Thursday, December 12, 2019

The subtle art of standing in a queue in Israel - a survivor guide


This is NOT queue in Israel, it is waay to calm and orderly

If you visit Israel as a tourist, or are a new immigrant you may get the conclusion that Israelis do not have the queue-standing gene.

They just seem to stand around in a bunch and then use their elbows to move forward when the train or bus arrives or when going through a building's security entrance.

This is one part of life in Israel that can be difficult for new immigrants that I do not have an issue with at all. I mean, WHY do we have elbows? 😁 Just watch out for small old ladies though, they have a really mean shove in those tiny bodies of theirs.

The REAL art of queue standing, or rather let me rephrase, the real art of queue moving is more like a contact sport here in Israel. And this is where all those newbies are mistaken. They may think that Israelis do not have the queue standing gene but they just have not yet been exposed to an extreme level of standing in a line. 

Here in Israel queues are three-8dimensional and do not just basically move forwards. They are much more fluid and vibrant and have veey different rules of engagement that you should be aware of. One does not merely STAND still and wait for your turn.

I know that this may sound SO strange and not at all how you have perceived queue standing (for like your entire life), so here are a few guidelines on how to stand in a queue in Israel.*


1. NEVER give up your space

Your space is hard-worn territory, so be uber-reluctant to give it up. I mean, you HAVE been standing there already for 2 hours!**

If an old man at the doctor's office says that he doesn't drive well at night and wants to swop places with you, pay attention! If it is not dusk yet outside tell him that you are in a hurry yourself because you have to pick up a child from kindergarten.

If a mom at a PTA meeting ask to swop places with you because she has to pick up a younger child from the kindergarten, tell her that you have meetings with other teachers right after this one. 

Maybe these queue crashers are telling the truth but be aware that they often do not. They just saw a non-Israeli face and decided to take a chance.

Pay attention also if someone behind you is trying to invade your space. They can for example place their bag on the floor right next to you and then smoothly pick it up and slip on your spot when the queue moves forwards again. Others will stretch out or inch along until they are standing right next to you. The next thing you will notice is that are in front of you.

Your best course of action is to let them know that you are on to them. Either place your bag in front of theirs or move as they move. In extreme cases you can look them in the eye in say something like: "This line is taking forever, isn't?"***

Note how the woman in the dark pants is moving forward to see if the train is coming


2. Queues are vibrant, so be vigilant

Do NOT stand still in a queue. Use your few inches to move around, for example stretch forwards to peek when the bus/ train is coming. Or if it is not a structured queue, move a few meters around to see if you can get a better spot.

This signals to the other queue standers that you are not a tree that they can move around from and that you are 100% vigilant in the current queue situation. 


3. Queues are made out of people

Israel is a small country and people are used to bump into someone that they know. Note that there are often active acquaintance seekers, especially if the line is really long, that will try and use this to their advantage.

If this ahead 'friend' willingly gives them as space, there is not much that you can do. But if said friend shows any reluctance to participate in queue jumping, a raised eyebrow will help the friend to shun the attempted advances. 

Some Israelis will state their displeasure vocally and this always works to scare off the queue jumpers. But if you have an accent, don't say anything. Everyone will just think that it is quaint that you expect Israelis to stand quietly and wait their turn.


4. Queue politics when a number or appointment time is involved

For example at the post-office, pharmacy or doctor's office. If the said place gives out numbers or have appointment times, every new person joining the situation MUST enquire who has the previous appointment time or line number. This is so that we can keep an eye on each other. One cannot just sit and wait for your turn, you have to keep an eye open for queue opportunists. 

Play with your cellphone at your own peril. When the new line number just starts to flicker on, or as soon as the door handle is pressed down from the other side of the doctor's office, you HAVE to be ready with your bag over your shoulder and paperwork in hand. Hesitate just for one second and someone else will take your turn because you 'didn't show up'.

Be on the alert also for someone how has a 'quick question' for the clerk/doctor/person you are all waiting for. Just smile nicely and tell them that you will not take long.***


5. Holding places in a supermarket 

Some Israelis try and defy the physics of waiting patiently at a supermarket by parking their trolley behind you and then continue with their shopping. They will of course ask you to keep an eye on their place. Be aware that this is not an easy task. 

People behind the placeholder trolly can shove the unattended trolley aside and take its place. You will have to be vigilant on the front AND back side. If it is nearly your turn, just nod towards the cashier and say that you will be leaving soon.****

If the line is long, quickly whip out your cell phone, gesture to it and say that you have to make some phone calls/ answer emails.****

If you say yes, that you will look after the unattended trolley and it does get shoved aside, the queue shopper will return and then blame you for not doing a good job. It is almost certain that shouting will ensue, so try your best not to volunteer ANY assistance while you are standing in a queue.

And there you have it, some subtle advice on how to stand in a queue in Israel. Please do not use this knowledge to get ahead in a line but rather as advice on how to survive queue standing in Israel….;)


*to be read with humor in your heart of course..😁

**Five minutes - the space-time continuum passes with warp speed in Israel

***Friendliness and politeness are a foreign concept in Israeli queues, so use it to your advantage to stun the locals

****translation: "I am not going to stay and look after your unattended trolley."













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