probably not notice.

    But she insisted that I should have ordered the taxi to get us there on time ( for 7.58:30? )

    I’m English and consider being 90 seconds late for a dinner reservation to be quite acceptable.

  6. Ralph says:

    Spike: I will assume it was a thunderstorm of biblical proportions because otherwise you could have, you know, walked.

    Here in the UK we are usually a bit late, except me, I am on time. It sucks, one of these days I will get the hang of being late.

  7. fersis says:

    Here (Argentina) , people are some what punctual ,BUT every gobernamental office or department is NOT punctual at all.

    Everyone hate to stand in line.


  8. James Schend says:

    For dinner engagements, 10-15 minutes late is ok. For a party, it’s usually closer to an hour, or even later than an hour. Or is that just me?

    I’ve always assumed the reason is that the hosts are never going to be ready at the exact start time, since there’s so many little details to take care of. Coming late, and thus letting them finish getting ready without worrying about guests, is just polite.

    I don’t like this Portuguese idea, though, especially at something like a conference. The speaker’s time, and the time of all the people setting up and tearing down A/V equipment, chairs, tables, etc, is valuable and shouldn’t be wasted.

    Also: the elderly frequently show up to things far too early, so you have to take that into account if older people are coming to the party. (Be ready on time, or give them another date.)

  9. Florian says:

    Here in northernmost Germany (where many things are quite different than in other parts of Germany (; ), being late is generally considered rude, and many people fear being just one minute too late. Don’t know if it’s a local thing, but I know many people setting their clocks some minutes into the future because of that.

    On the other hand, I tend to be several minutes too late without insulting anyone. Even in Business meetings with externals, this isn’t such a big deal if you know the other people, as long as it’s just a few minutes. The more personal the occasion, the less people care about being late. A phone-call is usually only required if you’re really late. Getting to a party at least thirty minutes late seems to be expected by younger people and may go up to hours for teenagers.

    Seems to be, generally, more a "Don’t-want-to-be-the-last-one" mentality.

    Waiting in line is a funny thing. No, nobody would really wait in a line for the bus or something. But when the bus arrives, people line-up without ruffle or excitement. I didn’t ever see such an aggressive behaviour like Linus told. Depends on where you live, I guess.

    In many places, e.g. a bakery, it works even better: Many people just stand where they want (where the thing they want to eat is (: ), but you’re still served in the correct order. "Queue-jumping", even without having a queue, is considered very rude. If you’re on a queue in a super-market though, many people will let you go first if you have only few things. Like in Canada, this is not really expected.

    Could be worse.

  10. Mike says:

    My wife and I (both American) are of the "at most 5 minutes late" variety.  We’re almost always the first ones to arrive at a gathering.  We have some friends that are of the "one hour late is ok" variety.  It absolutely drives us up the wall, so much so that I pretty much never invite them to anything and my wife has to do it.

  11. CGomez says:

    I can’t stand the difference this plays at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim (a very regional park that caters overwhelmingly to locals) and Walt Disney World in Florida (an international destination).

    At WDW, some older attractions have wide queues and you are expected to "fill in all available space".  This is another term for "cut in front of people who aren’t familiar with this or aren’t paying attention."  The culture clash is striking.  Some families watch in wonder as others just stroll on by.  It ends up were families just line up abreast to block traffic.

    Newer WDW attractions (it seems) build their queues to be the more common American "single file line".

    At Disneyland, nearly zero attractions have their queues set up this way.  If any do, it is only because it is a show that gathers in wide swaths of people and you will neither experience it earlier nor get any better of a seat.

  12. Silverhalide says:

    To queue or not to queue is based on finer distinctions than just national.  We’ve already had several examples of Canadian behaviour, but my experience is that people form lines for the bus in Toronto, but just form this big clump in Vancouver.  Maybe it’s the difference between the cold and the rain.

