Travel Etiquette

I just returned to Shanghai with a 14+ hour flight and before we left the ground I almost blew a gasket! It had to be the worst flight ever. Travelling on a small piece of metal hurtling through space which is already cramped and crowded you need to think about fellow passengers and not to mention customer service.

I have learned travelling with Chinese is just like trying to get on the subway metro. It becomes survival of the fittest. Push, shove and why wait for others to get off before getting on? If you are polite and orderly then you will miss the train. Before the attendants are even at the gate they line up waiting to get on the plane. Umm has anyone told them the little piece of paper called the boarding pass is guaranteeing them a seat and place on the plane? I don’t understand the logic of lining up when seats are called by row to help ease the flow of boarding. I have started to do the same now only because if you wait for your seat chances are there is no room for your carryon luggage. A few times it has to be stored 5-10 rows away from where I am sitting which is fine until you try to retrieve it. Soon as the plane stops moving they are up out of their seats pushing to get off the plane. What is the hurry? You can’t go anywhere until the doors are open! So basically I end up waiting until the flight is almost empty to get my things. Patience is not in their vocabulary 😉


This flight I was caught a little off guard and they started to board soon as the attendants arrived. I was also leaving from Toronto and last flight in January anyone who tried to board ahead of their called rows was turned away, so I didn’t feel the urgency to get on just yet. Lesson learned; never assume things will be like last time! I thought we were on a larger plane with over 60 rows of seating, so I got in line when they called my row in the 40s. Once on the plane I realised I was sitting at the back and ¾ of the plane was already on board! While still waiting in line the last rows were called and the remaining passengers tried to push and cut into line ahead of the other passengers who were already waiting. Common courtesy is just not observed.

As I tried to fight my way upstream to my seat, through the many people blocking the aisles who seat rows had not yet been called, the people behind me were close enough I could feel them breathing down my neck. As I stopped and waited patiently for the blockers to rummage through their carry on the people behind me began to push. Really where do you want me to go? Should I trample the other passengers? After about the third time I said out loud ‘Really? You need to push me? People are in the way’. The people behind me backed off ever so slightly.

overhead bin cartoonI got to my seat to see all the overhead compartments stuffed full. No one put anything under their seats and large carryons (most people had 2 plus a large bag of duty free). Obviously the carry on luggage rule was not carefully monitored. I asked the flight attendant to help me find space and she said go back and look closer to the front of the plane. I said ‘No I don’t think I need to put my luggage near the front when there should be space here. I boarded when I was suppose to and all the others came on early and took up all the space. That isn’t right.’ She just walked away. Great customer service… thanks for your help. Did she come back later to see if I found space? No of course not.

Thank you to the kind gentleman who tried to help me squeeze my bags into an overhead bin, but there was just no room. He also had an unfortunate situation where his wife and small baby were near the front of the plane and he was near the back. The flight attendants said there was nothing they could do since the flight was pretty well full. I doubt they asked anyone to move. I am sure if someone knew the situation they would have helped. I also had asked for an aisle seat hoping they could do something at check in. After explaining I was travelling alone, needed to get up and move around and needed close access to a bathroom I was told I had a window and that was a good seat. Again thanks for your understanding and good customer service.

Now just add a small wheelie bag and purse to the picture and you will have my view.

Now just add a small wheelie bag and purse to the picture and you will have my view.

With no other option and I wasn’t about to try to swim back downstream I shoved my small wheelie bag under the seat in front of me along with my purse. In an already small environment I now had no leg room. Good thing I am short and I am not claustrophobic because this would have put me over the edge. My seatmates came along and luckily didn’t have large bags. They settled in and it started to snow, so the long flight was about to get longer as we had to go to de-icing. Luckily it was a light snow and hadn’t had time to accumulate so the icing process only took a few minutes.

Soon as we were in the air the fellow in front of me reclined his seat and immediately started to snore. Could this get any worse? As it would have it yes. I had difficulty sleeping due to my cramped positions and my body just ached and was all tingly from pins and needles. My body was finally tired enough to sleep through the pain. Not long after I got some sleep my snoring friend kept opening the window to see outside even though the night lights were on. The blinding light woke me up from the 2 hours of sleep I managed to get. He had to have opened the blinds at least 3 times. Hey buddy yes it is still sunny… just like it was 15 minutes ago. I guess he already slept 7 or 8 hours and didn’t notice the other sleeping passengers around him.

This is how I felt only more confined being at the window and having my carryon underfoot.

