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Queues too close for comfort

IT was a typical muggy, humid afternoon after the shower during the plum-rain season at the World Expo. And it was uncomfortable for enthusiastic Chinese visitors who were lining up in their "favorite" way, with one's front squeezing against another's back and leaving little distance between.

The special way of lining up has become a headache for many foreign visitors who have complained that the constant pushing and pulling by Chinese visitors was giving them a feeling of suffocating in a very limited space.

Local psychologists are suggesting that Chinese visitors leave at least some distance, perhaps 10 centimeters or more, between each other to give adequate space for everyone to feel comfortable.

"I don't understand why they have to line up in such a tight way. It won't help speed up the queuing," said Heike Mayer, a visitor from Switzerland.

Her question was answered by Sun Shijing, a psychologist from Fudan University, who attributed the problem to the difference between Chinese and Westerners' sense of space and distance.

Sun said it would be nice for Westerners to be more understanding of the Chinese way of queuing, as the Chinese may enjoy an area of personal space much smaller than Westerners need. He said the different preferences could be found in the various cultures, habits and populations.

"Some Chinese visitors love to stay close to you when lining up because they want to make the queue look shorter and the destination look closer," said Sun.

"That's also the reason for Expo organizers to arrange the queues into the form of the character 'Z'."

However, if you are brave enough to convey the psychologist's thoughts to enthusiastic Chinese visitors, you may not be well supported.

"A 10-centimeter distance?" asked Zhang Yuan'an, a visitor from Jiangsu Province. She used her fists to measure the distance and walked backward, only to step on another visitor's feet.

"Are you suggesting that we form a line long enough to reach the Huangpu River?" asked Zhang as she stepped forward to her original place.

A scan of the crowd found few foreign faces among the long queue. Many foreign visitors appeared happy to simply sit in the shade and opt for pavilions without so many people lining up.

"I love to visit with groups so we sometimes take the green channel," said Swiss visitor Mayer.

But some foreigners are getting comfortable with the tight queuing, like Austrian visitor Nick Williams. "I'm getting used to sticking close to each other, just like I did in the subway trains," he said.

"It's a country with a big population and it's normal that people have to compromise the concept of distance," he added.


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