China, the Fun Stuff! Part 2: Queue Culture

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I took the train from Hangzhou to Shanghai, and I almost got trampled to death trying to reach the platform.

Despite all the progress modern China has seen these past ten years, I think it's very hard and slow process to change fundamental cultural attitudes among such a large number of people. The most obvious one to me on my trip was China's notoriously nonexistent "queue culture." Remember before the Olympics, when we heard reports of the government teaching people how to line up politely? This is no joke. Having been to China and Taiwan many times before, I knew this. But I was still alternately horrified and fascinated by the idea that not lining up was the cultural standard, and no one gave it any other thought. Fairness? Order? Physical safety? These simply weren't issues.

To make a long story short, I was in the waiting room of the train station in Hangzhou, and I thought I was sort of "in line" to go through the closed double doors leading the platform. Within a few minutes, however, I found myself trapped in the center of a large, amorphous crowd. And the when the double doors opened, the entire crowd surged forward as one, like trying to squeeze a water balloon through a straw.

People behind me and to my sides were pushing at me, insistent on shuffling toward the doors, despite the hundreds of people (and me) blocking their way. I held onto the handle of my suitcase for dear life, lest I get separated from it in the massive heave. It got turned sideways, making it impossible to roll, and I held my ground, dragging and shuffling my way forward.

As soon I got past the doorway, the coast was completely clear. The train platform was so large that it felt like a completely empty Grand Central Station platform, and the train itself was brand-spanking new: clean, modern, and roomy. Stewards were coming through the cars offering free coffee and bottled water. It was lovely.

And our seats? They were all assigned. Seriously.


Oh yeah, I remember those lack of lines and masses of people smashing me on every side from the summer I spent in China. :)

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Renee Ting is the President and Publisher of Shen's Books. She is the author of The Prince's Diary and the blog, Renee's Book of the Day.

Emily Jiang is a writer of children's and YA literature. She also blogs at TLeaf Readings.

Shen’s Books is a publisher of multicultural children’s literature that emphasizes cultural diversity and tolerance, with a focus on introducing children to the cultures of Asia.

Through books, we can share a world a stories, building greater understanding and tolerance within our increasingly diverse communities as well as throughout our continuously shrinking globe.


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