Do Parisians Really Need A Rule Book On Metro Etiquette?



Recently, the Paris Transit Authorities published a new rule book in order for Parisians to act more civil on the metro. These rules are written in an old-fashioned and comical way, and are accompanied by humorous sketches. To give you a little idea of their content, here is a rough translation of some of the rules. (The full French version can be found here: )

Rule N° 1 tells Parisians to be courteous. It reminds them that the enormous no-smoking sign on the metro platform is not a piece of artwork but a sign forbidding smoking.

Rule N° 2 tells Parisians to be helpful. It reminds them to offer help to a person wearing Bermuda shorts while holding a map in one hand and their head in the other. *Try not to be offended by the whole Bermuda shorts thing… Perhaps you will be more successful than I was.

Rule N° 4 also tells Parisians to be helpful. This time, it reminds them to hold the exit door for the person behind them. It continues to say that in life one should never miss the occasion to cross paths with someone who might give them a pretty look.

Rule N° 9 shows a drawing of a man dressed in old-fashioned clothing looking at the woman sitting across from him with binoculars. The rule simply states to be courteous. It warns them not to stare at people, even if she has killer eyes. Ummm… She? I’m going to let that one pass by reminding myself that this is obviously one of those French kind of things to say.

Rule N° 10 says to be courteous. It reminds Parisians not to provoke a duel with someone who has accidentally stepped on their foot.

Rule  11 shows a drawing of a sweaty French man holding the pole above his head, so as not to fall. Sweat drips down from his armpit onto some poor business man who is trying to protect his head with his briefcase.  The rule tells Parisians that on hot days, they should keep their arms down along their sides and to try to hold the pole from below and not above.

Although I find some of this rule book amusing, I believe it to be a rather ingenious way to push the focus and or blame on Parisians so that we don’t look at what is truly making the metro ride unpleasant for many. Parisians seem to be an easy target due to the existence of a stereotype that says they are rude.  I’m not even sure where that came from. Perhaps back in the day that might have been the case, but the Parisians I see today are modern, worldly and come from all walks of life.  They are a far cry from how they are being portrayed. No, not all Parisians are perfect. That said, neither are all tourists… but really? Are we at the point that necessitates taking time, energy and money to publish an online metro rule book for Parisians?

I am not a true Parisian, nor do I claim to be, but in this case I feel that they are getting a bad rap. After living in Paris for 11 years, I have taken the metro more times than I can count. I have always been an observer, and can attest to seeing Parisians help tourists clutching maps, among other lovely gestures like holding doors and giving up their seats for the handicapped, elderly and pregnant women. I have also seen Parisians jump to the aid of people with a baby carriage or heavy suitcase as they attempted to climb the metro stairs. In France, chivalry is far from dead.

These metro rules are all well and good. They can even be taken in a fun and light way, but somehow while reading through them I couldn’t help but look at the big picture. Let’s just say that when my naive self imagines a perfect metro commute, it doesn’t include any of these so-called rules.

My perfect imaginary world includes a metro station where I do not have to let trains pass during rush hour just to push my way on board one of the later trains. This perfect metro car would have enough room for everyone to fit inside comfortably, and have a ventilation system and/or light air conditioning so that we wouldn’t even have to worry about someone sweating on us as they reached up to hold the pole. The metro car doors in my imaginary world, open and close automatically with a lovely and calming ding-dong-ding chime so that I could keep my zen moment alive. As I dream on, I imagine working escalators throughout a clean smelling network of tunnels. Automated metro exit doors would give me enough time to pass through with my wheeled briefcase and then close softly behind me. *Sigh… if only.

I have read many articles about the Paris transit system’s plans and about how they are currently working on building a better metro system. Some of these articles even talked about adding over 100 miles of new metro lines. Wouldn’t it be great if their dream metro system and mine somehow merged into one at some point in the very near future? I don’t know about you, but that would put me in such a good mood that I’d even smile more than I do. Who knows? Perhaps smiling would even be as contagious as yawning!

Do Parisians really need a rule book on metro etiquette, or do they just need a more pleasant environment to travel around Paris? What are your thoughts?


7 thoughts on “Do Parisians Really Need A Rule Book On Metro Etiquette?

  1. I like the guidebook. But my experiences on the Metro have been largely good.

    Plus I twisted my ankle very badly on a trip to Paris and ended up on crutches. The Parisians were so kind and helpful to this dorky American on crutches it made the trip even better than it would have been without the injury.

    So yes. I share your positive opinion of Paris and Parisians.

    Add to that the wonderful people in Normandy and it’s fair to say je t’aime France.


    • Thank you for responding, Paul. I am glad that you found the French helpful in Paris. Sorry about your ankle. I can imagine you on crutches trying to make your way through the maze of tunnels and stairs. You’ll probably will never forget this twisted ankle! 😉

      I take it from your, “Je t’aime France,” that you will be heading back here one day? lol Please keep me posted if you do. 🙂

      Best wishes,


  2. I think it’s especially good, that these rules can be taken in a fun and light way, even if they do take away from the actual issues with the transit system in Paris.

    When I traveled by metro from the airport to my hotel room back in 2011, the experience was interesting. Of course, that might be because it was my first and only time there/using the metro since we don’t have them here.
    But my overall experience came down to the conclusion that smiling can indeed be just as contagious as yawning – either one is in the shoes of a tourist, or that of a local Parisian.
    (I even wrote a travel article on my observations, loved the hospitality that much! 🙂 )


    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts and blog post, Estrella. Yes, Parisians are like any large city population. It is amazing how far a smile can go. I am glad that your experience in the Paris metro is like that of mine.

      I know that it is easy to poke fun… because well, when you do run into a rude person here, it can be downright shocking to someone like me. I have even written a guest blog post based on things that happened to me while living here in Paris. That said, it doesn’t negate the fact that if we had a more pleasant way to get around, we all might be in better moods and more likely to smile. 😉

      As always, it is a pleasure to have you here with me on my blogging journey. Thank you.


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