Sunday, April 7, 2013

Standing in lines: a good habit that we need to learn

In two weeks in the US, I have been in some embarrassing situations about forgetting to stand in lines to pay for food in the supermarkets. To be honest, I didn’t intend to break the rules or to cut ahead in lines, but I didn’t notice and didn’t recognize the line beside me. It may be because there were just two or three people there and the line was not very straight. Then the cashier politely told me to stand in lines and at that time I recognized the line and stood at the end of the line. I am a little bit ashamed to say about this embarrassment but standing in lines is a very good and civilized habit that we need to learn.

Japan is admired by many people for their discipline after the frightening disaster of earthquake and tsunami last year. We could see that at the boundary of death and life, Japanese pupils went downstairs in lines to avoid danger without pushing or elbowing the others because they knew that these acts will make the situation worse. Millions of people in Vietnam admire the Japanese so much when they knew the story from the blog of a Vietnamese Japanese policeman at the time he helped provide relief for Japanese people. He said that when he helped to give food to the victims, he saw a little Japanese girl who was very cold and hungry at the end of the thousand-people queue. He put his jacket on the little girl and gave a bag of dry provisions-his own food to her. But he was so surprised to see that the girl put the food he gave into the food box near the person who was delivering food, and then she returned to her place in the queue. It was the habit of standing in lines that made a nine-year-old child know to share her food to other hungry people and know that it would be unequal if she ate that alone.

We knew that there were a lot of deaths in Cambodia in their Water Festival in 2010. When everybody gathered on a bridge, someone said the bridge was very weak then many people tried to escape and they trampled upon each other. As a result, people didn’t die of the bridge collapse, but die from suffocation and internal injuries.

In Vietnam, we don’t have the habit of standing in lines. Generally we know the policy of ‘first come, first served’ but we stand disorderly to wait for the services, but some people also act impolitely. And if someone informs the crowd that there is a mortal danger, people may create a stampede immediately. There are some articles reminding everyone not to push each other in public but not all people aware of that.

Standing in lines expresses our respect to other people and the community. Standing in lines is a way to remove the idea of considering ourselves the center of everything. It can screen and take away our selfishness and form order and discipline.

I know it is not easy to get everyone into a new habit. Habits must be trained from the early years of life and adults must set good models for children. However, I will encourage at least my children, my students to learn this habit to make a better community.


  1. That is a very interesting observation about standing in lines. I remember feeling odd when I was at the market in Vietnam, and I wasn't quite sure where to stand or what to do when I wanted to purchase something. However, I never considered that standing in line was something that could save lives if it was an ingrained habit.

  2. You are very observant!

    When I went to England back in the early 1980s the British friend whom I was visiting advised me that I had to wait in line like everyone else, and no cutting ahead of someone else. I was so surprised that he thought that here in the U.S. we don't wait in line. I can't imagine where he got that impression. He must have thought everything is chaos here!

    However, I think standing in line in America is about more than showing respect and keeping order in an emergency. It's also about fairness and equality--everyone gets an equal chance if they wait their turn. I would feel very odd, as Lee Berg did, if I were in a country where standing in line did not exist. When there is no order, you don't know where your place is, where you are supposed to be in relation to everything and everyone else. It gives you a feeling of insecurity.

    I remember hearing about the bridge incident in Cambodia. So tragic. Maybe many people would have lived if they had left the bridge in an orderly fashion, in line. Who knows?

  3. Thank you for sharing your opinion. We may need a long time to learn this new habit. We are on the precess of making everything in order and learning good habits. We are just 38 years after independence day! :)