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What your English teacher never told you - Queuing up

Maggio 2015
I principi del vivere civile in Gran Bretagna? Dire sempre please, thank you, sorry. E fare la coda! Ecco tutti i trucchi per mettersi in fila come un vero inglese... perchè anche alcuni comportamenti che da noi sono tollerati (tipo “scusi, ho solo il latte, posso passare avanti?”) là sono inconcepibili.

di Rachel Roberts

Rachel Roberts
Rachel Roberts

British people are famous for queuing, and any book about culture and etiquette in the UK will tell you that Brits like to stand in line and wait their turn, even when they’re waiting for the bus. Not many students of English, however, are aware just how important queues are, or that there is an art to forming them.


Occasionally there are articles in the British press declaring that the queue is dead. One such article complained that “several people were hurt in a queue for the opening of an Ikea store in London in 2005. Up to 6,000 people turned up and there was a stampede when the doors opened.” In another case an “estimated 3,000 shoppers forced their way into a new Primark in London in 2007 despite there being 50 security guards.”
Far from proving that people in Britain no longer form queues, these articles surely underline the fact that standing in line is still very much normal, expected behaviour in the UK. It’s difficult to imagine another country in the world where a disorderly queue would be considered news! For British people, a stampeding crowd is still shocking.


It’s true that queues aren’t always perfect and that some British people “jump the queue” – a phrase which has connotations of bad behaviour in the UK. However, if you’re thinking of travelling to Britain you should be aware that most of the population will expect you to wait your turn politely.
Did you know, for example, that British people often form queues in car parks? If the car park is full, they will wait patiently in their cars, one behind the other, until somebody leaves and frees a space. They really believe in the expression “first come, first served.”


It’s also important to form a one-person queue if you are the first person to arrive somewhere – at a bus stop for example. In this case you should position yourself close to the actual stop. This is the most logical way of demonstrating to anyone else who arrives that you have the first place. You can’t simply hang around somewhere nearby and then claim to be the first in the line if you haven’t clearly indicated your position.
It’s usually considered polite to leave a certain amount of space between you and the person in front. That way, if they step back, open their umbrella, or begin to search through their pockets or bags, there will be no accidental bodily contact.


Situation: You are not sure where to stand
What you say/do: 
“Is this the end of the queue?” or “Are you the last in the queue?“

Someone has accidently joined  the queue in front of you
What you say/do:
Cough politely. Cough more loudly. Say: “Excuse me! Sorry but that’s not the end of the queue!“

Situation: Someone is obviously trying to push in
What you say/do:
“Excuse me, but we’re all waiting our turn. The end of the queue is that way! (Indicating behind you with your thumb)

Situation: You are really in a hurry, about to miss the train
What you say/do: Keep looking at your watch while sighing loudly and appearing agitated. Say in a loud voice: “Oh no, I’m going to miss it“ until someone turns round and offers to let you pass.

Situation: At the supermarket, you have only one item and would like to pass
What you say/do: Wait your turn.

Situation: You’d like to join a friend who is ahead of you in the line.
What you say/do: Don’t even think about it.

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