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If there’s one thing the British are famous for it’s our ability to politely queue for anything. If it were possible for corpses to form an orderly line you’d be able to take great photos outside of our funeral parlors.

This might give you an idea why queuing in China isn't popular, there are simply so many people that you feel that the only way to ever get anything done is to shove them out of the way. Nonetheless it irks me, I'm too British for pushing over old ladies.

In China there’s no such thing as queuing, it’s a concept that just hasn’t caught on. In Arabia I learned the subtle art of queue jumping from the Arabs, and the apologetic face of “sorry I didn’t know” that allows you to get away with anything up to murder, but that’s wasted here too.

The Chinese solution is to pretend that you are the only person in the room, and that you are the most important person in the world. You angle your elbows out, and simply shove anyone in the way aside.

I’ve seen a young guy drag an elderly couple (both of whom were using walking aids) to the ground, in order to jostle for a better position at the security scanners on the subway. His mistake, as I promptly grabbed him, gave him a loud and noisy bollocking (causing him to lose face) and then dragged him to the back of the throng.

I’d paid my bill in Starbucks one day, to suddenly find the fist of a Chinese man under my nose clutching his money. I’m not sure what he was expecting given that I was clearly waiting for my change, but what he got was grabbed by the arm and flung out of the door. He then came back looking very contrite and mumbling “di bu qi” (sorry in Chinese) at me.

As you can see even when forced to queue (this picture is outside a transport hub at Chinese New Year) the concept of giving people enough space is an alien one.

I also watched a very large German guy lose it in a bank one day after he’d waited patiently for an hour to get to the teller window when a tiny Chinese chap darted in front of him. He walked up, picked the guy by his hair, and then carried him to the end of the line. In this case it wasn’t worth it, as he then spent twenty minutes explaining to jittery armed security why he’d done it in broken Mandarin.

There’s no malice in this failure to queue it’s just how it is, and the only way to cope is to learn to do it yourself or accept it whilst rolling your eyes and tutting. In my case that depends on how hung-over I am on the day.

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