Monday, May 14, 2007

Queueing Up.

Ann Marlowe reviews Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist

When Changez [book's narrator] works briefly for an American firm in Manila, he learns to act like an American, which apparently means speaking rudely to older people and cutting to the front of lines. (Never mind that, almost anywhere in the third world, locals would rather work for Americans, who treat them well, than for their feudal-minded fellow countrymen. And I’ve also found that, whenever I’m in a crowd trying to get somewhere in the third world, it is the Americans and English who are left behind, while the locals charge forward ignoring the queue.)
Source: National Review Online – Buying Anti-American (And the annoying whining in The Reluctant Fundamentalist isn’t even authentic.) by Ann Marlowe
My experience is square on with Ann's. I would wait in a queue and it was the locals who would cut the queue and push and shove their ways to the front. It was expected at the DMV, for instance, there would not be a line to the person taking applications (or fees or whatever) but a mob, the individuals in the mob would then push and shove their way to the front waving their paperwork at the paperwork processing guy. Ironically in this instance most of those people were from – Pakistan. The only times I found myself jumping the queue was when the queue tender invited me to come forward and that was far from frequent and usually happened because the person working the line recognized me as someone he knew (e.g. one of my current or former students) or I was with a buddy who had children.

In fact, the worst offenders when it came to queue cutting were those who were citizens in my host nation. I tell you, many of them felt very entitled to cut the queue, to barge their way into an office building after hours (when the overworked expatriate staff was trying to close up for the day and get some well deserved rest. These people would typically work 6-1/2+ days a week and while it varied I would guess many worked for more than 8 hours per day).

The times I have been in Manila I waited patiently for my/or turn to come up to be served when we had to queue up. The other charge is a more realistic one to make, but the problem with manners and cross-cultural meetings is the fact rudeness for one culture is simply not for another.

However, Ann's other point about how many in other nations prefer to work for Americans over even their own countrymen is one I have found to be true more frequently than one would suppose.