Standing in Line

Standing in Line
One aspect of Chinese culture that I found quite different in Taiwan was the concept of standing in line. Wherever possible, I’ve grown up trying to avoid standing in line. However in Taiwan, people seem to almost enjoy standing in line. If a local coffee shop has a buy one – get one free deal, expect a long line-up. While I might balk at having to wait for half an hour to save $3, many locals here embrace the thought of being able to save money, even if it means standing in line or a long time.

Lines are also used to gauge the popularity of a shop. Imagine you are standing in front of two drink shops that both seemingly sell the same type of drink. However one has a long line-up while the other one stands empty. Which shop would you choose?

In Taiwan, people will usually choose the shop with the line-up – after all it must be popular to have such a line-up, right?

Taipei MRT Line up

All this experience in lining up though has paid off for them. The line ups for getting on the Taipei MRT transit system are some of the most orderly that I’ve found anywhere in the world. Lines are marked on the ground where people should stand. What a difference it makes during rush hour to have people be able to step off the train in an orderly fashion, while new passengers patiently wait their turn without blocking them. It results in a very efficient system of moving mass throngs of people from one train to another.

Waiting Room

Despite all the places that I’m used to lining up at,  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many places use ticket systems to avoid line-ups. Banks, mall food courts, utility companies, hospitals etc. all provide seating while you wait for your number to be called. While you wait, you can kill time by watching headlines from the local news on a nearby television.

4 Responses to “Standing in Line”

  1. Geovanni

    You have a point about lining up at the MRT, but you forgot to mention than more often than not, people that come out of the MRT actually head straight for you and they expect you to get out of their way. That is the true dichotomy of Taipei’s MRT, why do they line up so orderly if they rush at you as soon as the doors open.

  2. Wow, Chinese people can q. I thought there was no q in the Chinese alphabet!

    Here on the mainland they charge, push, shove, huddle and surge. Try getting out of an elevator or train. Many think they are VIPs and can just go to the font. Others have cultivated sneeky subtle ways to drift in from the side to the front spot. They all interrupt when you are being served with questions long and short. I’v cultivated a sarcastic ni xian (you first) to try to embarass them. One guy finally relented and said ni xian to me. I guess he tried to regain the face he had lost.

    Taiwanese have manners that are practical. I wish the mainlanders did.

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