Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dominican queues or lines or not!

I spend a lot of time trying to understand why Dominicans behave in the way they do, but one thing that has me totally baffled is the waiting in line, or queuing as we say in British English.


Queuing is something we British are excellent at and always have been. However, we are not very good at waiting. If we go to the dentist or the doctor and have an appointment at 2 pm for example, we will arrive on time,  calmly take our seat in the waiting room, and sit there. By 2.05 we will start looking at our watches. At 2.10 we will start to get agitated and by 2.15 we will be yelling at the receptionist. Dominican waiting isn't like that at all.

Waiting room in a public hospital

In the doctors, dentists, lawyers waiting rooms, Dominicans will wait patiently, sometimes for hours and hours. The appointment may be at 2 pm and the person you are waiting for will invariably still be at lunch and will often arrive an hour late. No one makes a fuss, people just wait, seemingly stress free while any expats there get more and more frustrated. Everyone chats among each other, maybe eating or drinking, but basically no one appears to have any problems at all waiting, even for hours. Nowadays if ever I have to go to the doctor, dentist, lawyer, immigration or any other type of office, I always make sure I have nothing else to do that day and take a book, water and food, and sit there calmly and chill and wait.

And when it comes to queuing, Dominicans are very good at that too, especially at election time where they can spend hours in a line, waiting to vote.


So we have a nation of people who know how to queue beautifully, and who are patient and stress free sitting for hours in various waiting rooms, but what I want to know, is what on earth happens when they go to the colmado, the corner shop, when the whole process of queuing and waiting goes out of the window?

Every time I go into my local colmado someone jumps in front of me and yells "Dame" something or other, which means "Give me". Not a please or a thank you in sight! The kids, who can't even see over the counter, push themselves in front of me, slam their 5 pesos down on the counter and yell, "José 5 pesos of butter!" Not one person has ever come into the colmado and just waited for me to finish with my order. And does José the owner tell them to wait? Not a bit of it. He leaves me in mid-order and gives them what they want! Not just once but several times.



José in his colmado
It doesn't just happen in the colmado, it happens in every shop or bar or fast food place. People will push in front of you.  I can't understand how shopping is so urgent that the fabulous ability to do stress free waiting totally disappears.

British people queuing for bread during the war

Can anyone explain to me what makes a colmado different from a dentist's or a doctors? Does anyone ever actually wait in line in a colmado?



24 comments:

  1. Haha! How curious! A similar thing seems to happen here in Canada. People are so polite and thoughtful in conversation but as soon as they get behind the wheel of a car, courtesy goes out the window as far as most are concerned - you could grow old and die waiting for someone to let you into a line or back out of a parking space!

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    1. How strange. I wonder why that is? Thanks for reminding me, I must blog on Dominicans and driving some time.

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  2. LOL I love this post as I have often wondered the same thing!!!! After this happening to me repeatedly I just assumed that because I had a longer order it would be no big deal for me to wait a few minutes instead of making someone else who only needs one thing to wait while I finished my entire 'order'. I guess you could call it the 'express 1-8 item' line (as we have here in Canada, here in our grocery stores) without there actually being any actual line formed! I was just expected to wait in my own 'line' until the 'express' people were done.
    I actually just asked my husband about this and he said that the person with a longer list of things should always give right of way to someone who only needs one thing, porque la gente se deseperen si tienen que esperar en el colmado. These were his exact words!
    Thanks so much for posting this!!!! These are things I never think about in Canada. It was good for a laugh! :)

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    1. That makes perfect sense for the kids with their five pesos. But what about the woman who yell out "Give me a pound of chicken", which takes a while as he has to go to the back and take the washing up bowl out of the fridge which has the chicken in it and then cut it up, and then she yells out "Give me a maggi stock cube", and then more and more until her list ends up much longer than mine! At least in the express queue in the supermarket you can see how many items are in the baskets and kick the people out of the queue if they have too many! I have no idea what is in the people's heads in the colmado. Should I start asking them how many items they want to see if it is more than mine? LOL!

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    2. And, why do people get infuriated, as your husband quite rightly says Catarine, in the colmado and not in the doctor's or dentist's waiting room?

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  3. Si hay mas personas delante de ti igual tu le dices al colmadero dame 5 pesos de mantequilla, si el colmadero entiende que quien esta primero va a durar mucho comprando el te despacha los 5 pesos de mantequilla primero, para que no espere todo ese tiempo que esa persona va a comprar

    se sabe que hay alguien delante de ti y que tiene su derecho, pero si el colmadero te da lo que tu quieres primero vas ganando si te hace esperar tu turno de todas formas estas recibiendo tu servicio y esta bien.

