This article about British queue etiquette was updated by the Great British Mag content team on 4 September, 2019
It’s been said that the British love to queue so much, they’ll join a queue then ask what it’s for.
That’s patently untrue. When the queues started to spiral out of control at Heathrow airport howls of indignation began to drown out the sound of the jet engines.
In fact, Brits resent queuing as much as anyone. The only difference is they have utter respect for the convention and loathe anyone who tries to manipulate it. Perhaps it’s a vestige of the World Wars when rationing made queues a necessary part of life. Everyone is equally miserable in a queue and that suits the average Brit just fine.
As a result, we queue for the bus, the cinema, the supermarket checkout and the portable toilets at festivals. Brits will actively look for a queue even when none exists, asking: “Is this the end of the queue?”
So, if you want to make it in the UK, learn to respect the queue. Here are the rules of thumb:
- Never jump the line or push in
- Don’t ask the person behind you to mind your place while you go on a long errand or visit the toilet
- If you’re carrying a suitcase or pushing a supermarket trolley, don’t drive into the heels of the person in front of you
On the other hand, it’s perfectly acceptable to roll your eyes and click your tongue in disgust when the line moves slowly. Feel free to glare at the person at the front of the queue if they make small talk with the cashier. And if you see someone pushing in say, “Excuse me,” in a terse, slightly strangulated voice. It works every time!
If you have a question for our resident Brit, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.