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#46 Cutting In Line

Posted March 26th, 2008 by Peter · 60 Comments

I am currently writing this post at an Asian-American Leadership Conference which I will be attending for 3 days this week. This is the largest collection of typical asian behavior around. This is also the perfect opportunity to discuss the many asian quirks that are observed on a day-to-day basis by yours truly.

During a seminar on younger-generation future planning, I was introduced to a wonderful concept: Eastern Vs. Western Culture. This post marks the beginning of a series of posts about the differences between Asians (red) and people of European descent (blue).

Queue When Waiting

What do you see in this diagram? If you look past the silly looking dots, you will realize that it is exactly what happens in supermarkets around the world. Asians push and shove, while westerners wait in line for their turn. Although this is not evident in nearly every Asian culture (looking at you, Japan), Asians simply hate being one-upped by another person. They loathe it. They would even nag at it if they could. But why? The fact of the matter is: asians were born to be competitive.

This begins in the womb, where asian babies fight with their mother’s placentas for essential nutrients via the umbilical cord. However, asian mothers (in their native lands) do not receive the proper balanced nutrition that most babies require, and it is only recently in the Americas that asians have made a conscious effort to nourish their offspring. This lack of nutrition in the developing baby causes most asians to fight for survival leading up to birth, which dictates the direction of the rest of their lives.

Asians manifest this into academics, hard work, investing in their children, as well as decorating even their own homes. These areas are where asians strive to be the best. They must preserve face (later topic). They are prideful in basically everything they do, down to folding their own clothes. Nowhere is this asian competitive spirit demonstrated better than at a typical food stand, where the largest and loudest rule the day. If you are ever in a situation where there are asians waiting for something (try China Town), do not be alarmed if you are cut. Scratch that. Don’t be surprised if you never even get to order your food. Asians serve by demand, so if you do not seem like you want something, they will not accommodate you. The best thing would be to push and shove back, exerting your dominance and immediacy in the situation. If you choose the latter path, remember also to show them what you want and how you want to pay for it. Asians will immediately serve those that wave five dollar bills at them.

Most foreigners are overwhelmed by the amount of pushing and shoving that occurs in Chinese Banks, Buses, Elevators, and pretty much every other place you can think of. Asians see this every day. It’s a dog-eat-dog world to them. This is the mentality that most asians bring to their adoptive lands, leaving many people scratching their heads when they cut lines at Disneyland or Boomers. Try to see it from an Asian perspective, where the skill of cutting people is essential to survival. However, this doesn’t mean that asians aren’t making a concerted effort to adopt the world’s more laid-back standards.

Last February, Beijing decided to clean up their act and announced a National Queue-Up Day once a month in an effort to get people to be more “˜well-mannered’ for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. If this is what it takes to suppress this habit, you know that it is hard coded into asian culture. An inborn survival instinct that allows many asians to succeed in the workforce and life, Cutting in Line is definitely something that asians like.

Last 5 posts by Peter

Tags: Activities · Customs · Environment · Habits · History · People · Tidbits · Work

60 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tomas // Mar 26, 2008 at 9:01 am

    I would say that Japanese are the exception to this rule. In fact, Japanese probably have even more patience than most western people. You see them lining up for everything from ticket windows, to trains, and opening of stores. Patience is taught as a virtue in the culture.

    Usually, I can tell who the Chinese (and some Korean) tourists are in Japan as they will be the ones admonished for trying to sneak up to the front of the line.

    It used to be this way in Korea too, but for some weird reason, nowadays, I see Koreans actully understanding the concept of waiting one’s turn in line as well too.

  • 2 Justin // Mar 26, 2008 at 9:04 am

    Cool, thanks!

  • 3 Jon // Mar 26, 2008 at 10:57 am

    On a real note, Ukrainians and a lot of Eastern Europeans aren’t very good at the whole line thing. Think it’s a hold over from the time of food shortages where if you weren’t in the line near the front, you weren’t going to get food.

  • 4 Jay // Mar 26, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Asians are the **** drivers and the rudest most self absorbed class of ****. Whenever a car cuts into your lane leaving little room or a person walking down the side walk just stops and causes every one behind them to pile into them you can be sure in both cases the source is an Asian. I am racist now but I never was – Asians have made me **** them. I am not proud of this. I **** Asians.