    And if you want to see amazing (non-)queuing behaviour, just try getting a seat at a busy dim sum place in chinatown some weekend morning.  I don’t understand it — my best guess is that they seat based on volume (that is loudness, not size).  It’s definitely not arrival order (and reservations only seem to reserve you a place in the mob, not a table), and the usual incentives (cash) to the maitre d’ don’t seem to do much.


  13. Mihai says:

    Romania: don’t have to be in time.

    But it is really bad form to be late to a business meeting, or with someone older/important.

    And a girl can be late for a date, the guy not.

    One fun saying is:

    • 15 academic minutes
    • 30 minutes of the lover

    • one hour of the idiot

    (waiting 15 min for someone important or 30 for your girlfriend lover is ok, but if you wait one hour, you are an idiot :-)

    What shocked me in the US is something else: will celebrate X from 2pm to 7pm.

    In Europe I have never heard of an ending time, except if the event is in a rented space. Otherwise, we stay as long as everybody has fun and feels like staying.

  14. dave says:

    Vancouver and Toronto might as well be in different countries, given the variation in culture in a country this big.

    I suspect, though, that local factors like population size and density probably have at least as much to do with it as national (or even regional) culture.

    I’m in Waterloo (near Toronto, medium-large city, two universities that have a large but not overwhelming effect on the area), for purposes of comparison in those dimensions.

    Interestingly, I’ve noticed a BIG difference in train boarding behavior between Toronto-and-London (where the stations are built to handle more than one train at a time) and everywhere else in southern Ontario (where the stations are of the "building beside the tracks" type).  Where there are numbered doorways and/or tracks, almost everybody is lined up at the appropriate point well before boarding starts, but otherwise people sit down until the boarding call, and then form up between the station’s exit doors and the train in something halfway between a line and a clump.  (In the latter case, people get on the train in approximately but not exactly the same order they left the station.)

  15. Julio Cesar says:

    From Mexico:

    • For business meetings up to 10 minutes is O.K.
    • For parites where your receive a "formal" invitation (e.g. wedings) it is expected that you arrive 30 minutes after the begining.

    I hate being late to any gathering and the odd thing is that this behaviour sometimes annoys people…

    As for the lines we’re pretty much as the Portuguese…

  16. Frederic says:

    France: arriving on time at a social diner at someone’s house would be verging on rude, you are expected to be about 15 minutes late. If you’re more than half an hour late, you should give a phone call.

    We grudgingly wait in semi-organized lines. Queue-jumping gets you angry looks, but happens a lot.

  17. Stephen Jones says:

    An old school friend of mine promised to drop in and see me in Madrid on the way from the UK to Morocco. He eventually arrived two days early  a year later.

  18. Raymundo Chennia says:

    lol @ Raymond pontificating on social mores.

    [Sorry I wasn’t clear. I’m being descriptive, not prescriptive. -Raymond]
  19. Satchmo says:

    In Italy, we share pretty much the same rules you listed for dinners and parties. Not so for meetings: particularly at non-business meetings, arriving half an hour late is very common. Everybody assumes that somebody else will arrive late, so nobody feels the need to be punctual.

    As for lines, there are different approaches. In "controlled" places (post offices, airport check-ins, banks) people form quite rigid lines, and queue jumping is considered hideous: if you get caught, you get a good telling-off and you are treated like a shoplifter.

    In "less formal" places (shops, bus stops, doctor’s offices) there’s no visible line, people are scattered all over the place, apparently not caring of everyone else, but actually everybody is supposed to keep track of all the people who arrive. If someone who has arrived after you tries to go ahead of you, jumping the virtual line, then it’s your job to stop him and defend your turn; if you don’t do it, it’s your fault and the other person is fully entitled to take the turn.

  20. Nick says:

    Midwestern American here.  And yes, I fully anticipate being berated for not understanding culture.

    Call me crazy but I’m driven absolutely insane by some of the "rules" I hear people talk about.  Arriving on time for an event is rude?  Hosts expecting people to be as much as an hour late?  What possible reason is there for such vague and varied expectations?

