Do's and Don'ts: Train Etiquette


Being Polite on Trains: The French Way

I love trains. They're so practical. It's a shame that we don't have them in the US. I would probably go to San Francisco more often if we had trains. Actually I would probably go to a lot more places. And while taking the train is super easy, there are a few things that you need to know in order to ensure your success. And a lot of these rules are pretty unspoken. So here's some tips that I have learned so far. 


Don't put your feet on the seat. French people are very particular about this. It's a sign of disrespect and it's rude if you put your feet on the seat. And with good reason, it keeps them cleaner longer. So to avoid the glares, and possibly someone calling you out on it, stick to just crossing your legs.


Find a seat not next to someone if you can. Have you ever been the only one in a movie theatre and someone sat down right next to you? You know that feeling? Yeah it's the same on trains. Pick a seat not right next to someone. I didn't realize that I need to say this, but you'd be surprised at how many people invade that personal space bubble.


Don't get wasted. Ok I'll admit that the retired British couple polishing of a bottle of wine and some beers was cute. They were just super excited to see the scenery. But the 20 something backpackers drinking their way through Europe, not cute. I have to say as a passenger, it's not reassuring hearing that someone might puke on the train. So keep the alcohol consumption down. Remember just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Loire River in Tours


Know what car you're in before you board the train. When you are actually assigned seats, there are signs all around telling you which car is which. That means before getting on the train, know which seat you're in. I don't know why but the fastest way to irritate people is to lug on a giant suitcase then have to make a u-turn because you messed up. And I think almost all the fights I've seen on trains happen because someone is sitting in someone's seat because they got in the wrong car. And let's just say those get very heated very fast. So know where you're going.


Don't be loud. This is what bothers French people the most. Whether you're eating, on the phone, or talking to someone, be prepared for at least some glares from others. And don't be shocked if they tell you off. Many will whisper into their phones, and for long train rides, they will eat very discretely. If they can go to the bar car, they'll do that before eating at their seat. Let me say that I now understand all the weird looks that I would get when I would eat my lunch on the train. Never again will I eat chips on a train!


Keep your belongings on YOUR seat when at the station. I know it's the passive aggressive way to try and avoid people sitting next to you. But I've seen it on a few occasions where someone will move your stuff for you or tell you to move it. It's frustrating when there's a full train and people are trying to take up two spaces. So while the train is in motion and no ones next to you, spread out. But otherwise keep your belongings to yourself.

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