Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The "Que" Mentality

First of all I want to announce that my husband passed his driver's test on the first try! He actually drove home from the testing place, and said it went well. The $4.99 he paid for the test application on his I phone really paid off! If you are contemplating getting your driver's license in China, I highly recommend the app.

After considering the traffic in China, and the huge crowds of people, I have come to the realization that the biggest difference between China and America in this matter is that in the States we have a "Que" mentality. This effects everything we do, from standing in line at a bank, to walking down the street, to driving a car.

When I lived in China 18 years ago, no one stood in line. When we went to McDonald's, we had to push ourselves in to a crowd of people, and try to make it to the counter. Once at the counter, we had to hold our money up in the air to get the attention of the clerk. If we were lucky, they would select us as the next customer. This scene was replayed at the grocery store (where all goods were behind the counter), the post office, and every other place. I do see that things have SLIGHTLY changed in this area, but I don't think China will ever really have a "que" mentality.

Think about our driving in America. We have very strict laws, and if someone doesn't follow the law, they can get arrested. We all drive in straight, orderly lines. If we want to change lanes, we put on our turn signal, and then watch for a safe opportunity to pull in to the next lane. We would never consider, for example, making three lanes out of two. This could be due to the fact that we simply have less cars than China, but I think it is just our way of thinking about driving.

It occurred to me recently that Chinese drive the way they walk in a crowd. If they need to walk faster than the person in front of them, they just go around, or push their way through. Bumping in to people is such a common event that they usually don't say "Excuse me". Now imagine that you drive the same way you navigate through a crowd, and you will have an understanding of how traffic here works. But what it really comes down to is a view of the world that doesn't include queuing.

Perhaps if America had as big of a population as China does, we would have similar traffic. As it is, in California the right hand turn lane usually starts about 4 car lengths back from where it is designated on the road. It's not allowed by law, but because everyone does it, no one is ticketed. The reason people do this is that there are so many cars, that starting the turn lane early releases some of the traffic congestion. If all of America were as densely populated as China, I'm sure our interpretation of the law would bend a little too.

I asked my husband if chinese citizens are allowed to bribe their way through a driving test here. He said those days are over, and that everyone has to pass the test. I said, "Then if they pass the test, then surely they know the law." He said they know the law, but the mindset is different, so they don't follow it. I really think it comes down to a lack of a "queuing" mind set.


Becky said...

Let's just say I'm glad I'm not driving in China. Stay safe!!

Grannymar said...

Now you can sit back and be chauffeured around. Polite queueing is not a priority in Ireland either. There are some very selfish drivers out there.

Rummuser said...

The Chinese and we Indians share a lot in common!

Max Coutinho said...

Hi D,

First: congrats to your husband :D.

That is one of the most interesting thing about living abroad: learning new habits.
The scene you described at McDonald's reminds me of a cafe in Italy (que mentality is inexistent and you have to fight for the attention of the barista if you want your espresso).
Italians do not respect the red light; in fact, they don't even see it...yet the traffic goes smoothly (go figure).

Different cultures, different codes - to me, they are all delightful.


Inklings said...

Congratulations to your husband. It will greatly bless your family that he has that,but I do not envy you driving in that traffic.

Looney said...

I believe that the official spelling is "queue", but "queue" clearly has two syllables so "que" is undoubtedly preferred.

My wife's family has been avoiding tourist destinations in Taiwan that are frequented by mainland Chinese tour groups. The general disorder makes things a bit unpleasant.