The art of the Venezuelan cola


One moment of patience may ward off great disaster.  One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life. ~Chinese Proverb

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to write about this, but Venezuelans have an amazing ability to form and stand in line – otherwise known as the cola.The idea to finally write about this phenomenon came after I recently saw people standing in line to get on an elevator. Yes, an elevator. I saw about 10 people in the line and had to do a double-take to make sure that there wasn’t something being handed out. Every morning when I’m taking the kids to school, you can see lines 30 to 40 people deep waiting for buses. I’m always impressed by the patience Venezuelans show when waiting and it’s probably because they know that eventually, they’ll get their turn.

What’s so interesting about these colas is that often no one has to ask that they be formed. In the US, there are places you go that have signs indicating  where the line starts, as well as a roped off area to help make sure the line remains orderly – completely unnecessary here. I remember discussing this with a friend who is also a foreigner and she said it’s so ingrained that if she’s standing talking with more than one person, someone will inevitably come up and ask “aqui esta la cola?” or “is the line here?”. So, it’s as if it’s become an inherent part of the culture.

I noticed that my kids have started picking up on this, too. I couldn’t believe my eyes when my little guy (3 years-old) stood patiently in line for 20 minutes to have his face painted by Spiderman at a party. While I will probably never enjoy standing in line, I can appreciate that they’re being given this subtle lesson in patience…Lord knows their generation needs it.

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