Why you should never queue in Germany
Despite being kings of punctuality, ze Germans still have a little to learn about queueing…
You know how Brits are world champions when it comes to standing in line? They queue everywhere, love standing in long lines, like to apologise if they accidentally nudge someone or step in front of them. Germans don’t. Nope. Queuing in Germany is more like a warzone. You can feel their eyes on you. Twitching. Everybody is monitored like a state criminal. It’s push or be pushed out. And don’t forget to denounce anybody else stepping outside the line.
I’m not joking. I was once in a queue at a clothes shop and the (non-German) woman ahead of me asked if I could keep her place while she went to grab another item. I agreed without thinking about it. She disappeared and in the meantime, a few other people joined the queue behind me. The woman returned, nodded at me and I let her go back in front. Within 3 seconds somebody tapped me on the shoulder from behind. I turned and was confronted by a (German) woman: ‘Warum stellt sie sich vor Sie?’ (‘Why is she stepping ahead of you?’). I was so startled at having to defend a complete stranger before another complete stranger that I just murmured some random explanation and turned away again. I’ve also noticed how Germans love to huff and puff behind you if the queue takes too long and murmuring nasty things about the person at the counter or shop, hoping for you to agree.
Airports and traffic jams are even worse. People will push in from the side without shame but be equally outspoken and aggressive when it comes to telling somebody else off for pushing in. Here’s some vocab to get you ready for the German warzone of queues.
– ‘Schlange’ (f.) – queue, also means snake!
– ‘schlangestehen’ – to queue
– ‘an der Reihe sein’ – verb for when it’s your turn
– ‘drängeln’ – to push in the queue, coming from ‘Drang’ – urge
– ‘Drängler’ – somebody who pushes in or skips a queue – who else would have a single word for that!
– ‘sich anstellen’ – to join a queue
– ‘Ich stand zuerst hier!‘ – I was here first!
– ‘Reisverschlussverfahren‘ (24 letters, yes!) – literally ‘zip procedure’ whereby there are two small queues on opposite sides and they alternate in joining the larger queue, so it’s always fair. Doesn’t work in Germany!