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The TikTok queue – a new global attraction

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

Residents and visitors in Amsterdam are used to seeing long queues for leading attractions in the city, such as the Anne Frank House or the Rijksmuseum. With the advent of timed ticketing, however, the queues at tourist attractions have all but disappeared. In their place, new queues have sprung up, marking the location of a new type of attraction: the TikTok queue.

In a number of locations in the city centre, most notably the famous ‘nine streets’ district, long lines of predominantly young visitors crowd the pavement. The queues usually lead to some kind of food outlet, such as Chun Café Korean sandwich shop or Fabel Friet chip shop. These have become ‘must visit’ sites in Amsterdam, thanks to social media. Comments on TikTok emphasise not only the quality of the food, but the fact that it is worth queuing for.

Korean sandwich on TikTok

Fabel Friets TikTok video

CHUN CAFE IS A MUST TRY IN AMSTERDAM 😮‍💨🧀🥪💯 the 30 min queue was absolutely worth it. Best sandwich I’ve ever had in my LIFE

The Fabel Friets queue (Photo Greg Richards)

The queues have also attracted increasing media attention, as well as a host of experts trying to explain the phenomenon. Professor Paul van Lange of the Free University of Amsterdam attributed the long lines to cognitive dissonance – the tendency to retrospectively see experiences as more positive – particularly if you waited for a long time, or paid a lot of money. The positive ratings posted on TikTok by those who endure the queues help the queues to grow even longer.

So long, in fact, that some businesses have been forced to employ ‘crowd managers’ to keep the lines in order. As the queues have grown, very often they have been split into two sections: a queue to get into the shop, and a further holding line to join the queue in front of the shop. This helps to increase the capacity of the queue, increasing waiting times (and therefore the level of cognitive dissonance), as well as spreading the noise, the litter and physical hindrance far beyond the shop location itself.

The queue to join the queue, organised by the crowd manager (photo Greg Richards)

As the manager of the Nine Streets district commented:

"It is nice that people apparently like to come here, but I also see the danger that the area will perish from its own success. Those lines for food stores are not good for other business owners, and residents suffer from litter. I also can't imagine that tourists like to stand in line for more than an hour for a stroopwafel or fries, when there is so much beauty to see in Amsterdam. But yes, they do it anyway."

Various rankings of cities and their TikTok hotspots are now appearing on social media. For example, a ranking of cities by Superdry in September 2021 found that Amsterdam only got 1.9 million TikTok views, compared with 114 million views for New York. Perhaps tourists and visitor queues are not so obvious in a metropolis like New York as they are in cosy Amsterdam, but there are signs that this may be changing. New Yorkers are also starting to complain about the emergence of TikTok Hotspots, or TikTokers ‘ruining our favourite neighbourhood bar’:

Wide-eyed Gen Zers are flocking into the city ….. and they’re turning to TikTok to both find their way around the coolest bars and clubs and prove that they were there. Stroll around any of the city’s traditional nightlife quarters on a Saturday night, and you’re bound to see herds of earnest twenty-somethings in baggy jeans and banana hair clips they bought on Shein, JW Pei bags slung over their shoulders, recording their #fitcheck in line and practicing their best poses. Seasoned scenesters are not happy that their favorite haunts are now overrun with social media-crazed youngins’.

The old adage used to be that if you see a queue there must be something worth waiting for – but in the TikTok Hospot age you might need a heavy dose of cognitive dissonance to enjoy the experience.

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