Modern Etiquette: Good manners travel well when commuting

LONDON (Reuters) - Overcrowded tubes, delayed trains, unreliable buses...the weary stoicism of the commuter is legendary. But basic good manners and respect for your fellow passengers will go some way towards making even the most torturous journey more tolerable.

Passengers travel on a tube train in London November 3, 2010. REUTERS/Paul Hackett (BRITAIN - Tags: EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS TRANSPORT)

Try to think about the comfort and safety of your fellow passengers with these few handy tips.

When boarding a train or a carriage on your local metro/underground/subway, wait for other passengers to exit before getting on: never jostle past people who are trying to get off.

Don’t sprawl in your seat, or put dirty feet on the seat opposite. Equally, don’t take up an additional seat with your excess baggage. You haven’t paid for two seats.

Always offer your seat to those who need it more than you do, such as the elderly. Be gracious, willing and act swiftly when you see someone in need.

If pregnancy is in any doubt, it is best to quietly vacate your seat, move away and hope that your intended recipient will gravitate towards it. You may make a serious faux pas if you mistakenly think someone is expecting. Mothers with small children in tow should also be given priority.

Personal space is a luxury in an overcrowded carriage, so be aware of other people. Don’t stand too close or push past.

Know when the carriage is full and don’t try to push your way onto an already packed train. Be patient and wait for the next train.

Be tolerant if sudden lurches (a frequent occurrence on buses and the London Underground) propel you into close proximity with other passengers. Apologise if you’re the perpetrator, and smile politely if you’re the one being crushed.

Some train carriages are very quiet, packed with commuters reading newspapers or working on their laptops, so be aware that mobile phone conversations are very disturbing.

Keep conversations with travelling companions quiet and discreet - you don’t want everyone on the bus to be involuntarily eavesdropping.

Respect designated “quiet zones”. If someone else is doing the talking, politely point out the sign to them, prefacing your remark with a deprecating “I’m sure you haven’t noticed the sign but...”

Put discarded newspapers, coffee cups and so on into the bin - no one will want to sit surrounded by your detritus. Be aware that eating greasy, smelly food (such as burgers) may well nauseate your fellow passengers, and is a major cause of litter.

If you’re wearing a rucksack, avoid turning around or moving from side to side abruptly. Equally, take extra care with oversized luggage or wheelie suitcases. If necessary, help other people to put their luggage in the overhead racks.

If you are going to listen to music on headphones, ensure that they do not broadcast too much sound. It is the height of bad manners to inflict music, or a noisy DVD soundtrack, on other people in a confined public place.

Help people with heavy baggage, mothers with pushchairs and elderly passengers who find the step off the train difficult.

Jo Bryant is the London-based etiquette advisor for Debrett’s, Britain’s modern authority on all matters of manners and behaviour. The opinions expressed are her own. Debrett’s website is