    How about this: When a host chooses a time for an event to start, that really is the time it starts?  This way everybody knows what is expected and there isn’t any ambiguity.  That said, I wouldn’t expect millisecond accuracy and I can understand that showing up early might be inconvenient and/or rude.

    Of course I’m one of those people that hates disorganized and sporadic events.  I figure if it’s worth doing, it’s worth planning.  Oh well :)

    Regarding Mihai’s comment about events being held from X pm to Y pm, I think it might be related to this very thing.  It gives people who cannot arrive on time the information needed to decide if it is worth going at all.  For example, if an event is from 5pm to 8pm, it probably isn’t worth arriving at 7:30pm.  At least, that’s how I use the info.

  21. Chris L says:

    In Canada, it is customary to wait in a line that’s 9 months long to see a doctor. Anything less would be rude

  22. MikeWasson says:

    (Raised in New York…) I was raised to be punctual generally, but also taught that it’s slightly rude to be exactly on time for a party or dinner at someone’s house. Maybe "rude" is too strong, but it’s customary to arrive about 15-30 minutes past the stated time ("fashionably late").

    At Microsoft, 5 minutes late to any meeting seems to be the rule.

    re queuing, New Yorkers queue for the bus, but never the subway! Seattlites seems to queue up patiently for just about anything.

  23. Bill says:

    (I’m from the US)

    I find a huge amount of variability in the US, depending on where you were brought up or where you work.  When I was in the military, you were on time, NO MATTER WHAT.  Death or serious injury is a barely acceptable excuse.  

    At Microsoft (I work here too) EVERYONE is late to EVERYTHING.  It drives me up a wall.  The sometimes stated message is "I am very busy, and I am doing you a huge favor by showing up at all".  Showing up late is discourteous.

  24. Mikkin says:

    I do not see a correlation between queuing behavior and punctuality. If you think about it, punctuality is a protocol for synchronous interaction and a queue is a protocol for managing asynchronous arrival.

  25. Tony says:

    @Spike: Canadian myself.  I totally see where you’re coming from, but I think the standard "polite" Canadian thought process is that you’d want to do anything possible not to be late.  By choosing to depart at the same time *as* the reservation, you’ve made that impossible.

    I think in Canada the typical thing to do would have been to get the taxi for 10 to 8, and be a few minutes early for the reservation instead of a few minutes late.  This might mean waiting for 5 minutes at the restaurant before being seated, but busy restaurants are busy, and they’ve taken the time to save a table for you.

  26. Philip says:

    Cultural background disclaimer: I’m from Denmark, relatively recently transplanted to southern California.

    I’ll echo Florian- Denmark is very similar to what is described for northern Germany (look on a map and that probably doesn’t come as a big surprise).

    California on the other hand.. arrived a couple of days before New Year’s Eve and was invited to a New Year’s party where the invitation was "come any time after 7 pm". My wife and I figure 9 pm will be good, not too early and not too late. Turns out we were the first guests to arrive and pretty much everybody else arrived between 10.30 pm and 11 pm.

    Subsequent party invitations have demonstrated similar party arrival etiquette that still baffles me.

  27. dlanod says:

    Speaking from an Australian point of view, queueing is mandatory but punctuality varies wildly from area to area.  In laidback northern Queensland you don’t specify times without giving at least a two to four hour spread.  Sydney is at the other end of the spectrum where just about everyone is "fashionably late" by at least an hour (party) or 30 minutes (dinner).  It can get quite frustrating, and some people are known to push their starting times forward by an hour under the correct assumption no one will show up.

  28. dave says:

    Here (Canada), lining up is rarely given a lot of attention, but we still manage to get the first-in, first-out behavior that more rigidly structured lines would give (and trying to get around that is generally not received well – you can expect to be politely informed where the end of the line *really* is).

