One of the things that I like a lot around Paris is the public transportation system. But as with all things in France different rules apply also to the concept of public transportation. Let me share with you some of my experiences.
You get access to the public transportation through gates that open with a ticket. This is a similar system to London and Barcelona. Sometimes I see someone taking their time to pass through a gate. Then some stranger just jumps in, stands very close to them and slips through with them. So if this happens don’t be surprised, you might be hugged by a stranger ;-). Some general observations about using public transportation:
Most people don’t make eye contact in the Public transportation. In the Netherlands I would be used to making eye contact sometimes, perhaps as a greeting when taking a place next to someone. This is another rule in France I had to get used to. Most people are pretty quit and relaxed. They read books and listen to their I-pods. When they speak it is very quietly not to disturb others. All and all a very civilized manner.
Getting off and on the trains is a different matter. In rush hour things can get very. Then when you try to get onto a train it’s like “every men for himself”. The doors open of the subway people start to come out. Then even before the last ones have exited the train people start entering. They do so until a point were literally no more people can fit. Meaning that you do not have to keep yourself standing, you will be kept upright by the people around you. Again you are hugged by strangers 😉 When you think it’s over and the train is full there are still people coming. Even to the last person people will squeeze. They walk towards the doors and turn their backs toward the train. Then they just step in pushing everyone behind them aside. They do this backwards so they don’t have to make eye contact with the people they are pushing. It first I found this very rude. But when I had to catch a train, I used the same method and the funny thing is no one really complains.
Kinds of public transportation.
There are generally three kinds of public transportation on rails in France. The TGV which takes you around France close to 300KM/h. Then there are the regional lines of a company called SNCF who go a little further away from Paris but not as far as the TGV. Then there are the RER lines that are also trains but stop less often than the subway and don’t go as far from Paris as the SNCF. Finally there are the subways, called ” Metro” that are only inside Paris.