All Good Things Come to He/She Queue Waits


“An Englishman, when he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one”

 George Mikes

Like a nation super power, the British are simply the best where it comes to queuing!

British people can and do display amazing queue etiquette.  It is an unspoken word and our weird love of queuing causes fascination and frustration to other countries and cultures!

If there’s one thing we know how to do; it’s forming an orderly and polite line and in an unflappable manner.

We are taught from an early age, quickly learning how to stand in single file, how to form a straight line and move forward one by one whilst obeying any guiding organising invisible lines.

As we get older we step it up, appreciating and following the more complex rules that novices or queue rebels do not adhere to – but hey people it’s is not complicated and there really isn’t any reasonable excuse or explanation when and why others get it all so wrong! 

Queues for those whose moral compass is finely tuned equal order, structure and represent fairness.  It is a place where the principle of queuing is easy to understand. The basics of queueing are quite simply to find a line of people (it doesn't matter where they are, or what they're there for) and then simply stand there!

For us British, it is also something ingrained into our psyche to stand patiently and wait.  

So conditioned are we as a nation to the painfully boring art of standing around in line, that we have the natural ability to form queues without needing to be asked or when not required!

We simply love queuing!  We are the Olympic champions of it. It is a patriotic duty of ours akin to serving Queen and country!  And our obsession to queue for just about everything is something we should be proud for as a very British institution.

We stand in line for just about anything; supermarkets, bus stops, taxis, the post office, the cinema; just about anything that attracts a line of people.  It is a daily fact of life and one we have come to patiently accept, without argument (even though at times we might find it all a bit irritating, but that part comes back to the etiquette and golden rules of queueing). 

When you think about it we have queue systems in all parts of life.  If you call most companies, you are often told “You are in a queue”.

But just stop and consider the alternative which would be absolutely chaotic and a free for all!  Take a moment to reflect over a non-queueing scenario; say at a bar, a situation where the staff are supposed to develop a keen sense of who is next, and the customers assist by policing it themselves.

Now recall the confusion it creates where you have been stood there for a while and no-one can remember who got there first until the member of staff asks that all important question; whose next?  This can be the tricky and sticky bit where instinct overtakes.

You look at the customer next to you to gauge their reaction. If they start placing an order you tend to just let them get on with it because some people are impatient or rude or both and are better at seizing the opportunity!

What you actually wanted them to do is to say; “After you”, to which you would then finding yourself saying “No, you”.

It’s a weird thing; we yearn for order and yet when given an opening, our impeccable manners kick in!  We go from feeling frustrated and angry about having to wait to graciously be accepting of the runner up prize.

Being polite is maybe why we British hate queue jumpers which it must be said are disapproved of even more than the queues themselves.  And why we avoid the social embarrassment of having to confront those who infringe the social rules of queue jumping. 

The cardinal rule of the queue is absolutely no pushing in and woe betide anyone who ignores it! 

Which makes it hard to believe how some people flaunt or undermine what is acceptable in queueing.

Like the majority of more experienced, a sixth sense kicks in where a queue jumper is concerned, placing you on high alert!

These are people who have a certain demeanour about them, even a swagger in the way they walk, look and carry themselves blatantly seen assessing the queue in front of them as they casually begin to approach and glide pretending to be curious rather than full of intent, before they suddenly merge into the line.

Positively outrageously!   They know no one!  Even worse when they go to the front!  Beware!  Professional queue jumpers are a variety of sly indivdiuals with devious tactics in play that make your blood boil! 

But do remember Karma; a good way to console ourselves from the queue bullies!  There are also some great do's & don’ts to ensure you queue in peace and harmony.

Whatever type of queue you are in, the one magic phrase needs to be articulated that will defuse any awkward situation before it arises, is a simple; “Excuse me, are you in the queue?”.

If the reply is “No” followed by a stream of apologies for them standing in such an ambiguous place, a faint smile will appear as they usher you forwards.  If they say “Yes”, stand behind them and engage in conversation (a good old bitch and moan) about how long the queue is, as it’s not just the queuing we’re good at!

It is imperative not to leave any gaps between you and the person in front otherwise this can be seen as a potential invitation opener to the opportunistic pusher-inner.  Always keep close formation!

At no point should there ever be enough space for a full place to be taken, it’s all about a constant shuffling, as though your feet were glued to the person in front. If you find this difficult, try gluing your feet to the person in front.

If you need to have a conversation or perform any distracting task such as checking your phone or making that all important call, save it for later. Eyes on the prize, people!

If anyone should “inadvertently” miss the huge line of people patiently waiting for their fair turn and get queue blindness under any circumstances do not talk directly to them. Their crime is one so obvious!  Instead mutter just loud enough for the person next to you in the queue to hear creating a tsunami of Chinese whispering of feelings of resentment and fury which will haunt them all day!

If anyone tries to offer you their place in the queue, refuse. This is a trick, and should you accept, (even though you do only have 2 items and they have a full trolley), you will lose the respect of an entire nation. Queuing is your national pastime, so be proud and remain solid!

Why do we do it?

Because this is what makes our fine nation a harmonious and civilised one, as well as hoping that one day there just might be just be an unbelievable freebie when we reach the front!


Saving the world happens one person at a time. Be at the front of the queue.

Yaya Toure


The English are always ready to admire anything so long as they can queue up.

George Mikes


I have liked many but loved very few. Yet no-one has been as sweet as you. I'd stand and wait in the world's longest queue. Just for the pleasure of a moment with you.

Abhijeet Bhattacharya