  • 5 Anonymous // Mar 26, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Just so we can be absolutely clear Jay, are you somehow saying you might have a slight problem with Asians? I don’t think your intent comes through quite clearly (no offense!).

  • 6 g // Mar 26, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Not to generalize or anything, right Jay?

  • 7 SumGai // Mar 27, 2008 at 8:04 am

    At least Jay is honest (that he’s a racist), even if (now bigotted).

    I don’t know how cutting in line could ever be seen as a virtue, even in the starvation situation mentioned by Jon (Darwinian survival?), and I can tell you that it’s not only Asians who do this.

    I think it’s a civility issue, something that is sorely lacking in today’s “me-first” society. What gets me are the people who let other (unconnected) people cut in front of them. Especially if the cutters had previously tried to cut in line further back but were rebuffed, so they try somewhere further ahead. >:<

    Karma better be the real deal!!!

  • 8 Penis McNickels // Mar 27, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    So… I was in Beijing looking to get a ticket for the subway… I look around and see the ticket booth with a man buying a ticket. I walk up behind him and take my place in line. As soon as the man infront of me finishes his transaction out of nowhere this **** comes flying in and cuts rigth in front of me!

    There was no one else there… just me… Anyways, I let it go because you can’t expect find people with manners in Beijing… so as the line cutter is finishing up his transaction I spot another asshole coming in for the kill (again, no one else in line) I give him a really dirty look and he hesitates and decides it is best not to be such a rude ****….

    I finally purchase my ticket and live a bit miffed at what just happened…

    Of course, my favourite part of my China adventure was witnessing full on public urinating on several different occasions.

  • 9 dagbrown // Mar 27, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    When you say, “(looking at you, Japan)”–you’re not kidding there. There’s nothing that Japanese people would rather do than wait in line for something.

    Once I was going into a railway station and there was a long line of people in front of one turnstile. Maybe the other turnstiles were broken or something, I thought, and wandered up to one of the empty ones.

    There was nothing wrong with it, of course–it’s just that there was a LINE there, so you have to go and WAIT IN THE LINE. I’m not sure what the This Is A Queue critical mass is–I think maybe a family tried to go through the same turnstile together setting off the big lineup.

    As soon as I went through the empty turnstile, the big lineup dissipated, of course.

  • 10 strmbkr // Apr 4, 2008 at 12:16 pm

    In Toronto, Canada, tons of white people, black people, as well as Asians don’t wait in line anymore (and frequently cut in), very rude. I don’t think it’s a “culture” or “race” thing anymore. It’s about respect for others.

    I am one of the few Asians that actually stand in line.

  • 11 chiff // Apr 4, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Italians don’t care for lines either, sorry.

  • 12 Anonymous // Apr 5, 2008 at 4:35 am

    hong kongers are known for lining up for anything at anywhere. although people in hong kong generally queue up some tend to stand uncomfortably close behind you. everyone is busy to do whatever they’ve to do..well at least they queue up unlike many mainland chinese tourists in hong kong who cut in line all the time. the concept of proximity is not like in american society. i find americans tends to repsect private space/physical proximity in public space more then let’s say, australians or italians or russians..
    correct me if i’m wrong

  • 13 gweilo // Apr 5, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    This is crazy, stereotyping yourselves, thats a new one! you should put “low self estime” on top of your list. You are sad.

  • 14 Justin // Apr 5, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Try to read it as a joke/satire (making fun of oneself)…it’ll help you get the style of the site more.

  • 15 Ashley // Apr 9, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Hey Jay makes no sense. What’s up with the expletive placement? I **** Asians doesn’t even make sense. What word are you supposed to put in there? If you’re going to cuss, you might as well do it right.

  • 16 john c // Apr 12, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    have you ever been to france? they push and shove just as much as anyone else.

  • 17 Humming // Apr 13, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Cutting queus is very useful thing bt its old fashioned.

    Usually what I do if here’s a big queue eg in the health centre to get an appointment, i just get out ofthe building, phone thme up, make my appointment and thne go to whereve the doctor’s office is. Thsi only work with NHS in spain, mind you.

  • 18 Humming // Apr 13, 2008 at 8:16 am

    sorry for the bad spelling, im typing lying on the floor so its a bit hard

  • 19 Syrob // Apr 14, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    “…lot of Eastern Europeans aren’t very good at the whole line thing. (…) it’s a hold over from the time of food shortages where if you weren’t in the line near the front, you weren’t going to get food.”

