Bienséance publique / Public etiquette

File d’attente pour l’autobus, métro Mont-Royal. photo par “nothing

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Vous vous sentez enragés quand quelqu’un bloque le côté gauche de l’escalier roulant? Ou quand les gens entrent dans le métro sans attendre que les passagers en descendent? Ou encore quand personne ne laisse son siège à une personne âgée? Enragé est un bien grand mot, mais reste qu’un manque de bienséance publique peut parfois nous sembler tragique, un signe d’une société décadente! D’un autre côté, être témoin d’une civilité particulière peut nous redonner espoir en tout et nous faire oublier que quelqu’un vient de couper la file d’attente pour l’autobus.

Lors du lancement de Spacing Montréal, nous vous avons demandé de remplir un sondage. Une des questions portait justement sur la bienséance publique. Nous espérions voir comment les Montréalais(es) se comportaient en société… Je note ici quelques réponses disparates:


– Attendre que les gens sortent du métro avant d’y entrer
– Faire la bise
– Vérifier pour les vélos avant d’ouvrir la porte de son auto
– Faire la queue pour attendre l’autobus
– Redresser les vélos tombés
– Saluer et remercier le chauffeur d’autobus


– Entrer dans le métro avant que les gens n’en sortent
– Rester immobile du côté gauche des escaliers roulants
– Laisser la merde de son chien sur le trottoir
– Cracher
– Ne pas retenir la porte pour la prochaine personne

Les réponses les plus populaires sont celles de la file d’attente pour l’autobus et celle des entrées et sorties de métro. Je dois avouer que bien des fois, en sortant du métro, il me vient l’envie de sortir droit devant moi en repoussant soigneusement la personne (pour qui je n’existe pas) essayant d’entrer dès que les portes s’ouvrent. Un jour viendra.

Quelques réponses méritent aussi une mention toute particulière. Comme “la façon dont les gens se tassent pour ne pas s’asseoir à côté de quelqu’un dans l’autobus.” J’y réfléchis mais je n’arrive pas à me convaincre si c’est une bonne ou une mauvaise chose. Aucun doute pour celle-ci par contre: les “fusillades policières”; effectivement un manque flagrant de savoir vivre. Ou bien encore ce manque de civilité qu’est “n’avoir aucune bienséance ou la moindre conscience de la présence d’autres êtres humains.” Rien de plus vrai.

On ne fait que toucher la pointe de l’iceberg, par contre. Laissez-nous donc vos commentaires, histoires, tirades, etc. Petit à petit, on arrivera bien à créer un petit guide pratique de la bien-et mal-séance publique montréalaise.


At Spacing Montréal’s launch party, we asked you to fill out a survey. One of the questions had to do with public etiquette. We wanted to know how Montrealers behaved socially… Here is a sample of the answers:


– Waiting for people to get off the metro before getting in
– Double kiss greeting
– Checking for bikes before opening the car door
– Proper queuing for the bus
– Picking up fallen bikes
– Greeting and thanking the bus driver


– Entering the metro before people had a chance to get off
– Standing on the left side of the escalator
– Not performing “poop and scoop”
– Spitting
– Not holding the door

Other noteworthy answers included “the way people move so as not to sit next to anyone on the bus.” I’ve given this one some thought, but can’t make up my mind whether it’s a good or bad thing. But there is not doubt about “police shootings”. A clear lack of civility. Or again the “lack of any etiquette or even awareness of other human beings.” True indeed.

This is only the tip of the iceberg though. Send us you comments, stories, rants, etc. Slowly but surely we’ll come up with some practical Montréal guide to good -and bad- public etiquette.


  1. Saying hi to the bus driver is nice, but saying goodbye? For that to be possible you’d have to exit by the front of the bus — which is definitely NOT okay. Unless it’s a quiet night without a lot of passengers, you should always exit by the back. Going out the front means you’re getting in the way of everyone getting on the bus. This is especially bad when someone tries to exit by the front after people have already started boarding.

  2. Most people thank the bus driver while going out the back exit in Victoria BC. I was a bit surprised to find that no one does here, or anywhere else I’ve been, including Vancouver. I was also surprised by the bus line etiquette. I can’t quite say how I used to get on the without being rude, but i can tell you i never lined up as rigidly as people do in Montreal.

  3. Sidewalk and bike path abusers of all stripes get my goat:

    – slow-walking oblivious groups who march five-abreast, trapping you behind them. Do we need a passing lane on the sidewalk? I think so.
    – I’m pro-cycling, but it’s a _side_walk, not a _ride_walk.
    – people that randomly stop in the middle of a busy sidewalk, causing you to do a last-second dodge around them or worse, crash into them.
    – people driving mini motorcycles on the canal bike path (I’ve seen this at least twice).
    – Unicyclists who glare back at you — like they didn’t want to be stared at in the first place?

