Umbrella Etiquette

July 13: Paris has rain. Even if you haven’t been to Paris you know that, but if you have been to Paris for any length of time, not just in April, you will have encountered the umbrella- make that parapluie- dilemma . The narrower the street and sidewalk the more important this becomes. I haven’t read in any guide-book how to handle the situation. I don’t know if this is part of the social training for young French children but from what I’ve observed, I’d say not.

So, here’s the dilemma. When confronted with another person with an umbrella who goes up and who goes down? Does the person on the right raise their umbrella and the left lowers his/hers? Does it depend on gender? The woman down and man up? What about age? Young up, old down? Height? Tall up, short down? You can see the problems.

A few things are clear.

1.If only one person has an umbrella, the un-umbrella person, man, woman or child, gets the part of the sidewalk that has the most protection. That usually means next to the building unless there is an awning (and there are plenty of those) and the rain is running off the awning.

2.If running, that person gets the right of way-unless you are both running for a bus (which is the only reasons Parisians run that I see ) in which it is everyone for themself.

3. If two people are heading in the same direction, the overtaking person must go up since the overtakee won’t see you coming.

4. In windy conditions, don’t worry because whoever has the wind behind will be struggling with their inside-out umbrella. You can make an independent decision.

5. When going down into a metro, can you can leave your umbrella up until you reach the bottom of the stairs because you have to watch your footing on the wet slippery stairs and can’t attend to your umbrella. You are permitted, in fact encouraged, to shake the rain off before boarding a train. How vigorously you shake depends on how many people are standing in the shelter of the metro station gazing up at the rainy stairs with hopes the rain will stop. It won’t. So they become one of the many dashing (but not running) without an umbrella since when they boarded in another arrondissement where there it wasn’t raining. See  #1.

6. Don’t open your umbrella while climbing up the metro stairs, no matter how hard the rain. You will certainly find yourself in the overtaking position (see #3) and mostly likely will poke the person climbing ahead of you who is also trying to open their umbrella.

You can see the potential for irritating someone-most likely a Parisian who knows the rules- and if you are a tourist give them additional reasons to find tourists so irritating.  I am sure there is material for a doctorial thesis here. And when one is finished sorting out the rules for Paris, there is always London, Zürich, Brussels-the list goes on and on and we haven’t even touched on color of umbrellas and how that might change the entire social scene.

Meanwhile, I’m out of here- with my umbrella.



About ejhowle23

Authors and adventurers, participated in the World Race 2011, an automobile rally from New York to Paris, crossing three continents and 14,000 land miles. Following much the same route as the setting for our debut novel, The Long Road to Paris. This blog describes our own adventures and challenges. And now you can follow our Bahamas sailing adventure that provides the setting for our second novel, Night Watch. Our rally, the African Safari Challenge, crossed five countries in South Africa in May 2014 and in 2015 we participated in the second Trans-American rally this time from Nova Scotia to San Francisco. Spring of 2016 we travelled 28 days around Australia with friends from previous rallies and in the fall participated in our most exhausting rally through Argentina, Chili and Peru- the Rally of the Incas. We were awarded the Against All Odds award. We're still not sure if this was for us or our car. Stewball never broke down and we hardly did. We will soon take on Iceland as a self-drive tour and in the fall of 2017 we will participate in the Odyssey Italia and then back to Africa for a do-over (almost) of the Africa Safari Challenge.
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