Oui, the People: Travel Etiquette

Would Like for You to Move, Out of the Way.

Tourist Season is Among Us. 

That sentence alone gives many people an instant headache or bouts of nausea.   

I have always had a super high tolerance for tourist and language barriers; because of my travels and living abroad I am often the “other.”  While I am at times certainly the “other” I never feel like a tourist. More often than not I am stopped and asked “où se trouve le metro, s’il vous plait?” in Paris or “wo si die Bank?” in Berlin, oddly enough I’ve never been mistaken as a local in Reykjavik <insert shoulder shrug emoji.> 

Expats and fellow avid travellers can attest, it is an AHH-Maaa-ZING feeling to be mistaken as a local especially en Paris!   

So how is it done?  How can you travel abroad with style and grace and NOT be in the way?

C’est simple! Research.

Moi researching another trip to Paris, with stickers and Sex & the City Season 6. What, I didn’t say you needed an encyclopedia

Before relocating to Milano, I researched basic mass transit etiquette to ensure that I didn’t appear to be a “fish out of water” or worse “the Ugly American.”  Mass transit etiquette seems trivial enough that is until you’re making a mad dash to the train, only to come to a screeching halt because someone ahead is STANDING on the left versus walking. Americans and Brits understand how irritating that can be. So have you ever considered the irritation you may inflict when traveling abroad without a clue of social norms?

Most countries have their own rules of engagement when traveling on “the tube.”  But here are a few tips you can use to ensure that you aren’t shoved onto the tracks!

I collect metro tickets from around the world. I randomly had these in my purse today. Toronto and Milan.

1. Confirm Before you Turn.

Confirm that you have enough money on your ticket before attempting to enter and/or exit the turnstile.  Some countries require you to insert or tap your pass at the station of departure and arrival, confirm that as well.  DO NOT be THAT person who causes the metro gate pile up during rush hour because of insufficient funds. 

2. Ne pas mager?

Whether a Croque monsieur or currywurst, contingent on your locale of arrival, noshing on either while in transit is perfectly fine.  Prior to assimilating (or creating the ultimate faux-pas) do a quick Google search or more interesting, people watch. Do you see locals mangeant frites or mash and bangers while on the train? If not err on the side of caution. When in Londontowne; go for it, enjoy those fish and chips! But don’t even think about sneaking a snack of schnitzel while commuting in Berlin.

Metro, Paris

3. It Takes Deux to Tango

Did you know, in some cities even if there are sets available you shouldn’t use them when the train is full? Oui! En Paris there are a few flip chairs in every train car.  During rush hour or when the train is beyond crowded do NOT fold these seats down (unless of course you have a medical condition.)  Keeping the seats folded up allows more commuters to cram in thus ensuring you can rub baguettes with more Parisians

Moi International collection of magazines

4. One Mans Trash is another Commuters Lucky Day?

To leave the newspaper or not too? I always leave the newspaper, or in the case of long-haul trains I leave Vogues, Bazaars and WWDs, de rein. I’ve always viewed leaving a publication behind as “paying it forward.” Providing the fellow commuter who couldn’t find their house keys and spilled half their cappuccino on their blazer an unexpected read is saintly, in my humble opinion.  But in Berlin this is a SIN! DO NOT leave newspapers or magazines behind while commuting, it is considered littering.  Outside of greetings, ordering Riesling (yes Riesling, not food) and shopping, my German is nicht gut.  But I am however fluent in disgust.

I am embarrassed to admit that my cover was blown.  I had made it three days in Berlin without a smidgen of a social faux pas.  I certainly looked the part; dressed in all black (if you said “like the Omen”, we’re practically bffs) and wearing outlandishly thick artsy frames (fun fact, mine are FILLED to capacity with prescription) I was a Berlinian! That was until I left my magazine on the seat of the train.  The horror, the HORROR! I thought I was going to be ousted.  I’ve never witnessed such shame and disgust in the eyes of strangers as I did that mid July afternoon.

Museum Metro Stop, Toronto. Even the picture looks quite.

5. When in Roma, Do as the Romans.

Are “indoor voices” required when taking the train outdoors? This is actually a tricky one and I’d advise that you follow the majority.  Some transit systems are bibliothèque quiet and others are reminiscent of a scene from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Toronto for the most part has extremely quite commuters. Even when the trains are late, I’ve yet to witness a Torontonian get bent out of shape or loud.  Now Roma, my nearest and dearest Roma.  The land of “Ciao Bellas” and multiple kisses even amongst “strangers” metros can appear to be filled with seeminly combative commuters. But Nope! Not at all. The passion in Roma is merely expressed much louder than any train I’ve ever boarded (point of reference, louder than Gallery Place at 15:45 on a school day.)

If you happen to be a rebel without a cause (hi husband) and simply refuse to follow local etiquette, try to keep in mind that YOU are on holiday, not the locals. A great majority of European cities completely shut down during the summer months. So those that “choose” or are left behind from holiday-ing may not be in the most pleasant space. Your unwarranted giddiness and glee in conjunction to not knowing or regarding the preexisting laws of the land can truly add insult to injury.

In no form am I suggesting that you lose yourself and become someone that you’re not when traveling. I’m advising you to make the most of your stay and not go out of your way to create unfavorable memories i.e being pushed onto the train tracks.

Do you find yourself getting angry at tourist in your city or town?

Can you think of a time when you were a terrible tourist?

I’d love to hear your thoughts or experiences.

Ciao for now 💋


  1. Moorsay

    Let me just start off saying that I am a NATIVE Washingtonian…(DC baby 💪🏼). I have always wondered why so many people travel here (DC) to see a bunch of old buildings? I’m just saying Every political movie shows the same landmarks (White House, US Capitol…etc). If I was to travel abroad without a seasoned traveler…what recommendations can you give me to help find places “off the beaten path”?

    • It’s easy to overlook or take the gems in your own backyard for granted. So many Parisians laugh when tourist gasp and take millions of selfies by the Eiffel Tower. To get off of the beaten path, I always suggest staying in Airbnb’s that are away from downtown or touristy attractions. If you truly want an authentic vibe stay in “neighborhoods.” The Marais is a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Paris that is FILLED with amazing bakeries and art galleries. Kreuzberg in Berlin has the BEST Turkish fare (outside of Turkey) and coffeehouses. I hope this helps! Lastly…do you plan on traveling without a seasoned traveler 🤔

  2. Wanderlust

    It’s UTTERLY annoying when traveling on mass transit to/from work during this season….this post should be printed on brochures and placed EVERYWHERE! And merci for teaching me not to leave my paper behind in Berlin! 🙂

    • If I can get the lock taken off of the work printer I will print & paste this PSA around the town! Merci beaucoup for commenting!

  3. Stephanie

    Man oh man the standing on the left of the escalator especially during rush hour is a huge pet peeve of mine. Even worse when the person in front of me wont say excuse me so we can get by. Move it or lose it lol.

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