Oct 14th, 2015, 11:19 AM

Unspoken Rules of Public Transportation

By Melusine Ruspoli
Image credit: Flickr/Run with Scissors
An attempt to try and minimize the number of judgmental glares you get

Ah the joys of riding the metro: everyone is tired, it’s humid, and there’s an unmistakable stench of stale piss in the air. As unpleasant as public transportation may be, it’s cheaper than a cab and faster than walking so we put up with it and hope for the best. Here are some unspoken rules of the metro and buses to prevent further uncomfortableness.


1. Don’t talk.

Image credit: Flickr/Jeansman Lee

And if you do want to have an in-depth conversation with your buddies, don’t perpetuate the “Americans are so obnoxious and loud” stereotype. I think I speak at a normal decibel, but in France, it’s a dull roar. Try and be cognitive of your speaking level so you don’t drive those around you crazy.



2. Don’t sit next to someone unless you have to.

Human interaction is hard and weird. In general, avoid looking at people, sitting next to people, or acknowledging their existence (wearing headphones helps with this). The apathy and indifference is super liberating. We’re all just weary travellers trying to get to our destinations, no need for small talk.    

Image credit: Flickr/Julien Dzuidzia



3. Don’t eat.

Image credit: Flickr/Danny VB


My first week in Paris, I made the mistake of eating one of those prepackaged pastas from Carrefour on the metro. The amount of people who silently judged me scarf down my pasta in three metro stops was kinda amazing. Eating on buses seems like less of a crime, as long as your snack isn’t smelly or excessively elaborate.


4. Don’t block doorways or hog up the poles

Image credit: Flickr/Michael Clayton


Try and move to the back if you know you’re not exiting for a while. Or if you want to stand near the door, exit and enter at each stop so those behind you can get off more easily. The only time it’s appropriate to hog up the pole it’s 1 am and you’re drunkenly giving your friends a striptease.





Has elementary school health propaganda taught us nothing? Image credit: dhhs.ne.gov


THIS ISN’T THIRD GRADE PEOPLE DON’T EXPEL BODILY FLUID INTO YOUR HANDS OR THE AIR. My favorite thing in the world is seeing a middle aged French man sneeze into his hand and then hold on to the pole that literally hundreds of other people will be touching in the next few hours. We’ve all seen Contagion, this is not how i want to die. This is my biggest pet peeve, in case it seems like I’m overly passionate about it...


6. Don’t take up too much space.



Image credit: RATP

Be aware of your surroundings and those around you. Don’t spread your legs while the old lady across from you has to huddle up. And some backpacks take up as much space as a small person, and they are pretty obtrusive to those behind you, so take them off and put them by or on your feet when the metro is crowded.


7. Give up your seat.




Image credit: Flickr/Derek Winchester


This is a bit more relevant on the buses where there are more elderly people and children, but be aware of your surroundings and if you see someone who looks like they’d like to sit, give up your seat. Also applicable to people who have a lot of luggage or cumbersome items, or just someone who looks generally exhausted. And if you’re like me and have no French skills, just say “assez vous s’il vous plait” (ass-ey voo sil voo play) which means “please sit.” Old people are generally super grateful and it’s really cute.