‘Always give up your seat for a monk’: the unspoken rules of public transport

Our readers share the dos and donts of their regular commute from rush-hour gymnastics to gossiping with the driver

Navigating public transport is daunting and often frustrating, but what happens when you hop on the metro in another city? How close is too close to stand next to your fellow passenger? And are you supposed to talk to the driver?

In an effort to understand global public transport etiquette we asked our readers to share the unspoken rules of their daily city commute. Amid the horror stories of vomiting in tupperware and unwittingly overhearing phone sex, here are some tips unlikely to ever be advertised publicly.

Tbilisi, Georgia: Get used to being intimate

With a woefully inadequate number of buses and a chronically underfunded municipal transport department, many Tbilisians rely on privately-run yellow minivans, or marshrutkas to get around, said Joseph Alexander Smith. Exiting the marshrutka from the back seats involves significant levels of forced intimacy with those you pass. A degrading experience that is impossible to avoid.

Changsha, China: All available space must be filled


div class=”u-responsive-ratio”> Changsha

Changsha train station, China. Photograph: ChinaFotoPress via Getty Images

The situation is similar in Changsha, where the unspoken rule is: If there is a space, it needs to be filled, said a reader who asked to remain anonymous. Male, female, [it] doesnt matter. Chest-to-chest, legs twined with others for stability … there is no possibility to turn around. You just need to find a space at shoulder level to see your phone.

Cork, Ireland: Drivers love gossip

In Cork you should come equipped with stories and the right change for your ride, said Sarah Murphy, who shared six simple tips for travelling around the city:

  1. Be ready to talk to people often older passengers like a chat
  2. Do not give the bus driver large notes or small change have it ready or they will tell you to get off the bus
  3. Always thank the bus driver even if they were 20 minutes late
  4. Run for the bus even if it has pulled away from the stop most drivers will let you on
  5. No loud music the radio is played on most buses and the bus driver will tell you to get off if your headphones are too loud
  6. And last but not least the bus drivers love a bit of gossip.

Bangkok, Thailand: Always give your seat up for a monk

In Bangkok you should never point the soles of your feet at anyone, its considered exceptionally rude in Thai culture. Always give your seat up for a monk and if you are in a public park or at a train station at 8am or 6pm, youre expected to stand completely still as the Thailand national anthem is played, said Simon Ostheimer.

Mumbai, India: Think of it like the gym

A local commuter train in Mumbai. Photograph: Divyakant Solanki/EPA
In Mumbai, travelling on public transport should count towards your recommended daily dose of physical activity,
said Guardian commenter DeendayalLulla. As a local train enters the station people do a disco dance to get the seats … one has to push and pull. Reserving seats for your group is also another tradition: mobocracy rules and a single passenger has [no choice but] to give in. Local train journey is a good exercise, [there is] no need to go to a gym.

Taipei, Taiwan: Never sit in a priority seat

In Taipei, you should never sit in a priority seat, warned Mary Sipps. Like a lot of transit systems, all buses and subway cars have priority seats. The signage on them states one should yield their seat to the elderly, small children and pregnant women but really youre just not supposed to sit in them at all, even if there are no people on board who need them, she said, adding that someone once pulled her headphones out of her ears and shouted at her for this transgression.

Berlin, Germany: Anything goes

The biggest rule is that there are no rules. Absolutely anything goes on Berlins public transport. It is famous for pictures of people moving furniture on the train, boarding with a pony or doing pop-up gigs and parties … My favourite time to use public transport is on New Years Eve where it becomes the citys largest and most diverse event, said a reader from the city.

The only unwritten rule, if anything, is that bus drivers in Berlin will not be polite. You havent experienced the true charm of Berlin until you had a rough encounter with one of them, she added.

Perth, Australia. Dublin, Ireland. Halifax, Canada and Aukland, New Zealand: Always thank the driver

Readers from these four cities around the world said that a simple act of courtesy would get you a long way on their transport networks: thank the driver. There is an unspoken rule in this city [Perth] that everyone and I mean everyone says thanks to the driver when alighting a bus, said James Sobester. In Halifax, Canada, it is normal practice to yell thank you! to the bus or ferry attendant when exiting, added a reader who asked to remain anonymous.

London, UK: Just follow the crowd

The one thing a visitor should know in London is that if in doubt, just do what everyone else is doing, said Justin Aluko. Which, on any given day, is likely to include queuing spontaneously, standing on the right of escalators, and having your ticket ready when approaching the barrier. You are resented by almost everyone behind you if you get to a barrier and think that is a good time to rummage through your bags to find your ticket regardless of whether you are a tourist or a local, he added.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jun/30/gossip-to-forced-intimacy-10-unspoken-rules-of-your-public-transport-networks

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