    Actually in those times cutting in lines could result in being stabbed by women umbrella or other serious injuries.

    But that’s a fact – i can speak for my (Polish) nation – discreet cutting in line is our national sport.

  • 20 sam // Jul 5, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Hey, I was at the SDAALC. How did you like the conference?

  • 21 Peter // Jul 5, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    There was an AALC in SD? I enjoyed it a lot but the one I went to was in Fullerton.

  • 22 josie // Jul 16, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    I do agree that the Japanese are an exception, especially Japanese Americans. They are the most polite, well mannered people I know.

  • 23 D // Aug 21, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    When I was in Ha Long, VN and everyone was in a line formation to get out(only 1 person can get through at a time cause the path was narrow, the lady behind me kept jabbing at me with her finger. Obviously I couldn’t go any faster, so they were just wasting their efforts.

  • 24 Anonymous // Sep 9, 2008 at 3:42 am

    I have a suspicion this is more about the type of folks that go to leadership conferences than racial makeup. Makes more sense really. everyone needs to lead the line.

  • 25 Dazed // Sep 18, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Well I was just waiting IN LINE (patiently too might I add) at McDonalds to be served.. a group of asian (mostly likely Australian Japanese teens) who looked like they had just come from a party where ordering food and then by the time it was my time.. another half dozen of their possee just appeared out of nowhere to delay me another 15mins.. what really irked me is *they knew* how long I had been waiting and didnt give a flying f**K. I would have said something to either them and/or staff but since that place is pretty much my only source of food (yeah living alone and can’t be stuffed cooking) – thought forget it. Why don’t people have any manners anymore? Imagine how great this world would be if they did.

  • 26 Dazed // Sep 18, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Oh.. and btw incase anyone thinks I’m a racist.. that’s baloney.. I’m half asian myself (one of the well mannered patient ones) and I realise just about every race on the planet does it.

  • 27 marijn // Jun 30, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    The trick is just to stand so close to the person in front of you that nobody can cut in line.

  • 28 Equal Opportunity Anti-Racist // Aug 8, 2009 at 9:27 pm

    How unfortunate it is, that you have chosen to describe “western” culture only in terms of “whiteness” and based upon people of European descent….”The West” is a melting pot of various cultures and ethnicities, as you probably already know, but choose not to acknowledge. Other groups have more than done their part in contributing to that “western” standard that you all seem to adulate.

  • 29 Parabolas // Sep 15, 2009 at 1:01 pm

    You should have a separate picture for western culture that shows black people always trying to cut in line. Just last week I had 3 separate cases of black people trying to cut in line. I have never seen asian people do this.

  • 30 Dave // Oct 26, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    I agree with strmbkr. Toronto has many, many Chinese and Asians in their beautiful city, but I find the white people there to be the rudest people in North America. Albeit, many Asians have pushed me in Toronto, I find it’s not limited to race. I simply push back and find myself more callous every time I visit.

  • 31 Peter // Nov 15, 2009 at 2:08 am

    I hate to keep bagging on the mainlanders, but once again, its Mainland Chinese thing.

  • 32 Foolraving // Nov 27, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Parabolos – I agree with you completely. Although there are plenty of classy black-american people with manners, sadly there are just as many ghetto, menacing black people. There are plenty of a-hole people of all races in america, but I think most people will agree, including most black people, that a certain population of black people cause the most trouble and show little respect for anyone. Confrontations always occur with black people. Just this morning, my wife was shopping at Toys R Us to get some good deals since it is the day after Thanksgiving. My wife had been standing in line for an hour and had made friends with the people in front of her and in back of her. A black lady was very obvious in her attempt to slip into line in front of my wife. When that failed, she tried to slip in front of the lady behind my wife. Everyone was very nice to her, but when the back of the line was pointed out to her, she got upset and shot back a nasty comment and got all kinds of attitude. Why do so many black people think they can sh_t all over you and you should thank them for it? That attitude is disturbing.

  • 33 AR // Feb 26, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I’m and indian, and if you count Indians (from India) as Asians per your blog, then they are just like this as well. What line?

