As I arrived in Paris in the autumn 2018 for my internship, one of the first everyday phenomena I experienced was the public transport. As a Finn, although that was not my first time spending a longer period in France, I have to say that the daily transport is a huge part of the life in the city. As the French writer Pierre Béarn put it: “métro, boulot, dodo”- Subway, work, sleep. Since the underground railway lines are faster than cars and the collection of different lines that cover the city is impressing, I only had to use the bus for once during my three months of internship.
However, in comparison with my home country Finland and its newly renovated subway net, the newest part of which reaches the neighbouring city of Espoo, the metro in Paris has a completely different importance in the city’s ecosystem. According to Wikipedia, Parisian metro system consists of 214 km, 302 stations and 16 different lines, whereas Metro of Helsinki has two lines (M1 and M2) and currently reaches 35 km and 25 stations.
Therefore, as I have had the chance to observe the culture and the behaviour in the subways in both countries, I found the contrasts interesting enough to share them with you, in case you will be wanting to travel to Helsinki or to Paris. However, this is only based on my personal experience so the recommendations might vary a lot depending of which stations are the most convenient for you and if you have to travel during the rush hours in your daily life.
Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi on Unsplash
In Helsinki, one ticket for an adult costs €2.90 if you purchase it from the machine, whereas in Paris the price is only €1.90. Also, when it comes to subways Helsinki, you only show your ticket when controls occur, but in Paris, you must stamp your ticket in order to open the gate style barrier and access the train platform. So, sometimes it happens that the Parisian subway tickets get demagnetized if you keep them near your phone! If that is the case, remain calm and go to exchange your tickets from the kiosk.
When talking about the metro etiquette, the most important thing to mention is to always wait calmly before the doors to the subway train and let the people get out first. This isn’t only polite, but it also saves everyone’s time. Also, I think this essential rule works for all the metro and train stations worldwide.
In Helsinki, at least for the moment, I have never experienced the train to be as full as in Paris. This must also be the reason why in Helsinki there are a lot of seats inside the train, which takes a lot of space. In Paris, you will encounter a lot of seats that fold down. However, these seats cannot be used during the rush hour when you need to make as much space as you can. Therefore, the most common way to travel in Paris must be standing!Photo from Unsplash
In Paris, during the rush hour, I highly recommend you take off your backpack when entering the subway train and hold it in your hand to save space. Otherwise you risk pushing people and taking twice as much space as you would need. In other words, when you live in a city with millions of people, you will have to pay much more attention to everyone, communicate and of course be ready to help each other whenever you can.
Unfortunately Parisian metro is well known for its pickpockets. Therefore, always hold your purse tightly in your arms. Never keep your phone or a wallet in your back pocket or elsewhere where you cannot constantly observe it. Also, be careful not to use your phone near the subway doors, since it is very easy for the pickpockets to just pick it from your hands and exit the train just before the doors close.
Also, remain calm even though the underground train is extremely full, and it does not seem possible for you to move. When other people are aiming to hop off, listen to them and read their body language. Give them space and if there isn’t any, aim to exit the subway train and let them out as the train stops. You will have time to re-enter once everyone is out.
When the doors are making a sound, do not aim to run in if you are not standing one step away, because this might delay the train from leaving. The next subway train will usually arrive in a couple of minutes at the maximum. In Helsinki, you risk waiting longer, but still, just do not slow down the traffic or you might get feedback from the driver.Photo from Unsplash