Sunday, March 11, 2012

EB...The European Boxout

Imagine that you have arrived somewhere really early in anticipation that you'll be first in line and first in. Could be a concert you're waiting to enter or just something simple like waiting for a bus or train. In your mind, you figure that if you're first in line, you'll be one of the first people into the event. Many people line up behind you and are also patiently waiting.

The American/British way of entering an event or train.

The doors open and you feel that you are moving toward the door. You don't feel anyone pushing you, it seems that the whole line is moving together. There is definitely forward motion and as you approach the door, you look around and though you were first, you are now the last person standing outside. You've just gotten the European Boxout.

I first learned about the European Boxout when I was 19 and studying at the University of Nice. Everyday, my American friends and I would wait to take the city bus to school (and by everyday, I mean the days we bothered to go to class instead of the beach). We would arrive in plenty of time and as the bus  pulled up, we'd barely even make it on. What it really indicates is a cultural difference (I am not judging, just pointing out a difference) that is easily misinterpreted.

Americans and British, in general, are liner-uppers or 'queue-ers' as the Brits would say. We have been culturally trained to wait our turn and file onto or into something one after the other. If you jump in front of someone in a line, there will be social consequences in the form of dirty looks, tongue clicks, or even a choice comment made in your direction. Not so in Germany and France (I cannot speak for other countries because I haven't lived in them, but from what my friends who've lived around Europe say, it is a continent-wide generalization).

Back when I was living in Nice, France in 1998, we named this the European Boxout. It feels like a secret sports move where you are doing some sort of blocking and unless you've been introduced to this move since birth, you just can't do it.  Now, after living in Europe for a chunk of time, you'd think I would be used to it and know that I have to be ready and be aware and not allow myself to suddenly be at the back of the line. But, it is a cultural thing that is so small and so subtle that I just can't figure it out. I am ALWAYS suddenly at the back of the line, no matter what. Even when I am standing in a line with other people where we laugh and joke about the European Boxout when it is about to happen, we are suddenly boxed out and at the end of a line.

I once asked a French woman about this and she said that she and her French friends thought it was HILARIOUS that the Americans and the British would just stand there and wait and then glare at her as they somehow ended up at the end of the line!

Living in another country, when you eliminate the language barrier, doesn't seem that different. People are just going about their lives, working, schooling, shopping, sporting, etc.  But, the little things are what really make the biggest difference!

No comments: