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domm (4030)

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Just in case you like to know, I'm currently full-time father of 2 kids, half-time Perl hacker, sort-of DJ, bicyclist, no longer dreadlocked and 33 years old

I'm also head of [], maintainer of the CPANTS [] project, member of the TPF Grants Commitee [] and the YAPC Europe Foundation [].

I've got stuff on CPAN [], held various talks [] and organised YAPC::Europe 2007 in Vienna [].

Journal of domm (4030)

Tuesday December 14, 2004
05:14 AM

Austrian people and supermarket queues

[ #22300 ]

I'm just back from my dayly trip to the supermarket to fetch food and stuff. Something there is mighty annoying:

Interlude: Intoduction to Austrian Supermarkets
In Vienna, we have a lot of supermarkets, nearly everywhere. It's very hard to live somewhere in the city and to need to walk more than 5-10 minutes to the next supermarket. The supermarkets are quite big (definitly bigger then London Cornerstores, eg), but not as big as those big supermarkets one can find outside smaller towns. I've traveled quite a bit and never found a better supermarket situation as in Vienna.

The only thing that's really annoying is the queuing behaviour of my fellow Austrians.

I usually shop around 10:00, after bringing Samo to his kindergarden. At this time, most other people in the supermarket tend to be elderly ladies and construction workers (who buy their lunch)

Today, when I arrived at the cash desk (en?) there was a queue of aprox 10 old ladies in front of me, and only one open cash desk. In theory, the supermarket should open another desk if there are more than 5 people waiting in line, but they hardly do (the cashiers also have to sort stuff into shelves). So if you think the queue is to long, you yell to the cashier to open another desk, s/he rings a hidden bell, and (hopefully) shortly afterwards a new desk is opened.

But most of the time, the people waiting in line are to obedient to ask for a new desk. At the same time, the silently (or sometimes not so silently) complain about the supermarket beeing bad, the people working there beeing lazy, etc. This combination of obedience and anger about not getting ones rights is defining the general Austrian mindset quite well, and the biggest obstacle in making Vienna a realy nice place to live.

So the first thing I did when arriving at the queue was to leave my trolly at the end, walk up to the cashier and ask her to open another desk. Which she promply did. When I came back to my trolly, another desk was beeing opend, which resulted in a lot of hurring in the queue, as everybody was checking wheather it was better to stay in this queue or switch.

This is another annying thing with Austrians (or maybe humans...): First they are annoyed with a situation, but don't try to change it. If somebody finally changes the situation, everybody tries to better his/her situation, without giving any respect to whoever changed the situation in the first place. Exactly the same thing (if on a much wider scale) happend before/during/after WW2 in Austria. But this is now definitly off topic.

Anyway, if it wasn't for a nice lady who let me pass her (thankfully there are exeptions), I would have ended up last in queue again (although the queue was only half as long as the first one..)

Well, enough ranting, back to work...

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  • I find it interesting that although 'queue' is exactly the right word to use in the UK and most other english-speaking countries, it is not widely understood in the USA. In fact if you have a crowd of Americans and ask them to form a queue, you'll end up with a line of those people from the crowd who've studied computer science and the remaining people standing looking confused and wondering what language you're speaking.
    • Plus another set of people who are anglophiles and have picked up 'queue' from watching BBC America or PBS. (Amount of overlap between the two groups may vary depending on how recently cable has been installed to the region.)
    • So what's the US-english word for queue? While I do know that UK-people are famous for their queueing, I assume that US-people form queues from time to time ...

      wait a bit, 'standing in line', or something? (defintly easier to type then queue, but we had an old-school english teacher, so I learned 'queue')
  • BTW, 'cash desk' in the US is a 'cash register', or just the 'register'.
  • The (computer scientist?) Sheamus J. Finnegan discovered the famous queing law, that now bears his name:

    In any queing system, the other queues are always faster

    It's true, just as Murphy's law.