    In general:
    – bad table manners everywhere. Do what you want at home, but even in the lowly food court, try not to disgust everyone around you.
    – poor manners in the movie theatre. It’s not your living room. Don’t put your feet on the seats in front of you, turn your cellphone off, and BE QUIET! If you wouldn’t do it in church, you shouldn’t do it there either. Maybe we need to redesign cinemas to be a bit more gothic…

  4. That’s a funny anecdote, but insulting or swearing at people on the sidewalk (even if they are being clueless) is also an etiquette no-no. Swearing is only ok if people are being dangerous or deliberately aggressive (in which case it is allowed, but may be unwise).

  5. I have a serious problem with the current ‘bag on wheels’ craze. They intrude on sidewalk space and I’ve almost tripped over them in the metro a number of times. I can understand people using them when they have large bags, but most people now use them to carry tiny little book bags or day packs.. like a purse on wheels!


    People who insist on standing right in front of/next to the door on the metro or bus even though they aren’t getting off for 20 stops. These people are a menace and should be ejected between stops, while the vehicle is in motion!

    People who wear their backpacks on the metro/bus and end up whacking eveyone around them each time they move. Take them off and hold on to them jackasses!

    That’s all for now..

  6. Oh my. Where to start….. I love the lineups for buses, as well as the fascist queuing up behaviour (one bus driver refused to let some poor soul on his bus who tried to jump the queue, the guy obviously wasn’t familiar with the Montreal Way of lining up for the bus. It didn’t help that the bus driver was screaming/explaining the situation in French, which this poor guy obviously didn’t understand).

    Montreal is a big city, with small town behaviour. No one, and I mean NO ONE (um, exaggeration, but still) knows proper escalator behaviour. Stand on the right, let the walkers walk on the left! People have become angry at me (!) when I ask them to move to the side (en français et en anglais). And I cannot count the number of rude remarks and nasty glares I have been the recipient of when I ask someone to move their cart in the grocery store, or when (mon dieu!) I move their cart, which has been stopped in a way so as to block the entire aisle.

    The double kissy kissy thing – I know this is some sort of loved Montrealism, and people have laughed at me when I point out the sexist double standard, but here I go again: WHY is the double fake cheek kiss the norm for women greeting women, and women greeting men, but not for men greeting men? Men shake hands. I want to shake hands. But I’m female, so I have to do the kiss thing. I hate it. I hate double standards. My male homosexual friends do the kissy kiss – but revert to the handshake with male heteros. What the? Either everyone does the fake kiss mwah mwah – or no one.

    I know I’m alone in this, and I’m okay with that.

  7. Regarding bus queues: I remember being shocked on a trip to Morocco. There, public etiquette amounts to a tacit mutual understanding that we will all fight our way on the bus. The bus driver lines up his door somewhere in the middle of the group of waiting people who immediately start funelling in. Apart from actual blows, I think everything goes; elbows apart, sticking one leg in front of your neighbour, yelling that your family is already on the bus, etc, etc. It think my feet stopped touching the ground at one point… It seemed odd, that the only thing (apart, again, from actual violence) that would have seemed out of “etiquette”, would have been complaining about the situation. But in the end it was all in good fun -I guess because we actually made it on. Still, I think I prefer our tacit Montreal conformity.
    Regarding queues in general, a lesson from Spain: when you get to a place where there is supposed to be a queue, or some hierarchy, and there isn’t, you ask aloud: who is the last one? That person answers and thus gives you your place in the queue. Although there are many ways in which this rule is broken, avoided, “forgotten”, it does have the elegance of both queuing using non-linear geometry and giving you two witnesses to your position. It’s always a pleasant victory when those witnesses nod in approval as you challenge a line-cutter.

  8. French panic, I’ve always been confounded by how the same Montrealers who jaywalk with such abandon also line up for buses with such rigidity. Meanwhile, nobody lines up for the metro and, when the train arrives, it’s a pushing match as to who gets on first.

    As for the two-cheek kiss: I’ve never been able to comfortably do it. It feels like such a contrivance, especially when the one doing the bise is some white-bread anglo who moved here less than eight months ago. Maybe my head is just too square but this is one Montreal social pseudo-custom that I’ve never been able to get a grip on.

    One other observation about Montrealers and their public behaviour: all of us make intense eye contact when we pass people on the street, but it’s not the kind of friendly, “Hey neighbour!” suburban eye contact but a vaguely hostile “sizing you up” type thing. People here feel that it’s okay to stare and silently judge; elsewhere people just avert their eyes in public.

    The flip side of that is that, in my experience at least, there is much, much less random conversation with strangers here than in other cities. The people who start randomly talking to you on the bus, etc. are usually old, crazy or from out of town.

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