Don’t standup until the bus stops

One of my earliest memories is being taken to museums and exhibitions around Stockholm by my grandmother. These trips would invariably involve a bus journey, something I found incredibly exciting. My favourite thing, of course, was being allowed to press the button.

After pressing the button, I was told to remain seated until the bus had come to a complete stop – a safety precaution that nearly everyone in Sweden takes. My grandmother was particularly firm on this point. You remain seated until the bus stops, then you get up to exit.

Not so in Britain.

The moment the stop is announced everyone gets up, starts walking down the aisle and down the stairs. And of course, nearly fall over once the bus actually stops.

This is one of the golden rules of British society, comparable with ‘you must not look at anyone on the underground’ and ‘if someone bumps into you, or even gets near you, you must say sorry’.

This particular rule – ‘you must get up when the stop is announced’ – applies to all forms of transport, including buses, trains and aeroplanes. It’s particularly obvious on trains, where the last stop is normally announced about 10 minutes before the train actually stops.

Over the years I have become reasonably good at adhering to most rules of British society. This one, however, I just can’t do. My grandmother’s teaching is simply too ingrained in me.

So, every morning, without fail, the following scenario is played out:

I am sitting comfortably reading my newspaper in the outer seat. As we pull away from the stop before mine, I can sense the person sitting next to me starting to twitch uncomfortably. It is clear that he/she is also getting off at my stop.

As we are nearing the stop the twitching gets worse. The person is thinking ‘Is he getting off here? Will I have to say something?’. I can sense fear (it may be important to point out another golden British rule here: ‘you should not talk to someone you don’t know, especially not on public transport’) as the person realises that they might actually have to say ‘excuse me’.

The stop is announced and the person stands up, making it clear that they want to get off. I slowly fold up my newspaper, in the hope that the bus will stop before I have to get up, but I’m not slow enough and so I am forced to stand up and start walking down the aisle.

As the bus comes to an abrupt halt I am forced to hold on for dear life to not be thrown forward.

And my whole body screams: ‘you are doing something naughty!’

I can hear my grandmother’s voice in my head:

‘Wait until the bus has stopped before getting up’.

And I think:

‘I’m sorry, it’s not my fault, I’m just in a foreign country’.

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4 Comments

  1. This is so funny! I was of course taught the same and still, at 55, I feel bad if I´m getting up too early!

  2. Haha. Of course, you too!

  3. That comment was by my mum, by the way.

  4. Looking forward to immersing myself in British culture next month. Thanks for the great intro!


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