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    1. I have 4 colmados all about a block from my apt. I have done business with all four. I now do business with only one. The reason, in 3 I am invisable, in 1 I am treated as a valued customer.

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    2. Entiendo Miguel, gracias.

      But it does sometimes get annoying when people want more than me and push in front!

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  4. Can´t you tell them your order is just as short as the person who jumped the queue? In Australia I haven´t seen many queues apart from the supermarket, post office...
    At the doctors people usually wait a while, but I find that I can wait if I have nothing else planned, as I can consider it my rest time, while I catch up on the gossip of the magazines I don´t read, etc.

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    1. I think colmados are a rule unto themselves and I still haven't quite worked it out! Good idea re the mags though.

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  5. I bet if the colmado had an armed guard

    there would be a nice queue!
    Manu

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  6. OMG Lindsay, yes that has definitely happened where the person keeps yelling out more items (and in your head you are thinking: 'but I wasn't finished????") These are all the Dominican idiosyncrasies that one forgets when they leave the DR. LOL
    I was recently in the DR on a humanitarian trip doing health clinics in the mountains and people would stand in line all day waiting to be seen and not one complaint was uttered about the wait!!!!! They would stand in line the blazing sun all day waiting to be seen. Staggering really!
    And then to think that they would get antsy being in the colmado longer than 30seconds!

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    1. Exactly that is what I do not understand. Kudos to you doing health trips in the mountains.

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  7. The French don't do queueing - in any circumstances - but are pretty good at waiting around for things to happen. As you say, it's we expats who get hot under the colour when there are delays!

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    1. I wonder why the French don't queue?

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  8. I have always assumed that it is because I am not Dominican. I may be wrong but it seems so.

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    1. I don't think so. Happens to everyone just the Dominicans accept it more than the expats!

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  9. As an expat living in the Dominican Republic one of the most vexing things to me aside from power outages is how disrespectful some Dominicans can be when it comes to waiting their turn in line. You can be standing in line at the Deli Counter at the Supermarket for 10 or 15 minutes when out of the blue someone will jump in front of you and try to place their order. When I first arrived I was so taken aback by this type of discourteous behavior I stood their with mouth open and didn't say anything. When it happened again, I calmly told the Meat Cutter that I was next. The person who was trying to cut in front of me looked like they had seen a ghost because I spoke up. The Meat Cutter looked a little confused as to what to do. He must have discerned that I was serious and meant business because he waited on me while the gentleman who was trying to break the line started mumbling something in Spanish and walked away. I was told by a Dominican teacher when I shared this with her that it is a lack of education. I am not sure if it is education or if it is not having been taught social etiquette. But then again etiquette is apart of education because it is behavior (i.e. manners) taught by someone who is cultured and knows better.
    I really am enjoying reading your blog. Keep up the good work!

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    1. So pleased you enjoy blog. Yes the queuing is annoying and especially at the deli counter if you have been waiting for ages. Maybe is just culture, but so odd as for other things Dominicans can wait for ever. That is why I don't get it.

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  10. I think it is because when you go to the doctor etc. you know that it may take a long time. Basically, when you do that, that is all you have planned for the day. However, when you go to the colmado or supermercado, this is not the case. I always got the feeling that the consensus was that those who try and cut the line must be in a hurry, whereas those who do not cut the line have time. Therefore, it is considerate to let them go first.

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    1. Good answer but all expats are always in a hurry lol. But maybe that is the secret so thanks for that.

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  11. This also happens at the ATM and at the airport in customs. The rule is that if someone is in more of a hurry than you, then that person goes first. I actually used this to my benefit before at the airport and it works. :)

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  12. it depends on the institution where the line is being formed (or not): "official" sites of power (govt, hospitals, voting, etc) are very different from the colmado, the bus stop or concho stop, etc. Where there is no "authority" to respect, there is no attempt to maintain order, it's each man for himself. Ever watch a Dominican patient in the hospital or doctor's office, how he or she defers to the person in authority (i.e., the doctor)? Of course, even where the rules of queuing up are respected, the order can break down suddenly. I've seen polling places mobbed, for example. The individual is expected to look for ways to subvert or skirt the system, so at govt offices it is customary to pay a "buscon" to do your waiting on line for you.

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