TRAINS (17 July 2011)


This is a general post on riding trains in France.

  • The stop at which you need to depart is not what is displayed on the screens listings trains, their times and platforms. The name listed on the screens is the final destination of the train in question. SO, it is important to familiarize yourself, or get a hold of a map with major train stops.

Practical Tip:

During the announcements, even if you don’t know the language, listen carefully to the stops listed. You should be able to hear your stop. This is important to do just in case you got on the wrong train.

In case you are curious or worried about being distracted by the rest of the words in the announcement, here is what they are saying (roughly):

“Hello ladies and gents. This is a train that departs at X time for X final destination. We will stopping at these following places…”

My story regarding trains –>

Lesson: always greet people (especially strangers, especially when asking for help) with “Bonjour Madame/Monsieur!’

…one of the most vividly remembered lessons from my French class in the U.S….& I forget it!!!!

I had to transfer trains. I went to the wrong platform, realized another train had pulled up to another platform in time for my departure time. I realize my error in reading the screen & head over. Wanting to be sure I was heading in the right direction (remember individual stops aren’t listed) I panically asked a worker if this train stopped in Pau. His first response was “Bonjour mademoiselle”…I froze realizing the cultural error I had made (whoopsie!!) “Oh- pardon. Bonjour monsieur. Est-que c’est le tren a Pau?” “Oui.” “Merci beacoup Monsieur!” And I ran off…

I was embarrassed because I knew that a greeting is expected, but I was flattered as well because I guess when I spoke my question (which I had rehearsed in my head on my way to the correct platform) very French-like. My former professor told me that if they know you’re not French they won’t think you’re rude if you forget to say hello….I guess some lessons are meant to be experienced.


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