Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What? You want to get off the train? But I'm getting on here!

I wrote earlier about Swedes systematic line forming – with the help of numbers. Organizing lines tends to be quite quick and cutting is avoided using this wise system.

However, a problem occurs with impromptu lines – even though they are easily anticipated lines.

One great example of this is what occurs pretty much every time a train stops at a major train station. As the train pulls in, the people on the platform head for the door. They create a giant mass that encircles every door and push to position themselves so as to be one of the first to enter the train.

Then, the strangest thing happens. The doors to the train open, and, surprise of all surprises, people want to get off the train. The ring of awaiting passengers looks perplexed. Do they move to the side to let these passengers off, and risk losing their prime position for boarding the train?

Often the person closest to the line of fire, the one who risks being trampled in the ensuing melee, the one directly opposite the door, will back down and move to the left or right. This leaves a tiny opening for the passengers aboard the train to push through the crowd.

The remaining people, refusing to move and give up there space in the line, roll their eyes, look at the ground, and grunt with annoyance, at the people that have decided to get off at the stop they have been spending the last minute trying to leave.

The doors to the train are often wide enough for two rows of passengers to exit or enter. When the line of people exiting the train trickles down to only one passenger wide, those passengers who have been waiting on the 'correct' side, will push their way on to the train while others continue to disembark. This creates a lot of dirty looks from those getting on and off the train. Some might even mumble under their breath. But rarely will it go so far that anyone has to talk to each other.

Despite the fact that most train travellers in Sweden take the train on a daily basis, they still seem utterly surprised by the fact that there are often passengers that want to get off the train.

So if you want to be like the Swedes, as soon as the train arrives, push your way as close as possible to the door and then refuse to move anywhere but onto the train. But if you just want to keep the peace, it is often easiest to wait until the crowd has subsided and board the train. The conductor will not leave until all the passengers have boarded the train. The only thing you risk is losing a seat, and if there are many people trying to exit the trian, chances are you will still get one!


  1. I haven't taken any public transportation in Sweden yet, but it's like this with any entrance/exit, honestly. Swedes seem constantly befuddled that other people exist.

  2. Uhm, the exact same thing happens in other countries as well. Have you traveled at all besides the US and Sweden? Go to the tube in London. MUCH WORSE than in Sweden. In comparison I think Swedes are fantastic in this respect.

  3. It's apparently a global thing. It annoys me, I run across it almost daily with elevators and automatic doors - just let people OUT before getting IN, that should be common nature.

  4. Hi from Australia - Firstly, LOVE your hilarious blog! This is a sore point with me here too. We used to be polite and stand well back, affording alighting passengers the opportunity to exit safely.

    But since en masse immigration, as a consequence of the Hong Kong return to China, sadly this is no longer. Rather than our civilities being applied, we succumbed to imported cultural norms.

    Interestingly, this has also altered the way City Rail operate (time & motion rubbish) blowing their whistle, or "doors closing, stand clear" announcement way too soon, resulting in injuries and deaths. I hate it so much, just want to shout "people get a grip" ... all a bunch of lemmings.

    Anyway, thanks for a delightful read!

  5. Hi from South Africa - exactly the same thing happens here, anywhere some people are trying to get into the same space that others are trying to get out of - an international issue then. Thank you for your amazing blog, it is immensely entertaining :)