Now that I’m back in New Zealand I’m really starting to realize how cultural conditioning really affects even the smallest parts of how we act every day.
One such observation I’ve been making is the distance people stand apart from each other here in New Zealand.
I was in line at a cafe this morning waiting to order my coffee, and the distance between everyone waiting was at least 60cm without exception. In China however I’ve become use to queue lines wherein everyone is touching each other even if there’s plenty of space in the room.
People cut the line, go around the line and jostle and push. I’m use to lining up for my coffee in China and standing uncomfortably close to the front counter when I make my order to avoid risk of someone edging in front of me at the last second and stealing my place.
With the entirety of New Zealand’s population being only a tiny fraction of the population of just Shanghai City alone it’s easy to understand how we have developed entirely different perspectives regarding personal space.
I was waiting to buy a cake at a Bakery in Shanghai a few months ago when I learned my lesson about where to stand in relation to the front counter of a busy shop.
I’d been standing about a foot away from the counter at the time and was about to point to my choice, but as soon as my hand went out towards the cake my vision was eclipsed by the body of an older gentleman who had silently and quickly edged his way in front of me.
He literally had to slide against my body and the counter to fit, and still felt comfortable standing there and ordering while sandwiched between a person and a bench. Whats worse is that the person working the front counter took his order! His queue-cut was accepted and he was rewarded for it, however from then on I’ve learned my lesson and have never again repeated my error in distance calculation.
Waiting to buy tickets for the ‘Bund Sightseeing Tunnel’ can be even worse.
This Sightseeing Tunnel is a psychedelic drug trip manufactured into a short and slow underground crawl between one side of the Huangpu River to the other.
You travel in a slow moving little car that feels similar to a monorail car, while looking up and around at blinking lights, trippy music and creepy voices saying random statements in English and Mandarin.
Sometimes business is slow and a queue line has formed and is moving efficiently, however on a busy day it’s a mob of people and can feel impossible to get to the front and buy tickets.
My experience working on a China based cruise ship completely turned me off buffet’s perhaps forever.
If anyone has seen a buffet within China please let me know whether it’s similar to my experience. Aboard the ship old people would fight each other for food in the buffet line, particularly if it was running low.
Without being aggressive it was impossible to get to the front and get food, and people absolutely used their hands so the food didn’t really feel appetizing anyway.
There are positive points to be made however.
A Chinese queue line can move quickly as people are often very efficient in choosing what they want and the people taking their orders only ask and say the bare minimum.
Everything is for sale in a Chinese shop.
The other day I found myself in need of a HDMI cord for a recently purchased display.
No shops I could find around my area were selling them, however the gentleman working in my local TV shop went out the back, opened up the box of a brand new TV (within view), pulled out the HDMI cord included with the TV and sold it to me. Was he stealing from the store and pocketing the cash? Absolutely, but who am I to judge?
My last point is that everything can be bought here online anyway, and delivered extremely quickly.
Buying things in person is for chumps these days, even groceries can be delivered. So skip the queue line and join the digital age.
While still in New Zealand however I’m going to enjoy my slow and simple in-person shopping experiences while I can, I’m just hoping I don’t soften by the time I get back..