In kindergarten the typical American learns the lesson of “no butts” and “no cutting”, so arriving in India, it has been a surprise to see that this lesson does not apply in this country and that their culture has a completely different take on the proper way to stand in a line.
Tyler travels to Chennai, Mumbai and Bangalore every few weeks to spend time at the other Microsoft offices in India. It was after his first visit to one of these offices, a few weeks after our arrival, that we saw the first glimpse of how to stand in a line in India. He came home and told me how standing in line for a dinner buffet with all of these professionals, he didn’t quite understand why people were cutting in front of him. He was standing in line as an American would with a few inches of space between him and the person in front of him. After several people “cut” in front of him, he started to think how rude it was but then looking around he realized that if he left any space between persons, it was understood by the Indians that you were not in a hurry, so it was acceptable to move ahead of him.
A couple of months into my grocery shopping experience, I was also standing in line at an expat grocery store, holding my red basket with my load (yes… Costco shopping moms, imagine having to carry your basket around in your hands to do your shopping… that’s how we do it here, no shopping carts to push around) when a woman kindly asked if I was standing in line. I replied yes, and she informed me that I needed to get quite a bit closer in order for others to understand that I am in the line. She was also an expat and was giving me a little help in understanding the rules of the line in India.
It is very common to see individuals walk right up in front of the line at the grocery store and hand their money and hold up their soda can to pay quickly in front of everyone else. In January, our entire family was given the opportunity to go through an 8 hour culture training where a company sent their consultants to our home. One worked with our children and two worked with Tyler and I in understanding the culture and how it contrasts to the culture from which we have come. I asked these consultants about standing in lines here. They explained that if you are not almost pushing the individual in front of you to hurry along, than the Indian reads that as a sign that you are not in a rush so it is okay to move ahead of you. It was nice to finally have that “culture difference” explained.
As we flew out of the airport last weekend for Paris, I nearly lost it though with the “butting in lines” here in India. Just going through security, we experienced three different individuals who decided their lives were much more important than ours. One was a man that just slowly moved his way up the security line standing in front of a few more persons every few minutes having no regret that all of us were in the same situation. The second was a woman that once she had gotten to the point of security where you select your bins to put all of your belongings that are carryons to be sent through the xray machine, she decided her line was too long, so she moved over to ours and literally was taking the bin out of Tyler’s hand as he was pulling it out of the stack. He explained that yes, he was using it and that she could get one behind him. Our third experience was of another woman that decided she was going to make a second line behind the xray machine that one walks through. In India, men go through one security line and women another, with women going behind a curtain and getting their “pat down.” Hailey and I were next in line and a woman came and stood right next to Hailey. The woman behind me spoke up and explained to her that there was one line. She tried to say that she thought there could be two lines. I told her that we were indeed next. It is against my nature to push and shove in a line but I am learning that I do need to be a bit more assertive in a line. I still think what I learned in kindergarten is indeed the proper way to stand in a line regardless of your culture.