    It’s fairly common for somebody who is obviously in more of a hurry than the person in front of them, or somebody who won’t take long behind somebody who will take a while, to get invited to move ahead in the line, but that’s "politeness above and beyond the call of duty", not expected behavior.

  29. Steve D says:

    A quote I once heard:

    "Britian is the only place in the world where you can see one person forming a queue."

    Giude books for the USA mention that when attending dinner at a friends house that it is imploite to stay too late, so I guess advising a finish time means that it is the finish time, instead of letting the night just happen!

  30. Dave O says:

    In the UK we also have the ultimate confusion when waiting to be served in a busy pub. There a massive scrum is formed. You then attempt to move towards the bar as quickly as possible but mustn’t look like you’re trying too hard. Once you get to the bar it’s expected that everyone will be served in arrival order and you don’t attempt to ask for a drink until it’s your turn.

    Shouting and fights can easily break out should people break these too blatantly…

  31. Chris J says:

    In the UK timing is, er, difficult. You can’t put a handle on it per se, and even the rules around business meetings depend on what the meeting is for, relationship with the other party, distance travelling, formality, culture of the organisation(s) involved, etc.

    For a random meeting with for a new or junior relationship, timing is quite important — being 5 minutes late is fine, but don’t push it. Although some public services have people more care-free about timing.

    Many meetings are built around this as the first 10 minutes or so are spent discussing the weather/journey/etc and refreshments before the meeting actually starts.

    As for queuing, we’re used to it. A scientific study(*) found most Brits spend 25% of their life waiting in queues at the post office.

    (*) Knowing what gets research funding over here, this is probably true.

  32. Rizal says:

    In Malaysia:

    People queue only when there is some sort of enforcement, e.g., at major subway stations. Otherwise it’s a free-for-all.

    It seems to be acceptable to arrive at a meeting up to 10 minutes after the stated time. Unless the chairperson decides to be very strict about it.

    It’s completely OK to arrive at parties 1, 2, or even 3 hours late. This is because parties here are drawn-out affairs: it’s like, come anytime after 3 o’clock. The host would make sure that food is served up to 7 o’clock. (Note: this is Malay culture. Not sure about Chinese or Indian culture).

  33. Raymundo Chennai says:

    lol @ Raymond thinking he can even comprehend social mores.

    [Any time you want to stop mocking my name, feel free. -Raymond]
  34. dsn says:

    I’m surprised that the thread has gone on this long without a single mention of "Jewish Standard Time".  I remember one time my (Catholic) girlfriend wanted to goto synagogue with me, and I (thinking out loud) said "OK.  Services start at 9.15, so lets try to be there for … hmmm … 10:30"  And she looked at me like I was crazy or something!

    The other thing that really messed up my sense of timing was University.  I don’t know what your experiences were, but my university allowed for travel time between classes by making all lectures start at 10 after the hour.  Ever since, I have had an instinctive compulsion to add 10 minutes to any specified arrival time!

    Slightly off-topic:

    @ Raymundo Chennai

    Different cultures might have different things we consider rude with respect to time of arrival, but there is one thing that is considered rude in all cultures I am familiar with.  Showing up at someone’s place, and then being unnecessarily disrespectful to the host.  Please stop.

  35. peterchen says:


    > When a host chooses a time for an event to start, that really is the time it starts?  

    You would make a good German :)

    I’m from middle-east Germany (hehe) and it’s similar to what Florian says: Mostly on time, late is (almost) rude – and it’s worse the more formal it is. Informal queues, too.

    From the other side: When you throw a party, and noone is there 10 minutes after, you start to worry if anyone’s coming at all.

  36. Rizal says:

    Oh, I didn’t answer the question. So is there a correlation between punctuality and waiting in line in Malaysia?

    I guess so, in the sense that the attitude of Malaysians towards both reflect a lack of systemic thinking, i.e., how my actions, no matter how small, might cause a ripple effect across the whole company/society/system.

