There’s something about the Swedes and queuing. Being a newbie in Stockholm I was surprised to see so many people queuing patiently at places I wouldn’t expect. It’s not uncommon to see a line of people waiting outside a popular bakery or eatery, for more than an hour. Or when you walk around the city at night, don’t be surprised to see long lines of party people waiting to get into a club.
I always wonder why people take that time to wait in line. But maybe I am too Dutch. Our nation is not very good at queuing and we’re not as patient as the Swedes.
At the same time, there are a lot of places in Sweden where you don’t actually have to queue because of the nummerlapp-automat. We find these number ticket dispensers everywhere, from shops to health clinics.
I am not sure what to think of it. Sometimes it feels a bit rigid, but I guess it’s a fair system. No one can queue-jump and you get the possibility to roam around or sit down, waiting for your turn. You just need to be aware of these machines. If you don’t get a number and people after you do, it’s not given that they will offer you to go first. At least that happened to me a few times already.
The ticket dispenser rules! I have stepped up my game now; when I am out and about, my eye is out for the ticket machine.
The queuing seems to tie in with the liking of rationality and order in Sweden. And then, of course, there is ‘Jantelagen’, meaning that everybody is equal and you’re not to think you’re better than anyone else. So everybody should get to wait the same amount of time.
Living in the UAE we saw a completely different art of queuing. The Arabs don’t live by the ‘Jantelagen’ code and queue-jumping seems to be all-round accepted. We went to a clinic for our health check in order to get our residence visa. The waiting room of the clinic was packed with (non-Western) migrants and our hearts sank when we entered. But in some mysterious way, they guided us through the crowd and we were served right away.
Suffice to say that I was glad not having to wait all day, but coming from an egalitarian society we felt uncomfortable. We received this special treatment almost everywhere we went, but it was interesting that we as Western expats were overruled in our turn by the UAE citizens. They received preferential treatment over anybody.
Back to the art of queuing in Sweden, what happens at the bus stop? In England, it is fascinating to watch people form lines at bus stops but the Swedes don’t seem to find their order here. Maybe they get confused because it’s often not clear where the bus will stop. Or do we need a nummerlapp-automat?
Written by Nicole Dekkers
‘I moved to Stockholm in August 2017 and I have been in love with the city ever since. I came here with my husband and our three teenagers. We’re a Dutch family and have lived in different parts of the world for the past 15 years. We feel fortunate to call Stockholm our home now. Travelling is our biggest passion and we can’t wait to explore more of Sweden and Scandinavia. Every move is a new adventure and I like sharing my experiences while getting accustomed to the Swedish culture.’