  • 34 CR // Mar 4, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    Not to open a can of worms here, but I’m surprised more people don’t consider the one most obvious difference between Western and Eastern culture.


    Nearly ALL Western culture is extremely heavily influenced by the teachings of Jesus. One of Jesus’ most famous teachings is, “Those who are first will be last, and those who are last will be first.”

    Now, while he wasn’t exactly talking about waiting in line at Walmart or the bank, his followers tended to take his principles into every aspect of life, including waiting in line (for anything).

    The West was not always like this. In fact, waiting in line, in many Western cultures was NOT the norm until these ideals infiltrated those societies.

    Shinto teachings stress humility, and putting others before oneself, so waiting in line tends to be the norm in Japan.

    This is not to say there aren’t other Asian religions that stress humility. There are many. But unlike Japan, in most other Asian countries, the masses tend to choose individually not only which religion to follow, but to what extent.

    Yeah, I know these are “blanket” statements and full of holes, but there isn’t room to write a book about it here.

    My only intention is to point out that individualistic practice of religion in one’s daily lives definitely plays a role in whether one fights others for one’s needs, or puts others before oneself.

  • 35 CR // Mar 4, 2010 at 2:02 pm


    You’re joking right? How you can NOT see yourself how racist this post is, is beyond me.

    Come to New England and I’ll show you REALLY rude people, and almost ALL of them are WHITE!

    Color’s got NOTHING to do with it foolish!

  • 36 KC // Mar 7, 2010 at 11:34 am

    This is true of some mainland chinese people because they haven’t adjusted to prosperity yet. In some places where it is totally unnecessary to cut line like at an airport, they will sneak up to you and move in front of you. It happened to me once and a friend another time. I am chinese and I hate this because it gives all chinese people a bad reputation.

  • 37 DailyBento » Blog Archive » Stuff Asian People Like #46 – Cutting in line // Mar 13, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    [...] Source: Asian Central [...]

  • 38 moon123 // Mar 14, 2010 at 11:46 pm


    I never used to be racist wither, but the all of the White people I’ve met with their rudeness and arrogance have made me hate Whites.

  • 39 moon123 // Mar 14, 2010 at 11:47 pm


    wither= either

  • 40 Silly Subjectivism - Page 14 // May 26, 2010 at 9:33 am

    [...] most of us consider cutting in line to be rude, but lines don't even form in East Asian cultures, just a bunch of shoving and jockeying for first dibs. I don't think that means that Eastern Asians are all rude, it just means that they have been [...]

  • 41 John // Aug 1, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Cutting in line is a getto behavior. You could see that in most third world countries. Poor poeple do that to save time and in order to put food on the table (more free time = more working hours), and that’s understandable.
    If you are wealthy and like designer clothes then you shouldn’t cut in line. What is the point of wearing designer clothes when you act so ghetto. You should be sued by the designer clothing companies.
    In conclusion, no matter how good you think you look, if you act like Trash, people will see you as Trash.

  • 42 Anonymous // Aug 12, 2010 at 6:20 pm


  • 43 Jaydee // Nov 28, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    The last person that attempted to cut in line in front of me had to make a visit to the ER! It was a feral piece of ghetto trash who thought all white people are afraid of blacks. Much to his chagrin and surprise he found out that some of us will not take ghetto crap!

  • 44 Daniel // Dec 1, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Yeah, I must admit noticing a higher degree of Asians pushing, cutting and just not leaving enough space. I thought it was in my head until I started counting. I am often told it is cultural. In San Francisco we have a high percentage of people new to the culture.

    Called out a guy today for cutting in front of me, needless to say. It didn’t get an apology.

    Actually listened in on a discussion on this very subject once. The guys were pretty honest about their experiences in Japan and his argument was simple, people will always fall to a lowest common denominator. Why fight it? If we didn’t expect this we would have cops out giving citations.

    His buddy on the other hand argued citations for cutting would be racist and that it wasn’t a lowest common denominator situation, just another way of handling a problem.

    Their argument ended with debates on efficiency in loading people vs. injury on public transit.

    Anyhow, interesting and amusing post.

  • 45 juicy couture // Jan 16, 2011 at 8:44 pm

    I like it a lot. This was a useful post

  • 46 wood pellets // Mar 1, 2011 at 1:07 am

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  • 47 sfdee // Mar 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I’m surprised about your comments on the rudeness of people in Toronto. I was there as a tourist a few years ago and I thought the people I encountered were very particularly nice, friendly and polite.