  37. Drak says:

    In the Netherlands it seems to be custom to just come around whenever you want after the appointed, not call if you are late, even if it’s a couple of hours.

    Drives me crazy :S

    Queues are only for supermarkets. In other places you stand near the counter, and it’s up to you to remember who was there before you, and jump in at your proper time.

  38. steveg says:

    I postulate there’s a correlation between mobile (cell) phone ownership rates and tardiness. Back in the day you agreed to meet not only at a time, but at a place. None of this "call me when you’re in the area and I’ll see if I’m free" crap.

    Meetings at work should start 2 minutes after the stated start time and, more importantly, finish half an hour *before* the stated end-time. Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.

    From a business point of view the UK was more punctual than Australia when it came to meetings. Software deadlines were made of approximately the same density rubber. YMMV.

    The most extreme timing difference between London and Sydney is the speed at which a building empties when a fire alarm goes off — London people get out *now*, Sydney, meh, whatever.

    When travelling I very much enjoy the fact many cultures have "CountryName time" — ah… relax and go with the flow. It’s fun/embarrassing watching uptight westerners struggle with advisory bus schedules, and (to them) slothful table service.

  39. Divya says:

    In India, we neither form queues nor arrive on time. There is some correlation, as in people would use the lack of queue (I guess "order" is a better word, since this also applies to other stuff like traffic) as the reason for not being on time, and also the excuse of running late to break queues :)

  40. Ali says:

    In Pakistan:

    Similar to Malaysia, queues are only at banks, railways stations etc., where there is some enforcement.

    Punctuality thing is complex. In business meetings being late for a minute is sin, while in internal company meetings, you can get a leverage of 5 minutes (not more than that!). In social meetings, however you can be 1 or even 2 hours late, but that is more to do with sort of meeting and all the customs involved. E.g. in wedding, if you want to attend all customs/traditions/rituals you should reach early, but if you are going only for attending the prayers and then dinner, you could reach late.

  41. Aled says:

    As Dave O says, there is a complex set of ‘unwritten’ rules for getting served in pubs in the UK. The following website offers a good guide for visitors:

  42. Cheong says:

    Here in Hong Kong, arrive 5 minutes earlier is widely accepted.

    As for dinner or party, the invitation often contains lines "We’ll be ready at XX:XX, the party/dinner starts at YY:YY"  so you can come just any time in between.

    Be late for any appointment is considered to be very impolite here (important people may arrive near the actual time, but still won’t be late if possible).

    Regarding lining, there have been a nickname of "People who have tradition of Line/The Descendants Of Dragon"(龍的傳人,

    "Long line of lined up people" called "長龍" here, and "龍" also means dragon. "傳人" means "people who shares a tradition". Funny, isn’t it?)

    People line up for almost everything (Especially for buying properties when properties market is hot… It’s quite a scene to see people loop around the building and wait there for 2+ days in order to queue for buying flats… Off topic mutters: They resell the deed at higher price to earn money… I hate those people that makes the price rise so high…). Occasionally you’ll see some people don’t line up. That splits into two cases:

    1) Elderlies and disabled are privileged to board first on public transports.

    2) For buses, sometimes if they’re nearly full, people in line may choose to wait for the next bus. People not in line shall get on the bus to fill the space. But if everyone on the line is getting on the bus, people not in line must wait until all people in line are boarded.

  43. OJ says:

    In Norway, waiting in line is taken for granted, but that doesn’t always align with punctuality. It is important to be on time for business meetings, but the rules for social gatherings are more complex.

    -If invited to meet someone at a neutral location, you are expected to be there on time, and if you are more than five or ten minutes late, you should call the other party to let them know; otherwise they’ll be pissed when you show up.

    -If you are invited to dinner at someone’s house, then up to about 20 minutes tardiness is excusable, but under no conditions should you arrive early.

    -If invited to a party, you should arrive anywhere from ten minutes to two hours after the announced start time. The term for this is 5 MS minutes. Again, under no circumstances should you arrive early.

