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On Manners

December 23, 2008

China has very different customs with regard to manners.  There is no notion of waiting your turn and allowing those there before you to go first.  When you get out of a lift, those attempting to get in won’t wait until you exit- you have to push past them.  Now, I know this is cultural, and I know it makes me a western pig to say this, but I really do think it’s just so rude.

I think there’s a principle that underlies those common courtesies.  It’s a principle of respect- that the time of another is as valuable as yours, and that you have no right to service before anyone else.  It is a principle of equality, really.  By jumping ahead, by insisting you be served first, you are essentially asserting that you are more important than the others who waited.  For that reason, I think manners, and particularly the notion of queuing and waiting one’s turn, are fundamentally good and ought to be universal.

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