(asked by nobody, I just came up with it a few minutes ago while in the metro)
Something that annoys me with tourists sometimes is the fact that because they’re abroad and they’re tourists their IQ seems to be suddenly half of what it normally is, and they lose all common sense and ability to think about basic things.
I understand that it can be hard to adapt to a foreign country and foreign habits, but when we’re dealing with common sense things that are valid all over the world and that, because they’re being tourists, they think it suddenly doesn’t apply to them anymore, it can be very annoying.

What am I talking about?
Tourists in the metro.
What makes them think that Paris metro is not like any other metro in the world and that the same basic rules apply here the same way?


1. When the train arrives, wait for the people that want to get off the train do it before you rush into the train. The train won’t leave without you, and you’ll see, when you let people out (and not block their way because you’re standing right in front of the doors), the train magically gets less crowded making your getting in a much easier and agreeable experience.

2. The folding seats can fold for a reason. And that reason is that… when its crowded in the train, people sitting on folding seats are a pain in the ass for everybody, including themselves (unless they have a strange fetish and they like having strangers’ butts in their faces). So when it’s crowded, you just get up from them. It’s quite simple, it’s even written in four languages next to every door of every train, but still, some people just seem to totally be unable to figure that out.

3. The metal poles in the middle of the train are not stripper poles, so unless your really want to do a strip show and some pole dancing, do not lean against them, or hug them or whatever you feel like doing with them expect from just holding on to them, as while you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing you’re preventing people around you to hold on to that pole too. And if you don’t care about their well being, try at least to care about their safety as they might fall hard if the train suddenly brakes and they’re holding on to anything because you’re leaning against the pole. And if you don’t care about their safety, try to care about yours, as they may fall on you.

4. I thought that was the case in every country, but apparently not, as some tourists still don’t get that you shouldn’t stand on the left side of the escalator, that side is for people that are in a rush, and want to walk up the stairs. Same thing goes on the moving walkways (I especially think about the one in Montparnasse station), they’re made so that you can go faster in the corridor, so if you decide to not walk on them have at least the politeness to not block the way, and stand on the right side of the walkway.

5. Same idea goes in the corridors of the metro (or even on sidewalks), if you’re a group of several people, walking slowly next to each other and taking all the width of the corridor is not a great idea either, and don’t be surprised if you have a bunch of angry people behind you. They don’t hate their lives, they just hate you.

So, if you want to have a decent experience in the Paris metro and don’t want to be shoved (case 1) being stepped on your feet or worse (case 2), having somebody’s knuckles in your spine -that can hurt- (case 3) or being bumped into more or less violently / having somebody “inadvertently” step on your heel (case 4 and 5), and in the end think that Parisians are really mean people (when it’s really you that are totally impolite and bothering everyone), just use your brain in the metro…

And I didn’t even get into the talking really loud because you think you’re the only ones there and/or assume nobody will understand what you say…

pixel Some advice for tourists in Paris (and many other tourists all over the world really)

13 Responses to “Some advice for tourists in Paris (and many other tourists all over the world really)”

  1. Frenchman :) You're just a little notch closer to becoming a Parisian!

  2. I live in DC and the rules you just enumerated hold true here as well.


    Particularly when they stand on the left and then congregate in a large confused cluster RIGHT AT THE TOP of the escalator - usually all clad in matching family t-shirts. OMFG.

  3. Haha. Concerning your point 4., it is not the same in every country. In Singapore or in Malaysia, you should stand on the left.

  4. Oh dear God, yes and thrice yes to all of this on the London tube. Especially on the Piccadilly Line escalators at King's Cross.

    Tourists, I get that you are hauling bags, possibly lost, and that you may not speak English, but it really does not require unusual cultural sensitivity, advanced language skills or second sight to see that if everyone else is standing on the right, you should join them.

    Also, I get that you're on holiday, and I hope you're having a nice time - but I am not on holiday, I am just trying to get to work, like the other people in this station who are not wearing shorts and sneakers. So what may become one of your favoured crrrazy holiday stories about how you hilariously blocked the ticket barrier with your outsize suitcase, is just a pain in everyone else's ass.

    Also, someone is likely to push you under a train if you continue to to that thing where you stop, four abreast, all with huge bags, just inside the entrance to the platform, which you are now blocking. You are allowed, even encouraged, to use the full length of the platform, because - and no one may have warned you about this - the train has dozens of doors! Not just one! And when you get on the train, the seatless spaces by the doors are for those bags. By all means sit or stand next to them, but do not, for the love of God, decide you need to sit in the middle of the carriage and roll your suitcase over twenty people's feet to get there.

    Is it that many of these people never use public transport in their home countries? Too much driving? Plain bad manners?

  5. I've never understood a lot of this, especially the chair thing. Even if you have never ridden in a subway before in any other country, it seems like just by being a social being and spending your life parroting the behavior of other social beings, you would notice that everyone else in a folding chair is standing up and so you should stand up, too.

  6. been there done that!!!!

