This How-to-Tuesday I’m going to explain to you how to ride the train. I will be explaining some basic rules, which are pretty much applicable to any kind of public transportation.
In the Netherlands public transportation is the easiest and more importantly cheapest way to get around. We have trains, busses, trams, subways. You name it, we have it. We prefer to ride our bikes everywhere, but sometimes we have no other choice than to you use public transportation. And no one wants to arrive at the office covered in sweat from riding their bike to work.
Before I start with these simple rules, I need to explain something. In the Netherlands we use public transportation whenever we can. This doesn’t mean we like our public transportation. Our OV (openbaar vervoer, which is the Dutch term for public transportation) is the number one thing we love to complain about. Delays, disgusting seats, annoying staff, when it comes to our OV we complain about pretty much anything. It’s pathetic, but when you live in such an economically stable country, you have to find something to bitch on about.
Let’s start with some rules.
Rule number one: Plan your trip beforehand! Know your destination and know how you can get there. Like I said, there are multiple ways of traveling in the Netherlands, so know exactly how to get to the finish line. In addition, also look up the stations you will be passing during your journey. For example, you want to go to Amsterdam central, but you’re at Haarlem station. The fastest way is the train, which will go from Haarlem station, to Amsterdam Sloterdijk station and then to Amsterdam Central. This way you don’t have to panic every time the train stops at a platform. You know exactly when you need to get out.
Rule number two: Get to the platform early. Don’t wait till the last minute. Make sure you’re on time, so you have enough time to figure out how the ticket machine works. (I mean, I could make an entire How-to-Tuesday just explaining how that thing works!)
Rule number three: Make sure you’re on the right platform! This seems pretty obvious, but you would be surprised how many people get into the wrong train.
Rule number four: Seating! This is one of the most important rules there is. It will take some time to explain, but you’ll get the hang of it. When you get into the right train, you have to find yourself a seat, and since we live in a socially awkward world, there are rules!
In the Netherlands we have the couple-seats, which are two seats next to each other. And we have the four-sitters (this probably isn’t a word, but who cares), these seats are two couple-seats facing each other. When there’s no one else in the coupé / compartment (I have no idea what you call it), you are fine. Just sit wherever you want. But if there are, pay attention!
Couple-seats: When there’s already someone sitting in a couple-seat. That’s too bad. You’re going to have to find another seat. You don’t want to sit next to someone. (Could you imagine actually sitting next to someone? Someone you don’t even know.) This is pretty much all you need to know about the couple-seats. One seat taken? Move on.
Four-sitters: This is where it gets complicated. First, if someone is sitting in the four-sitter. Don’t panic. You actually just found yourself a seat. Just be careful. Don’t sit next to the stranger and most importantly don’t sit opposite the stranger. Take whatever seat is diagonally opposite this weird looking person. Because don’t forget, we are all socially incapable of sitting next to another human being.
Okay, last but not least. If all the couple-seats and all the four-sitters are taken, you have three options. Option number one: Look for the old guy, who looks like he is dead or about to die, and sit next to him. This way you can be sure he won’t talk to you. Option number two: Look for the cutest guy / girl and sit next to them, hoping that they might talk to you. Option number three: Move on to the next coupé / compartment, or just stay at the door and wait till you get to your stop.
I could go on about seating. I mean there is the possibility that you found a seat and someone sits next to you. This is where it gets tricky, because what do you do when you get to your stop? You can’t just tell them. Okay, I’m going to explain real quick. When you’re about to get to your stop, first start packing your things. Get your bag, put on your coat or maybe you have a scarf. The point is, make sure the person next to you knows you are getting out. If they still don’t react. Look at them really uncomfortably. (Keep in mind, you are socially awkward, so you can’t just ask. I mean that would just be too much. Staring at someone uncomfortably is something you’re really good at. So stick with that.) When they look back and trust me they will. Slowly, no sudden movements, get up and smile awkwardly. This is the moment they will know. Mission accomplished!
Rule number five: Get out of the train!
Like I said, I could go on, but I think this is enough for now.
Have a nice Tuesday.