  44. Aaron says:

    Funny, normally I’d agree about the business meetings, but where I work, it’s rare for any meeting to start less than 15 minutes after the scheduled time.

    And you forgot one: for larger parties that you are invited to that are also at a neutral location (casual drinks, weddings, showers, pre- or after-parties for specific events, that kind of thing), you also arrive "fashionably late", but the term means somewhere from 30 minutes to an hour.  You can get there right on time if you want, but nobody else will!  If you get there 15 minutes late, there might be just a couple of other people there.

    I like the "arrive at / begins at" distinction in Hong Kong mentioned above.  That seems to make a lot more sense, with less guesswork involved.  It would never work here though; people are just too lazy and disorganized.

  45. Nidonocu says:

    Regarding queuing in the UK, if we can, we will. Though not to the level of the Taiwanese.

    Essentially, if there is a known serving or entry point, a queue forms directly backward from that point, (eg, a cashier, a bus stop with a known point where the bus door will be when it stops). However if there is no known point, a general crowd will form until known targets become available (train drawing in to a station) and with very little fuss, queues form immediately with no pushing or shoving.

    Not waiting for those leaving said mode of transport or jumping even these queues which have no basis on actual arrival time at the place its self, are still met with stares that will kill.

  46. Jose Simas says:

    I am Portuguese and live in the UK. It is true that everything and everyone is late in Portugal (sigh) but I distinctly remember people queueing for buses and alike in an orderly fashion (it’s been several years though). English punctuality is grossly overrated, though.

    I also lived in Russia for a while (circa 1988) and queues only applied to certain things. You would queue to buy things in a shop or in the street but crowd around (quite forcefully) a bus door. As far as I remember punctuality was good.

  47. Lucas says:

    I’m guessing you met mostly students in Portugal. There’s a strong tradition of always saying everything in Portugal is bad (a self-pity national tradition), but there’s a strong difference between student life and work (real) life.

    Like many other countries, 30 minutes is the custom limit for being late, but depending on the formality of the occasion that can be much lower or much higher (like you would never get late more than 15 minutes to any business meeting, and that if you know the other person well).

    It’s true punctuality it’s not a national tradition, and there are even business people who seem to make question of being always late, but let’s face it, no one likes to wait for another person, so it’s always rude.

    About the bus queues, Lisbon is one of the few places where people actually make a line before the bus arrives. But on the other places, people tend to form an orderly line after it arrives (and most let the ones that arrived earlier to get in first).

    I would guess the reason is just because the Lisbon buses can become full many times, so people must do that to avoid waiting for the next bus, while in most other cities buses just get full on the worst peak hours.

  48. Ken Hagan says:

    "Once you get to the bar it’s expected that everyone will be served in arrival order and you don’t attempt to ask for a drink until it’s your turn."

    I think that epitomises the British attitude to queuing. Waiting at a bar, there is no physical queue (since everyone is "at the front") but *we all know* the queue order. We’ve all practised this mental gymnastics since childhood, but I imagine that foreigners must believe that there’s some sort of telepathy at work (or blame it on the class system).

  49. Stu says:

    Bah.. I don’t think americans queue (wait in line) as well as us Brits.. I seemed to notice them all just going straight to the front (maybe thats just NY though?)

  50. Gabe says:

    After reading the headline for a couple of days, I just realized now that "axes" is meant to be the plural of "axis" rather than the plural of "ax".

  51. Kjartan Þór says:

    I’m from Iceland where we have implemented a positive feed-back loop of sorts around these things.

    No-one queues up for anything, even in traffic drivers mostly see no reason not to drive side by side on 2 and 3 lane roads. So most of the time where other nations would have space for cueues in Iceland there is none, and since queues are not expected no one queues up.

    Almost no-one arrives on time and definetly not early, anywhere, so movie theaters and any timed events are not started on time, and since the event most certainly will not start on time people show up even later than ever.

