Monday, October 8, 2007

Queuing revisited

Before I posted "Queuing," I had the feeling that I should edit it more. Usually I try not to write negative commentaries on Russian culture. I think it's interesting to point out differences, or explain why something seems strange to me, but I try not to be judgmental.

My article on Russian queues ended up being more negative than I planned. Therefore, I apologize for making unfair generalizations and being judgmental.

Perhaps I'll do what I was too lazy to do before and mention some events of Russian history. I should call attention to the food shortages that changed the philosophy of queuing. Standing in line all day was the only way to survive. The length of time spent in line was long enough that there had to be special rules. The rules developed during that time period remained, although the conditions changed.

In America we don't usually have to stand in line quite that long. However, there are always exceptions. For example, someone mentioned that Americans “camp out” overnight sometimes to get things that are in high demand: movie tickets, an appearance on “American Idol,” free giveaways, etc. However, I do not think this is comparable to receiving basic food staples.

It was interesting to note a few common characteristics in the basic attitude towards standing in line.

1) "It’s my right." As human beings, we often have strong ideas about what we're entitled to!

In my first version, I noted that it was my "right" to keep my place in line, since I had been standing there the whole time and hadn’t moved.

One reader, however, commented, that it’s your “right” to be able to go away and come back, and your place will still be waiting for you.

2) Showing mercy. On the other hand, there are times when we're motivated to be compassionate, regardless of whatever cultural norms may exist.

Both Russians and Americans noted that there were times when they would let someone go ahead of them or let them break the “rules.”

3) It starts in childhood.

Recently, I was last in line and a man approached with an infant. He left the little boy in the stroller behind me and went off to finish shopping (actually, he was getting beer, but that's beside the point). I don't know how ingrained the Russian queuing rules are, but that little boy is learning at least how his parents do it and how other people respond.

As for me, I clearly remember how we dealt with lining up and saving seats in kindergarten. If you got out of line, you lost your place. (You snooze, you lose) If we were going into a row of seats, or onto a bus, we had to fill up every seat in order. We were taught that it was more polite that way. And in adulthood, these are the rules we live by.

If I ever move to another country, will I have to learn the rules again?

I'm very glad we have the Bible to live by.


  1. Wow i just love your blog so much, i only read 2 last entries so far but i like it a lot, I saw your post on that's how i found your web site and i checked out your 2 favorite links in russian language..and guess what? I enjoyed it immensely especially that poem on the blog site the one with russian and english words mixed in...:)
    I am also Russian too, i can speak and read russian but i can't write it anymore, very little because i've been here in US since i was 12 years of age i came here in the early 1990s...i just wanted to say that I loved your web site blog and the other links you had...especially the russian ones..:)))
    I'm just curious where in Russia are you from?
    I was from Kishinev, Moldova...

    Well i'd love to chat sometime, :))))

    Thanks for having this blog up and for having those nice links :) i still have to check the biblical womanhood...:)
    And i like recipezaar as well :DD

    well have a great day or like they say in Russia buti zdorova...!! dosvidaniya..:))

    My Russian name is Jenya or Evgenia...but in US i am called Jane..:)

    ok take care,

    have a wondeful day!


    In Him, Jane.

  2. Hi Jane,

    Thanks for the encouraging words. I'm glad to hear from someone who was adopted from Russia! Some of my English students become adopted from St.P. orphanages. One girl was named Zhenya and she was also around 12, like you. I haven't heard from her, but maybe you would like to pray for her! I know it can be difficult sometimes for older kids when they get adopted.

    I live in St.Petersburg now, but I'm originally from Massachusetts.

    I'm not sure how to contact you. If you leave your e-mail address, I can delete it afterwards.


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