    Always mutter on the metro 'let the passengers off first' - usually as I am being pushed aside by somebody so impatient to get on the train.

    Hate the Underground in London - well actually I have a major phobia about escalators ever since being pushed down one when I was 7 and broke both my legs!!! Metro is OK but I avoid stations with them!

    New Years Eve/Day 2008 - returning to hotel from place d'Italie started off sitting reading on a pull down seat, a few stops later stood up reading, a few more stops book back in bag, then bag clutched to my chest, then stood on tip-toes.

    2 stops before mine I was convinced I would have to travel to the end of the line! Think I muttered in english 'I NEED TO GET OFF AT CADET' and a very kind french lady pushed everybody out of the way so I could get out!

    Seems like tourists are the same the whole world over!


  7. I live in NYC so I am use packed public transportation all the time, and I'll be honest I probably wouldn't think to get up in a packed subway. I'm use to having other people's stuff in my face; it is just something I have grown immune to.

    In NYC, our benches don't fold up and quite frankly we have a "not my problem" mentality about other people being crammed on the subway. If you don't want to be crammed, you either walk, take a cab or wait for the next train.

    Basically, in NYC, you just have to accept that everyone in a packed subway is going to be rude, pushy, self-centered and completely oblivious. For example, when there is only one seat available on the subway, and a person who so OBVIOUSLY needs more space than 1 seat to fit comfortably basically shoves him or herself into the seat (in the process, cramming everyone else on the bend). Or when people take their LARGE strollers on a packed subway which take up 1/4 of the car and then act like you are rude for crowding their baby.

    The only time people are really considerate on a subway is if there is a pregnant woman or an elderly person who looks like they are really struggling to stand (they MIGHT offer their seat if one is unavailable).

    So, if you travel to NYC, be prepared. I will definitely keep your advice in mind when I visit Paris.

    Other than that, I am completely in agreement with your other tips on visiting large cities.

  8. Not being originally from NYC, I will agree that New Yorkers are some of the most obnoxious Americans. And, if you try to confront them about this, they will blame it on "transplants" (people not from NYC). Such denial…

    Back to the Folding Seats thing- I'm not trying to excuse their behavior, but whenever I see tourists they are so oblivious because their noses are buried in their maps and travel books. So, they may not see the sign, notice your glare or scowl or that everyone else has gotten up. And, quite frankly, everyone in Paris scowls all the time so he/she probably just thinks you are looking at him "normally."

    If you explained the situation to them , they would probably get up immediately, apologize effusively and never do it again (Americans are people pleasers).

    So, I guess I understand how it could be unfair because it puts the burden on you to say something to them (and you obviously feel that tourists have the burden to be more culturally sensitive when visiting another country), but at the same time you seem to be interested in cultural exchanges. So why not be proactive about it?

    Or you could just continue the old French stereotype of complaining about something without doing anything…

  9. and there are signs re the folding seats - yes I know they are in French but also in English, Spanish and German (I think!).

    Most Metro signs are in multiple languages unlike the UK where they are only in English.

    Still get terrified by being able to open the doors before the train stops!


  10. Idiotic metro behavior is not just a tourist thing… it's a human thing:


    The above link is a hate-site for the metro system I have to put up with everyday in Washington, DC, USA. (I reveled in finding this site - I need some place to release all of my pent-up frustration over public transport!) All of the annoyances you mentioned are also here… and I can assure you, those damn DC natives are just as guilty as tourists of not following metro etiquette.

  11. i love this post! i don't understand why tourists become total a-holes when in a new town. it boggles my mind every time. why people think it is a good thing to look like a tourist is beyond me. and making stupid mistakes on public transportation is just that - stupid! do you research before you go to a new place. if anything, study the people when you are there and do what they do before you decide to do what you do! oh, and please leave the white sneakers, money belts, fanny packs and tucked-in t-shirts at home. PLEASE I BEG OF YOU.

    i refuse to get into an argument about whether we're (new yorkers) are obnoxious or not. sometimes we are, sometimes we aren't.

    but, i will say that no matter where you travel, in all big cities, your rules apply. in nyc, tourists do some of the same things! if i can add one more - bags go between your legs or under your seat - not all next to you, taking up space. and do not, DO NOT, get on a train before everyone exiting is off. that one really kills me, like you said.

  12. Most Americans never use any form of public transportation because we have none. My city/county has maybe 6 busses two of which run to a different city/county because there is a college there. We just don’t know how to ride with others :(

    And I know I am responding to every freaking old blog post, but I can’t help it. I want to chime in…I’ll try to restrain myself.

    • It’s true that the problem with public transportation is that there is none in most places. However, there would be more if the people wanted more, but most Americans I’ve met think public transportation is something that’s beneath them. I don’t know about the current situation with gas costing so much (almost as much as in Europe, but the US is just not there yet, so I find it quite amusing that people cry over the price because they’re so dependent on gas).

      No problem with your commenting, as long as I have time and it is interesting, I’ll respond (answering comments take less time than writing full posts. ;-) ).

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