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France facts: Pregnant women have to stand up for injured veterans on the Metro

Now readers of The Local are of course polite and courteous souls who would always give up their seat on the Metro for pregnant women, the elderly or disabled - but did you know there is a strict pecking order for who gets to sit down first?

France facts: Pregnant women have to stand up for injured veterans on the Metro
Photo: AFP

The Paris Metro, like most public transport systems, has a number of 'priority seats' which should be reserved for those who need them most.

But unlike many other countries, who simply state that the seats are for pregnant women, the elderly or anyone with a disability and leaves them to fight it out among themselves if there are not enough seats to go round, Paris transport authorities have given the matter some serious thought.

And they have come up with a nine-point list showing who they think are the most deserving.

At the top of the list, able to claim a seat from absolutely anyone, are disabled war veterans.

Below war veterans are blind people, followed by disabled workers and disabled civilians who have difficulty in standing.

Pregnant women come in at number 5, in a blow to anyone who feels that growing an entire other human might at least entitled you to a sit down.

After pregnant women comes anyone who is accompanied by a child under the age of four.

Disabled non-military folk are at number 7, while at 8 is anyone who is not actually registered disabled but does have a card stating that they have difficulty standing.

And finally, in a blow for the 'respecting your elders' doctrine, people aged over 75 come last on the list.

Exactly how you're supposed to determine whether a disabled person is a war veteran or not, or whether an amputee is in work or not, is not specified in the Metro rulebook.

On the plus side, if you travel on certain lines during rush hour, the crush of people is so intense that your fellow passengers more or less hold you up anyway.



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France Facts: Paris once had a ‘strike square’

The French have something of an international reputation for being fond of a strike - but did you know that Paris once had a Place de Grève (strike square)?

France Facts: Paris once had a 'strike square'

But in this case the French did not name the square after one of their favourite activities, in fact it was the other way round.

The Place de Grève, in central Paris next to the Seine, was the place where unemployed workers gathered, seeking casual labour.

Over time grève came to signify a group of people who were not working.

After the French won the right to strike in 1864 – 20 years before they won the right to form a union – the word attached itself to workers who were choosing to without their labour, rather than people who were unable to find work.

These days the French are quite fond of une grève, and between 2010 and 2017, the number of French strike days was 125 per 1,000 employees, according to a study by the European Trade Union Institute.

As a comparison, the UK, Germany and Sweden had 20, 17 and 3 respectively. 

The Place de Grève still exists, but in 1802 it was renamed the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville and houses the very impressive city hall of Paris.

The square's other claim to fame is that it used to be where public executions took place, and saw the first public use of the guillotine when robber Nicolas Jacques Pelletier was executed on April 25th, 1792.

And France has seen one or two strikes since 1864.