If you’ve been to any of the world’s major cities, you’ll know that every public transport system has its own unspoken rules. Most are common sense (don’t dawdle, let other people off before you get on, spread out along the platform), but some are city-specific and only learned through years of commuting.
Now, one of Paris‘ dedicated RER (train) commuters has shared a decade’s worth of lessons, and it’s sure to take your trip from tourist to tres local.
Reddit user Celsuis90 says he’s been catching the RER for over 10 years without ever losing his navigo pass. He says he’s also “survived fire in the RER A, two thefts, and a few drunk people who just wanted to talk”.
In anticipation of tourist crowds this European summer, he offered his advice to anyone visiting Paris so they don’t get lost or, God forbid, annoy anybody on the RER.
#1 Don’t get in the way
Celsius90 says that rule number one is to stay out of the way. “This is true when you are inside the train, but also when walking in the stations, the platforms,” he says.
And the all-important second rule: “If you’re not sure whether you’re in the way or not, you’re in the way. Please refer to first rule.”
To avoid making yourself a nuisance, know what side of the escalator or stairs to walk on. “We drive on the right side. Please walk on the right side as well. People in a hurry can run on the left side. This is important on the stairs,” he explains.
Also, it pays to get your ticket ready before you get to the turnstiles. “Searching for your ticket right in front of the gate is NOT F***NG OK. If your ticket does not work, refer to rule 1.”
He seems, er, passionate about that one.
#2 Be considerate
This is common sense, but it deserves to be repeated. “If a pregnant woman or an elderly person enters the train: let them sit. Don’t try to look at your phone. We know you saw them,” Celsius90 says.
And please leave big leisurely reads ’til your Sunday afternoon. “It is NOT ok to read a newspaper when the train is crowded,” he says. “You are taking space for three people with your arms wide open.”
#3 Know when and where to go
There are peak commuter times when the RER – like most public transport systems – is absolutely jam-packed. If you’re just visiting the city and can afford to avoid those times, you probably should.
“If you don’t want to be swallowed in a human tsunami, avoid taking public transportation between 7:00am to 10:00am and 5:00pm to 7:00pm. People who are on their daily commute will not hesitate to walk on you.”
There are some lines in particular you should avoid if you can: “RER A always has a problem. If it doesn’t, it means the information system itself has a problem,” he says. “Metro 13 is always crowded. This line is hell. Think twice before getting in.”
#4 That smell is what you think it is
Unfortunately, Celsuis90 confirms our suspicions about the RER’s particular musk: “Yes, it’s pee that you are smelling in the stairs. Watch where you put your feet. There could also be poo.”
But he adds that you can help to eliminate the train’s odours: “Take a shower, God damnit. If the train is crowded I could end up closer to your body than your girlfriend.” Noted.
#5 Be chill
On Paris’ RER lines, unexplained occurrences often interfere with the service. Just stay chill and they’ll sort themselves out. “Do not panic if the power goes out,” Celsius90 says. “Most of the time, the train will restart after a few seconds.”
Also, “Do not try to understand what the train driver just said in the speakers. No one is able to understand.”
But, of course, he summarises his big list of advice by saying that people are more than happy to help if you have any questions, even if it is out of pity.
“You can ask a Parisian for help,” he says. “But please start with a ‘bonjour‘. We will feel bad about your accent and feel obliged to help you.”
Check out the full list of advice here.
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Josephine is a staff writer at Junkee Media. You can find her words on AWOL, The Cusp, food she bagsed in the fridge.