How friendly are commuters in different countries?

Just a quick observation (on a Friday instead of my usual Tuesday), following my travels this week in three big cities by train, metro, tram and bus. 

Commuter interactions

How do you behave on trains?

First off,  in Geneva, all is quiet, hushed, respectful, but not many people will rush in to help you if you are puzzled about which ticket to purchase or where to change.  Interaction does occur if you attempt to leave some rubbish behind.   Then you can expect indignation, although more commonly a tap on the shoulder and a disapproving frown.

Next, in London: everyone has an MP3 player, newspaper, book or mobile phone that they can hide behind.  No one is looking at each other, and you feel that if you were to engage in a little conversation, you would be viewed as a stalker.

Thirdly, in Paris: a lot more eye contact, even if some people are playing around with their mobiles.  On several occasions, I hear strangers striking up a conversation and have even shared my thoughts on living in England  a couple of times and on some English football teams.  I was surprised, given the reputation that Parisians have for being unfriendly.

I won’t tell you which one I personally preferred, but I was wondering if this was this just chance, not at all typical of each city?  Do you have similar commuter experiences, perhaps in other cities of the world?

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2 Comments

Filed under Globalization

2 responses to “How friendly are commuters in different countries?

  1. Ilaria Belliti

    Ah, great! Come to Italy and see how commuters are: at peak or rush hour, after a long time waiting in the cold or in the heat for train or buses which are usually late, they’re all squeezed in stinky wagons, where the toilet doesn’t work. They can’t validate their tickets before leaving because the machine doesn’t work, in the train there’s no litter bin, no toilet paper or soap if the toilet is open, the seats are dirty or torn. In summer the air conditioning is not working, and you cannot open the window because it was not supposed to be opened, in winter the central heating is too hot and you can hardly breathe….(same result in both seasons). This happens in the old ‘low-cost’ 😉 trains (the Regionali) obviously…..not in Eurostar ones. Those are luxurious….There, you can freeze because the air conditioning is so cold that you think of being in Alaska during winter time…and there’s not enough room for luggage. But they are silent and quick, usually on time…and what about people? Everybody talking on the phone, chatting aloud or trying to read a book while the standing ones bend over your pages. Many with MP3 or 4 or IPhones or IPads or any other what-the-hell is new on the market….not so respectful of modern ‘etiquette’…But if you need help, they’re usually ready to give a hand, to help, to carry your luggage, to explain where you can buy tickets or things, and if you don’t speak the language, it doesn’t matter…hands can do the rest!!!
    Just come and see…..

    • Thanks, Ilaria, for the comment – I think it’s interesting how your response to difficult travelling conditions can be to get angry or grumpy and isolated, or else to be friendly and start chatting to pass the time (Romania and India are cases in point). And I remember when I was pregnant no one ever stood up to offer me a seat in London, while in Milano I had such a fuss made over me that I was almost embarassed…

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