  • 48 sfdee // Mar 10, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    I live in San Francisco and often shop in Chinatown at the produce markets and other stores. I used to get upset at the pushing and shoving to get your items weighed and paid for until I realized that I was taller than most of the frantic people clustered around the register. All I had to do was lean over them and put my stuff on the scale and that got me waited on and out of there.

  • 49 jim smith // Mar 17, 2011 at 8:52 am

    This man is a hard-core anti Asian racist!

    Steve Edwin Canaday
    DOB 07/27/1955

  • 50 links lodnon // Mar 21, 2011 at 1:22 am

    This is exactly what i was looking for. thank you for the informative post and keep up the good work!I am constantly searching online for articles that can aid me. Thanks!

  • 51 Dick // Apr 23, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    This cutting is very true, but happens in cheaper low class establishments, asian as well as american. You don’t find it in high class restaurants or stores. If you hang in low life you get what you came for.

  • 52 Sam // Sep 3, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    American dependents in Korea are some of the rudest you will ever come accross in the world. Cannot say all however the few surely are recognizable. And when confronted have no idea what you are talking about.

  • 53 Kayne // Nov 11, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    I’ll never forget last year in Nanjing, China.

    I was 2nd in line to buy tickets for my girlfriend to enter Nanjing Zoo. She was standing a ways away, waiting for me.

    I’ll state again, I was 2nd in line and there was nobody behind me. If you lined up, you would have been 3rd – to complete a transaction that takes less than 10 seconds…

    but a woman in her 40 cuts in front of me. WTF!?

    I had to put my hand on her arm, otherwise she was intent on ignoring me, and said “Da pai dui” as authorial as I could. It means ‘do – stand in line’, which I’d learnt a few days earlier at the Beijing Train station..

    seriously, I’m sure there is no translation of ‘consideration for others’ in Chinese… tsk tsk

  • 54 Konstantin // Nov 16, 2011 at 7:40 pm

    I head somewhere that one of the definitions of a “moral” action is that it is such an action that if everyone did it no one would be slighted. For example, standing up at a concert or sports event; what would happen if everyone did it? If you’re gonna cut in line then why have lines to begin with? Might as well just pile up around the store and let the strongest get their way. Americans and Japanese are very competitive, they just understand why there are rules.

  • 55 Jack De Sanchez // Dec 19, 2011 at 6:34 am

    My mother who is Vietnamese told me not to push in line at all, but i do it sometimes but not often. only if im impatient, i have had white people try to bash me at the train station because i pushed in line. I look 50% white 50% asian and people can see that i have asian features so they try to get me even more for pushing in. But i hate stereotyping not all Asians push in. I see heaps of white people push in lines all the time and no one takes notice of it. But because i have some asian looks, whites in line like to yell at me. I stand up for myself. :)

  • 56 Greg // Apr 18, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Cutting in Line is purely just savages that are uncivilized…period

  • 57 Mary // Nov 1, 2014 at 9:48 pm

    I live in Korea town, Los Angeles and Koreans are absolutely hands down the worst, rudest people. They should hang theirs head in shame for their lack of manners in respecting other people’s personal space and pushing in lines, especially when the pushing isn’t going to change anything, this is America.

  • 58 Thomas // Aug 14, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Mainland Chinese. Say no more. Animals. All other Chinese dislike them too. Horrible people.

    Funny comment about the Japanese pointlessly waiting without trying the other turnstiles. So true.

  • 59 Skyler // Sep 17, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    It’s interesting to me mostly because it seems like a lot of Asian cultures have a ton of customs. If I were traveling to another culture I would do my best to be sensitive to that areas customs. I also feel like that respect is expected. I live in a town in the US where we get a large amount of tourists from everywhere, how is it that an overwhelming amount of Asian tourists can walk into a room with people standing in a straight line and not see that we do things differently and go with it? It just comes across as so rude. I really don’t mean to be rude here, but I’ve seen Asian tourists literally pushing people to get somewhere when it’s not even necessary. It really comes across as they don’t care about the culture they are visiting. It’s really strange.

  • 60 steve // Jul 29, 2017 at 12:26 pm

    It’s called adopt western standards or just leave.. It’s that simple……

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