  52. Igor Levicki says:

    Lines here are usually ordered, but people often try to queue-jump. Queue-jumping in Serbia is not tolerated (unless the queue is really fast and small) and it may get you a beating if you do not back off because people do not consider your time more valuable than their own.

    Whether people come on time or not, is extremely variable. I would even go as far as to say it is personal.

  53. [ICR] says:

    Where I’m from in England bus stops tend not to have queues, you just mill around until your bus comes. Some people have a sense of order, letting people who were there before them on first, most letting the elderly and those with children on first etc. However, there is one bus stop that regularly has a proper orderly queue and people will give you disparaging looks if you happen not to be standing properly in line :S

    Another time I was at the Edinburgh Fringe attending the Amnesty International gig, which is a pretty large event comparatively. As we entered we were directed to one of several bar areas to sit around and wait. However, as my girlfriend and myself were keen to get good seats we stuck near the door. People then seemed to start queuing behind us, and then another queue formed next to use, with more and more people joining in. It seems once a few people are milling around near the door people perceive a line to be starting and they sure as hell don’t want to be stuck at the back of it.

    I think we British do tend to queue a lot and have a sense of fairness about it such that it’s socially unacceptable to cut lines (and stereotypically we’d rather tut loudly about it rather than directly confront). But weirdly it doesn’t feel like we queue excessively, it’s just the way things are.

    Punctuality is a complex thing, for social events its generally okay to be up 15 minutes late depending on who you’re meeting with, though it’s polite to apologise. For more formal occasions it’s a bit tighter, though it doesn’t have to be on the dot. We do have a concept of being fashionably late for parties though :)

  54. [ICR] says:

    I have to confess to being guilty of not reading all the comments before posting, but Nidonocu sums up the British attitude to queuing very well imho.

  55. When I was growing up in Ireland in the 1970s and 80s, my father ran the Dublin branch of a Dutch merchant (investment) bank. When Dutch nationals were posted to Dublin, one of the first things that my father had to do was to break them of their habit of excessive punctuality. They’d turn up for a 7pm party at 7:00pm sharp and find that the hosts weren’t at all ready for guests.

    Here in Seattle, I find that my American friends are all over the map in terms of punctuality.

  56. James says:

    From a geek perspective, I tend to take things too literally, so I’d take a 7 pm invitation as actually involving being there at 7. Of course, this comes with disorganisational skills which guarantee not making it before about 7:30 anyway…

    In a similar vein, I have an engineer coming to install a new office phone line "between 8 am and 1 pm on Wednesday". Of course, if you turn up at the offices of most software companies at 8 am, unless someone’s working *really* late, you’d better be equipped either to break in or to wait a while. It seems I’ll be OK as long as the engineer is neither Canadian nor Dutch, from this thread…

    (To cap it all, I called back, only to be told their phone line was out of order so my call could not be connected. Erm, this is the telephone company itself, and their OWN lines are out?!)

  57. Yan says:

    In Israel we don’t have orderly lines AND we’re definitely not punctual, thing quite often don’t start on time.

  58. Mrs Pouncer says:

    Fascinating. I  always arrive at EXACTLY the same time as my companion or party, to the VERY SECOND. People always beg to know how I achieve this, and the answer is simple. Arrange to meet near a municipal monument or Goldline bus point. Arrive several minutes in hand, and establish a vantage point behind the monument or within the huddle of dotards awaiting the excursion. As your companion arrives, immediately thrust forward so that you are by his or her side within a nano-second.  You will immediately be congratulated on your punctuality and offered the first drink.

    As for queuing, I have noticed a new anxiety here in England. People charge madly from one queue to the next in the vain hope that they will identify the fastest-moving by the simple expedient of joining it. It is absolutely pointless. I urge you to QUEUE COMMIT. Once you have settled on your queue of choice, stick with it. What happened to staying power? We are reaping a bitter harvest for our young folk if this is the sort of example we are setting. Cordially, Mrs Pouncer

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