Steam train on the Isle of Man - the tea break project solo travel blog

Train Etiquette, or: a rant about rude people on public transport

Steam train on the Isle of Man - the tea break project solo travel blog

I want to talk a bit about etiquette.

I don’t mean the old fashioned kind (as in, the correct form of address Mr Darcy should use for Elizabeth Bennett, or the right type of curtsey when greeting an empress). I mean the very real, very modern, very every-day kind. Also known as ‘manners’.

In particular, I want to talk about etiquette on public transport.

Now call me old fashioned, but I think manners are important. I like it when people hold the door open instead of letting it slam in my face. I appreciate words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Most of all, I appreciate it when people are considerate of others in their immediate surroundings.

For me, that means not doing things that invade the personal space of the people around you. I mean this in terms of their physical space, but also their other senses (smell / sound), and their emotional space. In other words, don’t piss them off.

Straightforward, right? So why is it that so many people apparently find this impossible?

I thought I’d make a list of travel behaviours that I find unacceptable.

OK, here’s the truth: this is a list that I’ve compiled over the course of the past 3-4 months. Whenever someone does something that annoys me, I just add it to the list. Call it a form of silent protest. In other words, all of these are things I’ve actually experienced.

Steam train on the Isle of Man - the tea break project solo travel blog


Eating smelly foods – that sense of smell thing I was talking about. No offence, but I might not want to smell your onion bargee.

Chomping with your mouth open – sound. I don’t want my journey to be accompanied by the rhythm of your loudly eaten dinner. I also don’t really want to see your food after it’s gone in your mouth.

Peering at my laptop screen – um, I’m sorry, did I say you could read what I’m writing? A quick glance is one thing – we’re curious creatures by nature – but spending half an hour reading what I’m typing is kind of taking liberties.

Having a very loud domestic that lasts the entire journey – aggressive shouting. Not fun. Incidentally, these first four were all the same couple, on a very long journey from London to Cumbria.

Falling asleep and putting your head on my shoulder – do I look like a pillow?

Making out – I’ve talked about this in my post on how not to be that annoying person on a long haul flight. It’s just not necessary, especially when you’re blocking my exit.

Clipping your nails on the train – who does this?! Apparently, that girl on the Virgin Pendolino.

Putting your hand down your pants and scratching your balls – yeah…

Sitting with your legs spread wide open (especially if that puts your leg into my foot space) – if this meant to be an invitation to stare at your crotch, Mr Traveller-on-Southwest-Trains? Because thanks, but I think I’ll decline. But wait – that narrow leg room means that by doing this, you’re basically straddling / scissoring me. Which is absolutely 100% DEFINITELY not ok.

Kazoos – why?

Playing your music without headphones – this is probably the most common one. So common that it’s becoming an acceptable thing. When did this become ok? Did I miss the memo or something? Headphones are not expensive. If you can afford an iPad / smartphone / iPod etc, you can afford headphones. I mean, most of those things actually come with a free pair anyway. So buy them. Use them. Wear them. I might not want to spend 5 hours of a train journey listening to your choice of cheesy pop.

Your entire table ‘singing’ along to said music – see above.

Playing games on your phone at full volume – even more annoying than having to listen to your music is having to listen to the computer-generated bleeps and swooshes of you playing Candy Crush.

Letting your phone ring out and then not answering it – I mean, I get that you like your ringtone, but really who is this benefiting? Clearly not the person trying to get in touch with you, and clearly not me because, unlike you, I actually probably don’t like your ringtone. Sorry.

Dancing to your ring tone – again, who is this benefiting?

Answering your phone with the phrase, ‘I can’t really talk, I’m in the quiet carriage’ – this one really annoys me, because you know that you shouldn’t be doing it. You’ve just said that you shouldn’t be doing it. So don’t do it!

Piling up your used snotty tissues on the shared table – talk about invading personal space. If I don’t want your smells or noises, I definitely don’t want your germs. Trains have rubbish bins for a reason. And if the rubbish bin is full, well, you brought the tissues with you when they were clean. Why can’t you take them away again when they’re dirty?

Steam train on the Isle of Man - the tea break project solo travel blog

Phew! Rant over – at least for now…

I’m sure this isn’t a definitive list. I’m sure there are many other things that people do on public transport that are inconsiderate to their fellow traveller. But these are my few, gathered over the past few months. Doubtless I’ll gather more of them in the future. When I do, I’ll probably write a sequel blog post – but it would be nice not to have to.

What about you? What irks you where you’re trapped on public transport?

6 thoughts on “Train Etiquette, or: a rant about rude people on public transport

  1. That’s a pretty good list.

    On a train from Laos to Thailand we had a woman take out her deodorant or perfume and start vigorously spraying the whole cabin. She was trying to cover up “the smell of a fart” . We all pretty much agreed that a bad natural temporary smell was better than being poisoned by her chemical permanent one!

    “Making out”… aw that’s usually kinda cute. Certainly not in the same category as ball scratching/ adjusting!



    1. Oh no! That sounds pretty bad… I’ve had that happen in changing rooms before, but at least I can leave the changing room to go somewhere less polluted!

  2. Bags on seats (and refusal to move them), drunk people, people listening to music (with earphones) so loudly I can hear it half a carriage away, people snorting (rather than blowing their nose), strong perfume, people sat in my seat when I’ve reserved it… I could go on! 😀

    1. Oh my goodness – I hate it when people won’t budge their bag from their seat when it’s a full train. I’ve had that before when there have been people standing, and still they’ve refused to move their bags. So rude!

  3. Tip to guys who open their legs as wide as possible: the gap between your knees is inversely proportional to the size of what’s between them. Basically us women know that the guys who do it have really REALLY small c*cks.

    On a related note: elbows in my ribs, especially when half the carriage is empty. If you need to use up that amount of space, move to a set of seats that afford you the room.

    Don’t push the upright armrest into my shoulder then have a go *at me* when I push it back up.

    I commute every day on a line that has tourists during the summer. Most kids are ok, even if occasionally loud (summer holidays, sugar etc), but if your child (when tired) is known to throw a prolonged screaming tantrum when in public…*and you do nothing to calm them down* expect some form of snotty intervention to replace you not doing your role as the adult. If they cant behave in public (or you dont know how to control them), dont take them out

    1. Hahaha – yes! So true… And I definitely know what you mean about screaming children. I totally understand that parenting is hard, and it isn’t always easy to stop your child having a tantrum, but the ‘ignore it and hopefully they’ll stop’ tactic is definitely NOT appropriate for confined public spaces.

Comments are closed.