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How to avoid annoying the French on public transport

The Local France
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How to avoid annoying the French on public transport
If you're on a busy train, try to keep 'uncivil' behaviour to a minimum. Photo by FRED DUFOUR / AFP

From eating to phone calls, bikes to feet, French public transport users have revealed the most annoying behaviour from their fellow travellers.


French rail operator SNCF has launched a poster campaign urging passengers to behave better, after a wide-scale survey revealed the behaviour that most annoy French travellers.

The survey was undertaken on SNCF's Transilien network - the suburban trains that serve Paris and the greater Paris region, but many of the behaviour described also applies on city public transport like the Metro, bus or tram and the nationwide train service.

Of those surveyed, 81 percent said they regularly feel annoyed by the behaviour of their fellow passengers while 42 percent described themselves as "very annoyed".


Here are the things that came out on top of the survey for irritating behaviour;

Loud phone calls - top of the list of irritations were loud phone calls, with 35 percent of people describing themselves as often annoyed by this.

READ ALSO: The strange rules of the Paris Metro passengers need to know

City public transport such as the Metro or suburban trains have no particular rule on phone use, although SNCF asks users to 'stay discreet' when making phone calls.

If you're travelling on a long-distance TGV or Intercité train you will be asked to go into the corridor to make or receive a call. Watching or listening to any content on a phone or laptop without headphones is regarded as the height of incivility. 

Feet on the seat - the next most annoying behaviour was people putting their feet up on the seats of the trains - surely a no no in all countries? - along with taking up an extra seat with your bag when the train is busy.

Not giving up a seat - almost equal to feet on the seats, 17 percent of people said they were frequently annoyed by people who did not give up their seat on a busy train to passengers who are elderly, infirm or pregnant.

The country's TGV trains have allocated seating so this is more of an issue on city and suburban trains, buses or trams, which can get very busy during rush hour. The Paris Metro has seats that are labelled as priority seats and there is a strict pecking order - disabled war veterans, the blind, victims of workplace accidents, people with a disability who have difficulty standing, pregnant women, people accompanied by children under four, people with a disability that doesn't include difficulty standing, people aged 75 or over.

(And no, we have no idea how you're supposed to tell at a glance whether someone was injured in a war or a workplace accident). 

But even if you're not in a priority seat and you see someone standing who is obviously elderly, disabled, pregnant or travelling with young children it's only common courtesy to offer them your seat (unless you fall into one of these categories, in which case feel free to glare any anyone who doesn't give up their seat for you). 

Bikes or scooters - if you're travelling on a long-distance train there are spaces for bikes (which you may need to book in advance depending on the type of train you are on) - on city and suburban trains there are no dedicated storage areas and 14 percent of people said they are regularly annoyed by people taking up too much space by bringing a bike or e-scooter on board with them.


Most suburban train or RER stations now have bike storage units, but there is no dedicated storage space for e-scooters. These can be pretty annoying if you're travelling on a packed train, so if it's possible to fold it up before getting on the train it's a good idea to do so. 

Eating - the bugbear of many travellers outside France - people eating smelly food on the train - was not mentioned by the survey respondents on the Transilien network, perhaps because eating on city public transport is not common in France.

While it's fairly unusual to see people eating on the Metro or suburban trains, eating is of course acceptable on long-distance trains. TGV and Intercité trains have a buffet car selling a variety of drinks, snacks and meals, and many people bring on their own food.

Drinking alcohol on a long-distance train is perfectly acceptable whether you bring your own or buy wine, beer or cider from the buffet bars. Train buffet cars do have discretion to stop serving alcohol if customers are becoming rowdy - this sometimes happens if the train is packed with football fans on their way to or from a match. 


Praying - not covered in the survey but worth mentioning is that France's secularism laws outlaw praying or religious acts on public transport. If you're flying you will find most airports have multi-faith prayer rooms and acts of devotion should only be done in these rooms - footage of a group of Muslim passengers praying in the departure lounge of Charles de Gaulle airport sparked calls for more 'firmness' in applying secular rules. Trains stations do not have prayer spaces.

Two thirds of the survey respondents did confess to occasionally indulging in incivilités (bad behaviour) themselves - with the most common things that people admitted to being pushing other passengers to get on or off the train and failing to take off their headphones during public service announcements. In total 16 percent of people confessed to not giving up their seats for priority groups. 

The Transilien group has now launched a series of tongue-in-cheek posters aimed at encouraging passengers to behave better with straplines such as 'Lala je fais comme si je n'avais pas vu la mamie qui veut assesoir (La la I'm acting like I haven't seen the granny who wants to sit down) and '19.03 La France apprend que Séverine a prévu des lasagnes pour ce soir. C'est le choc' (7.03pm, France learns that Séverine has planned lasagne for this evening. Shocker). 


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