Civilization runs on rules, not laws. What’s the difference? Well for example, when you go to pay at the supermarket you go to the back of the line, right? Why? Why don’t you go to the front of the line? Or into a gap between other shoppers? There is NO LAW against going right to the front. But there is a RULE.
Its a social ‘rule,’ created organically and by the society you inhabit. A rule without a ruler.
We call following the rules being ‘civil,’ and they are a core part of ‘civilization.’ In your everyday life it is rules, not laws, that guide your conduct.
But what if different civilizations use different rules? They do. And what happens when people who use different rules encounter one another in a common space?
Confusion and hostility.
You may have encountered this on the roadway, when seeing a driver who does not follow the “rules,” and you wonder “who is this idiot?” Perhaps you drive up alongside and glance over to see a foreigner and wonder “why don’t they learn how to drive?”
But they do know how to drive, they are simply following different ‘rules.’
In Vietnam for example, traffic goes where traffic flows. If there is space, you go into it, thats the RULE. You do not yield to the person on the right, you do not check behind you, you do not stay in your lane, there is no such thing as “your lane,” it’s just a street, no one owns it, you just go.
Everyone around you is counting on your driving by these rules. To hesitate or look behind or stop is dangerous. Only a stupid foreigner would do such things, those people don’t know how to drive! They’re uncivilized. They don’t know the rules.
Similar differences apply to standing in line.
At the airport Burger King there is confusion. Multiple cashiers, but at the moment I walk up only a single line of customers waiting for the next available cashier. The people in line are Europeans and Americans and thats the way they line up in Europe and America.
But an airport is sort of an international zone, where multiple cultures and rules intersect, and this airport is in Vietnam, so which rules apply? No one knows. Not for sure.
I line up behind some sort of Western guy. The next cashier opens up and Western guy stays put, waiting for the cashier to wave him forward. That’s a ‘rule, wherever he comes from. But no wave comes.
Instead, a Vietnamese guy in a suit walks to the counter and begins ordering. There was a space and he walked into it. Western guy is pissed. Why? Because the Vietnamese guy isn’t following the rules! But, the Vietnamese guy IS following the rules. They’re just different rules.
Western guy taps Vietnamese guy on the shoulder and says, “Blah blah blah…”
Vietnamese guy is like, “Oh hi Western guy, do you need help with something?”
“Blah blah blah…”
Vietnamese guy’s friend asks, “What does Western guy want? He seems like he’s mad about something…”
“I don’t know. Foreigners are crazy. They don’t know the rules. Look at him with this public display of anger. Didn’t anyone teach him manners?”