Okay this is one beef that Canadians always have when they come to Saudi. In Canada, we are all very (ridiculously?) uptight about not cutting in line for anything in any situation. Whatever the line up, the attitude is always first come first serve no matter who you are. The level of personal insult incurred with a cut in is on the order of slapping everyone you have just cut in front of. We have a tradition of equality that people take really seriously even if you're just buying donuts and you are pretty sure the guy in front of you is drunk: if you are truly Canadian, you will still wait patiently behind the drunken man while he spills the contents of his wallet out and asks how much a single timbit costs in pennies.
Here in Riyadh, things are different. The culture here is hierarchical by nature and it is reflected in little things such as line ups. Whenever you go to the airport or pass through Bahrain, you will often see Saudi nationals jumping lines to pass through customs. Part of the story is that there are less documents to check and so they actually pass through very quickly, and another part of it is that there is sometimes simply an attitude of entitlement present that is tolerated far more in the Middle East than it is in Canada and the U.S. Even purchasing clothing, I have literally gotten to the counter after lining up only to have a local with her entourage swoop in from behind me and demand to be cashed out first. It happens at the grocery store too, especially when prayer is just about to hit and a scramble occurs.
So anyways, I'm sharing all this with you as a preface to a recent experience. I went to McDonalds and there were two Saudi women waiting for their food after ordering, busy chatting. I fully expected them to continue blocking the counter until they got their food and left. But not long after I arrived, one of them saw me and pushed her friend out of the way to make way for me. Yes actually, a lot of them (the majority of them!) are polite and respectful, but since line up etiquette is so very important in Canada, we really remember the bad stuff more than we notice the good. The reality is that for every one Saudi that cuts the line there are ten that will wait patiently just like you.
I mean, this doesn't change the fact that I've become obsessively territorial when I'm waiting in line and deliberately spread my bags out as far as possible as a preventative measure, but it is a reminder that there are a lot of Saudis out there who feel that showing respect and courtesy to others is just a part of our every day lives.
5 weeks ago