Britain can be a very odd place indeed. One where it’s hard to understand what you need to understand to fit in. And that’s where our tongue-in-cheek (don’t worry, we’ll explain ‘tongue-in-cheek’ later) guides come in handy.
We hope you enjoy them (last week we covered the ritual of tea) and share them with anyone else you think might find them interesting or amusing – or possibly even both.
We also hope that they give you an insight into that most British of characteristics, an absurd sense of humour.
No.2: The Queue
The British invented the queue. Or so they like to think. And beyond that, the British know how to queue, while the rest of the world doesn’t. However, the evidence to back up these two points of view is somewhat difficult to find. After all, if you were to take a Biblical view on things, when Noah was getting all the animals on his Ark, they apparently lined up two by two. And Noah wasn’t British.
But all this is beside the point. And the point is that the queue is a concept that resonates deeply in the British subconscious. It’s a concept that speaks of order, patience, fairness. The people at the front of the queue will get whatever everyone is waiting for first, because they got there first. The people at the back of the queue will get it last, because they lined up last.
The other thing to know about queues in Britain is that you don’t ‘push in’. Ever. Push in to a queue and everyone in the queue will hate you. Except the British don’t really do ‘hate’ – they do ‘silent resentment’. That’s because, on the whole, the British aren’t emotionally expressive people. We’d rather keep things buttoned up than blow our top.
So if you want to fit in to Britain, here’s how to behave when confronted by a queue.
1. Join at the back.
2. Wait your turn.
3. If anyone does push in, sigh deeply, roll your eyes, seethe inwardly, don’t object, but maybe just mutter under your breath to the person next to you: ‘Who do they think they are, the Queen?’
Order, patience, fairness and silent resentment. That’s what queues in Britain are all about. Oh, and rain. Rain is often involved too.
Next week in How to be British: The Knock-knock Joke.