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Why do the French like to cut in line?

Updated on July 15, 2008

Wait your turn!

On Sunday we usually go to Le Marché St Aubin, located in the St Aubin neighborhood, of course. It is a fantastic market that focuses on the producers of the food being sold. Half of the market is producers. You are buying directly from the growers of the food or the makers of the food. We have been told it is a little more expensive than other markets but we find the quality superlative. It is such a pleasure to go. BUT what have the French got against lines?

In almost every line we joined for the various stalls the sellers made such a point of directing you how to join the line and in which direction it ran. That’s fine but why doesn’t anyone actually follow it. Everyone lined up fine and then if they had to wait more than 17 seconds they started to push toward the front and the line widened. The French love to cut in line, make a clump rather than a line, and generally act like they are doing nothing special while the whole time they cut ahead of one person at a time until they are at the front of the line.

I’m sorry, but after 8 years teaching children I am an expert at line cutting behaviors. At least my students were anywhere between 7 and 16 years old. It is just not so forgiveable when a 70 year old woman pushes you out of the way and gives you the “I dare you to say anything” look. Don’t worry, I won’t say anything, I’ll just push past you, like you did to me. Oh and I’ll give you the “You think you’re so clever but I saw you” look. The push works well but the look needs a little work. They understand me though.

There is one seller who only sells cheese. It is the best cheese around. There is always a line. If you plan to buy from them you always know you will spend 15 minutes or more in line. Deal with it or don’t try. Here we were in line and this woman cuts right in front of us like she is going to look at the stuff in the stall next to the cheese people. She installs herself and her son at the other booth. They back up precariously as if they are just trying to get around the line. She shrugs her shoulders as if she cannot get by, what are you going to do her shoulders seem to say.

I gave her 30 seconds to finish her scene and then I just backed up into her and acted all surprised and then apologized and said that luckily now she could pass. She knew she was busted but all she could do was take her son and her tail in between her legs and leave. She didn’t even get a closeup.

The strange thing is that the French don’t seem to confront the people who cut the line. They just try to figure out a more clever way to cut themselves. The few times I have actually said something the person looked so startled as if I had done something unthinkable. I looked to the line behind me for support, after all she was cutting in front of them as well, and no one seemed to care. Now I try to do creative things to discourage line cutting instead.

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    • profile image

      Brian 

      9 years ago

      Does anyone know how to say, "to cut in line" in french?

    • francetales profile imageAUTHOR

      francetales 

      10 years ago from Toulouse, France

      Well the French are a funny group, somehow on HubPages I have acquired the reputation of thinking the French are perfect and Americans are all stupid. I guess if some of those people actually read some of my Hubs they would know that is far from the truth. I love the difference between what people think the French like and what I find on a day to day basis that the French like. Quite different.

    • jimcrowthers profile image

      jimcrowthers 

      10 years ago from Port Charlotte

      Great hub! I love hearing about French culture and behaviors. I took French (willingly) in Middle School (one year) and High School (for two-and-a-half years...can you guess why only a "half"?), and can probably say two or three words now. I wonder how many years it takes to actually say a sentence using those words or other similar sounding words? "Parlez-vous Francais?" That's about all I know. When people respond by saying something like "Wee!" (some kind of fetish, I think), they then start spewing a lot of jibberish I can't understand, but sounds French (I guess). I just smile and nod and say "Wee, wee!" back at them. They then have a disappointed look (the same look I usually get for a bunch of different reasons I don't understand) and walk away seemingly frustrated. I have since stopped saying that phrase.

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 

      10 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      This is funny. You'd never see that kind of behavior here (USA), except in the grocery story, and usually women (rarely men), who love to go to the "Express/10 items or less" line with a full basket, counting on the fact that no one will say anything... and the cashiers aren't allowed to. I always do. Ill simply say, "Excuse me, ma'am, did you see the sign?" and I'll point it out to them. They'll look up at the sign, -is THAT what that means?- look at me, scoff loudly and stomp away. I always get smiles from the other people in line -thank God SOMEBODY said something- and often the cashiers will thank me and explain their not allowed to say anything to them.

      It sounds like many people in France simply have a different outlook on the whole standing-in-line experience. Like Princessa said, more time to socialize. We impatient Americans see standing in line as waiting to get to somewhere. The French see it as part of already being there. Fun hub!

    • francetales profile imageAUTHOR

      francetales 

      10 years ago from Toulouse, France

      Don't try it with me or else, I might steal your heels

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      10 years ago from France

      LOL... actually... yes. I do everything with my high heels, and most people, especially the men, do not seem to be upset if I cut in in front of them ;-)

    • francetales profile imageAUTHOR

      francetales 

      10 years ago from Toulouse, France

      Do you shop at the markets in impossibly high heels? That's great.

      I too let people in front but that's because I choose to, it's different.

      I love the chaos at markets but I hate those people who think they are sneaky but aren't very clever.

      The markets and the waiting are the best part, it's just that if I cut in front of half of the people who cut in front of me they would create a scene, I guess I dislike hypocrites more.

      Anyway, these things I write about the French are not lasting impressions and are a little tongue and cheek. When I blogged about it I got many responses, often in agreeement with me.

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      10 years ago from France

      I live in France and I actually do not mind people cutting in line. I am guilty of cutting in myself LOL especially if I am wearing one of my impossible high heels!

      Honestly, I do not mind, I even let people in front of me at the supermarkets if they have only a few items and I have a full load. For the outdoor markets I think it is just part of the fun, while waiting you get to talk to the other people waiting, you can collect recipes, get advice on the best products on offer and how to eat them... sometimes I even make new friends there!

    • francetales profile imageAUTHOR

      francetales 

      10 years ago from Toulouse, France

      Went to the market on Sunday morning and not only do they cut in line they walk in a weaving pattern and run into everyone. Maybe too much wine at lunch.

    • francetales profile imageAUTHOR

      francetales 

      10 years ago from Toulouse, France

      They like to think so, that's for sure. I love living here so far but there are some peculiarities to the French. I'm not talking about the normal stereotypes. Mentally plotting I prefer to creative.

    • solarshingles profile image

      solarshingles 

      10 years ago from london

      Very, very interesting. Maybe, such a behaviour make them much more creative, because they always occupy their brain with something quite challenging?

    • francetales profile imageAUTHOR

      francetales 

      10 years ago from Toulouse, France

      All of my French friends think I am crazy for thinking this, but all my expat friends wholeheartedly agree. I have to remember the German thing, although it might be amusing to say Belgian because at least the language is the same and it is insulting to them as well. I get it with men and women, I must have sucker tattooed somewhere on my forehead.

    • Mark Knowles profile image

      Mark Knowles 

      10 years ago

      I live in France also and have become adept at an extremely sarcastic "Pardonnez-moi." It seems limited to females though. I rarely get it with men. Asking them if they are German works pretty good too :)

      I attending a preview day at Disneyworld Paris and they were climbing the outside of the buildings to cut in. LOL

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