Cutting in Line in Colombia (and Brazil)

Over at PBH Colombia, there’s a thread dealing with Colombians going to the front of a line without acknowledging the existence of that very line. In my opinion, if stepping back from the individual occurance and looking at the whole picture, it comes down to a feeling of resignation that things won’t change due to a single person’s actions therefore it’s okay to do as you please. It is a learned habit via the ‘example of the father’ (“if someone with more or equal authority did it, why can’t I?”). I am definitely not saying everyone does it but it is an accepted cultural norm. This idea centered around resignation happens a lot in Brazil too, so I feel for the guy in the story below…

“Both foriegners and native colombians, how do you handle this?

Example: Almost every time I am trying to do business be it buying milk or more complicated transactions at serious businesses either someone jumps in front of me while I’m waiting or charges up while I’m in the middle of a transaction and just starts telling the person who’s helping me what they want. 9 times out of 10 the clerk will automatically stop helping me and take care of them. To me thats real low class and lately I’ve been speaking up, be it a woman or a man. “hey, you need to wait”. Normally I get “oh que pena contigo”. But people look at me like I’m the bad guy.

Maybe I’m getting old but I follow the rules of human descency, I dont like having to act like an animal at feeding time when trying to do simple business. So, how do you all handle this?”

The responses range from speak up to punch the offender in the face (although I believe that response was a joke). For you Colombians out there, what is your opinion on this? Why does this happen and what how do you react?

If speaking about my own country, well, sure people cut in line in the US but the cultural norm is to speak your mind. What does that accomplish? Either the other person goes to the back of the line or an employee happens to hear the complaint when it happens and speaks to the person who is attempting to cut in line.

As part of the responses and in regards to a sub-story to the story above, one American wrote the following, which I also agree with. “WHERE he has been living is not the point. HOW he has been living is!” In other words, it happens all over the world and it comes down to manners.

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One thought on “Cutting in Line in Colombia (and Brazil)

  1. I have noticed this as well on my adventures to Colombia. I do not take offense to this, when it first happened to me I regarded it as normal or acceptable and did not think twice about it, I simply left a smaller gap between me and the person in front of me. It was more a lesson for me about different cultures and customs and I tend to take the “when in Rome” approach, especially when I am not in my native country.

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