Friday, 24 June 2011

The pattern of sitting down on a train

There's a certain pattern to the way in which people will sit down at a group of four seats on a train. Next time you get a train, particularly a commuter train, watch and see if this is true.

The first person to get to the seats will almost invariably choose the one next to the window, facing the direction of travel. Because the seats on a commuter train are too close together, and everyone wants to be able to relax a little, the next person to sit will take the seat diagonally across from the first. This allows both passengers to spread out both sideways and in front of them.

At this point they're both pretty comfortable, and hoping the train will leave before anyone else needs to joins them. If a third person does come, they will take the other aisle seat. The reason for this is simple: nobody wants to have to climb over other people in order to sit down.

This is however exactly what the fourth person is going to have to do. In addition, because the second person had already claimed their bottom space, this last person is going to have to wedge themselves into whatever room is left between the second person's hip and the wall of the train.

There you go. There's the pattern of how people sit down on a train. Of course, because it's a pattern, it's also etiquette. Violate this sitting down system and you'll be considered rude or, worse, a bit weird. If you're second to arrive, don't sit directly opposite the person who's already there. There's plenty of space on the outside, nobody wants to sit with their knees in their chest when they don't have to, and you can see out of the window perfectly well from over there. And you take this journey every day - there's not going to be anything new to see. And don't even think of climbing over people when you don't have to!

Note: this pattern is based solely on observations in the UK. Perhaps people in other countries sit down on their trains in a different manner. If you've spotted some different systems abroad, please do let me know.


  1. Yes but sometimes the British politeness kicks in and the second person will move over to the window seat to allow the 4th person to sit more easier. In Germany I noticed the Germans choose an aisle seat at first and refuse to move an inch as you squeeze past them. The Egyptians manage to fit 10 people where 4 should be... they don't have rules....

  2. It's just the same way here in Norway.

    But I don't mind if a big, fat person sits down right next to me. It's so damn cold here one has to take advantage and soak up all the warmth one can!