petite anglaise

November 5, 2004

métrétiquette – cont’d

Filed under: city of light — petiteanglaiseparis @ 12:34 pm

Back by popular demand, the final instalment on how to survive the Paris métro.

poised to pounce

Most, but not all, metro carriages have blocks of 8 seats in the centre, separated by an aisle. If the metro is crowded, your best bet is to aim to be standing at one end of this block so that a) you will be marginally less intimate with your fellow passengers and b) should someone get up, you will be well placed to grab the vacated seat. Typically there will be a face off between two challengers at each exit of the block of seats.

Unfortunately here it is not speed which determines the outcome. Your fate is entirely in the hands of the person vacating their seat. Should he/she choose to leave via the exit route you are blocking, you will be forced to beat a retreat away from the seat you covet and your opponent will triumph. To avoid this outcome, cunning and vigilance are required. At the merest twitch of a hand on a handbag or closing of a book you must temporarily position yourself firmly in the middle of the seat block. You may have a little trouble keeping your balance, but the seat is as good as yours (unless your opponent plays it dirty and makes a last minute charge).

unwelcome attentions

In rush hour, during strikes or when there has been yet another problème technique or incident voyageur (i.e. an inconsiderate soul has hurled themselves onto the tracks) the metro can get extremely crowded. This uncomfortable proximity can also be hazardous. First, keep your hand on your bag and keep it in front of your body, in case any members of a child pickpocket ring happen to be in your carriage. Second, breathe through your mouth. For obvious reasons. Third, don’t hesitate to ‘out’ anyone whose roaming hands find their way inside your coat, preferably by grabbing the offending hand and shouting ‘anyone lost a hand?’ After countless experiences of public transport frottage, I am now a little paranoid and have occasionally swung round angrily only to find that the guilty party was in fact an umbrella or the edge of a handbag. But you can’t be too careful. Unless you like that sort of thing.

making your exit

This should be the easy part, but rarely is. At peak times drivers don’t leave the doors open long enough for passengers to get off, let alone get on. When you are packed in tighter than sardines (but without the lubricating properties of olive oil) there is no question of anyone moving aside until the doors actually open. Don’t try to maneouvre yourself closer to the door until the train stops, it’s futile and will annoy everyone around you. But as soon as it does stop, don’t hesitate to holler ‘la porte s’il vous plaît’ (if no-one opens the door) or ‘pardon, je dois descendre!’ whilst simultaneously shoving people out of your way. If there are imbeciles on the platform waiting to get on but not even leaving you space to get off, put your head down and charge through the middle. If they try to get on while you are attempting to get off, use your elbows and anything you are carrying as a weapon.

Welcome to the urban jungle. No points awarded for being nice here.


  1. At least you get the slightly more palatable ‘incident’… On the tube in London, they’re slightly less subtle – we’re casually informed by the driver that our delay has been caused by ‘a person under the train’, which doesn’t really make you feel any more cheerful about the delay you’re already cross about…!

    Comment by Lizzy — November 5, 2004 @ 1:32 pm

  2. * I was on the Paris train, I emerged in London rain…* (as the band called Berlin would say…)…I’ve been living in Paris for years and now I really miss the metro, among other things. Everything you’ve said is true, that’s a real ‘jungle’ but actually I used to love that. They’re so affectionate…And most of all what I really enjoyed were the little accordeonists or musicians in general. Miss Paris :'(

    Comment by AlternativeMind — November 5, 2004 @ 3:59 pm

  3. Love the blog. Reminds me of my time in Paris. Have fun and don’t let the buggers get you down (meant in the nicest possible way) :smile:

    Comment by Dom — November 5, 2004 @ 5:26 pm

  4. i was once in a london tube that drove over someone who threw themselves/fell under it (!) orrible. orrible. but the worst was that I was watching the other platform and the look of horror on the peoples faces as it happened was far worse than the *crunch*

    sorry. that was gross, wasn’t it?

    happy friday

    Comment by vitriolica — November 5, 2004 @ 6:02 pm

  5. Wow! That’s my commute every single day. I’m lucky if I can keep my rage for the person standing a little in check.

    Comment by yayaempress — November 5, 2004 @ 7:06 pm

  6. The Do’s and Don’ts of Métro Etiquette – Part II
    petite anglais follows up her post on the etiquette of the Paris Metro with a second

    Trackback by attempting escape — November 5, 2004 @ 9:35 pm

  7. cool photo

    Comment by andre — November 5, 2004 @ 11:18 pm

  8. Is the free newspaper they give you at the station entrance called Tube:?:

    Comment by backroads — November 6, 2004 @ 5:14 am

  9. J’adore votre blog! Mais je deteste le metro! Lucky for me I have a 10 minute walk to work each day. Sadly, it’s in Toronto, not Paris.

    Comment by Louis — November 6, 2004 @ 6:00 am

  10. Dom, Louis :grin:

    backroads – we have ’20minutes’ and ‘metro’ here. Is it ‘Tube’ in London then? I think they are all published by the same (Swedish) company anyhow… No-one gives it out at my station though. :sad:

    Comment by petite — November 6, 2004 @ 1:59 pm

  11. As an experiment for Métriquette Part III I suggest you simply ask someone randomly in the crowded carriage “Excusez-moi, est-ce que je peux m’asseoir ?”
    Stanley Milgram had a group of students experiment this in the NY subway back in the earl-70s and surprisingly more than 60% of the people would give in their seats.
    Well, French commuters might react kinda differently.

    Comment by viktor — November 7, 2004 @ 6:30 pm

  12. It’s called Metro in Londinium. Sorry to hear it’s called Metro in Paris. Tube would have been better.

    Comment by backroads — November 7, 2004 @ 7:02 pm

  13. excellent post, petite anglaise. the paris metro has so *many* charming suprises up its sleeve. why, just last week, on the platform at swanky st. sulpice, there was a neat little pile of human excrement tucked away under a bon marché ad!

    I heart paris.

    Comment by pie — November 8, 2004 @ 12:53 am

  14. :wink: Cool photo! I like the one at the bottom of your navigation bar too. Love your blog! :grin:

    Comment by Charlene — November 8, 2004 @ 9:29 am

  15. pie – I too have seen crottes in the metro, and since there is a no dogs policy, one can only assume the provenance is human.

    City of lights? City of crottes might be more appropriate sometimes.

    Comment by petite — November 8, 2004 @ 10:00 am

  16. I can’t take credit for the photo – I ‘borrowed it’.

    Comment by petite — November 8, 2004 @ 10:06 am

  17. all of the above rules can also be applied to the nyc subway system. i love the “is anyone missing a hand?” i’ll have to keep that in mind if that ever happens to me (and i hope it never does– gah!).

    great blog. i hope you don’t mind if i blogroll you!

    Comment by dmk — November 8, 2004 @ 5:36 pm

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