Whether at Wimbledon stadium or Waterloo Station, the British are renowned for their ability to form an orderly line. Even the amid the chaos of the London riots of 2011, looters – their focus firmly on plundering shops – adhered to the principle of ‘first come, first serve’.
“One of my favourite pictures was taken at one of the riots in London where there were looters going into a store. About 13 looters were queued up outside and they let one looter go in at a time, take whatever he or she wanted – and as soon as that looter comes out, the next looter goes in,” says Richard Larson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and a world expert on queues. (Thanks to his research focus, his academic peers have nicknamed him ‘Dr Queue’). “I can’t even imagine any place else other than London that looters would be so civilised to queue up.”
Even the amid the chaos of the London riots of 2011, looters adhered to the principle of ‘first come, first serve’
Larson isn’t alone in believing the British are the best queuers in the world. The author George Mikes said that “an Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one.” In his essay The English People, George Orwell wrote a foreigner would be struck by the English crowd’s “willingness to form queues.” In her book Watching the English, the author Kate Fox wrote about an intrinsic sense of fair play among the English when they queued. (And they certainly have practice at it: the average person in Britain spends one year, two weeks and one day of their life stuck in shop queues and one year and three months in traffic).