This is how I felt only more confined being at the window and having my carryon underfoot.

In my already cramped position I noticed my middle seat mate had the legs propped up on my luggage which as you recall was under my seat. She had lots of space on her side, but I guess thought I needed less. At the end of the flight an announcement was made to stay in your seat if you needed assistance and a flight attendant would happily help you. Well sitting at the back of the plane I couldn’t get out and I had to wait for my seat mates to leave so I could pry my things from under the seat. Did any attendants come to see if I needed assistance? No of course not. They were all too busy gathering their things and leaving the plane. I left BEHIND some of the flight crew. I guess the announcement is not put into practice, but sounds like good customer service. I have done a lot of travelling in my life and this had to have been the worst flight with common courtesy and customer service I have ever had. Maybe if I put it out there in the universe people will stop and think about travel etiquette… Here are a few things for travellers to think about.

1. Carryon luggage – if you have more than 1 bag stow one under your seat so others have room for their things.
2. Think about packing light and not carrying all your belongings on the flight with you.
3. If you want people to fly your airline again acknowledge them and be kind, don’t ignore them and walk away. Maybe they wouldn’t be so grumpy with you if you treated them like a valued customer and wanted their repeat service.
4. Wait for your seat row to be called before lining up to get on the plane and the airlines should reinforce this.
5. Personal space… in an already cramped environment need I say more?

Now this may not be the worst travel horror story, but having back trouble and requiring to move every 2 hours or less, leaving my husband in Canada (and hopefully seeing him before July) and dealing with family illness back home I was sensitive and emotional as it was. All the small things built up and made the trip back here alone difficult. (And I didn’t even get into the taxi situation once I arrived in Shanghai…).

All images from Google Images.

What is your worst travel story? Or what can you add to the travel etiquette list?

Categories: Chinese Adventures, post a week, social graces, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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13 thoughts on “Travel Etiquette

  1. I have had a Twitter account for almost 3 years and never used it. I decided to link my posts and give a few updates using it. Check out more and follow me on Twitter at
    Diana UY ‏@Rocse1

  2. my gosh, i thought they’ve stopped doing that … guess it will take another decade. when i first started going to China in 2002, i would always get startled by the rush to the doors of the airplane and then to the seats. i only understood later that they really think someone else will get their seat as they are mostly used to trains and when you are paying economy, you better move quickly.

    the pushing and shoving and lack of respect for personal space or consideration for others stems a lot from having next to nothing and having to be bloody tough and remorseless to get it during the cultural revolution of the 70’s (1966-1976, 10 years of madness) and then suffering the consequences well into the 80’s and even 90’s with an economy that stood at a standstill and no trade with the world meant no goods.

    they’ll get better, i’ve witnessed the changed personally over the years. some people are even learning to queue up now. brilliant!

    • Thanks so much for your insight and taking the time to explain and comment. I figured that must be part of the reason. I know everyone is not like this, but it just seemed all the rude people were on this flight! We have lived here for 3 years and this was my worst Chinese experience to date. Normally I enjoy the quirky and unusual nature of the country.
      Thanks again for stopping by.

  3. This is horrendous, people are so selfish! I’d like to know which airline it was?

    • It happens with any airline that they all rush for a seat. Chiefmadapple just commented about it as well and said yes they think someone will take their seat since that is the norm on other forms of transport. I know it is like that on the metro for sure! Not everyone is like that of course, but seems all the ‘bad apples’ were on this one flight! Just another frustration that is common when living abroad. Normally it doesn’t bother me this much, but with all the other stuff going on I was overly sensitive.

  4. Freda Goulet

    Diana, I can only imagine how uncomfortable your flight was…We have never experienced anything like that while flying, but Jack totally dislikes flying for the feeling of being confined in such a small space. He would have been jumping out the window!
    I have experienced the rude pushing and shoving of your adopted country people at service centres here in Canada. They elbowed their way to the front of the line, never caring whose toes they stepped on. I was amazed the first time I experienced this…Hang in there!

    • It is a way of life here and with over a billion people you can’t afford to be polite or you will always be left waiting. I understand that, but this time it really irked me since I couldn’t go anywhere. I guess they figured I should push past too.

  5. The Chinese I know or have travelled with are not like these at all. Are they from China? We are traveling to China in May, makes me wonder…

    • Hi Amy, It is a cultural thing for sure and not all people are like that. I certainly didn’t want to create a sterotype with my post, but a rant about being polite when travelling. I have known people from every culture to be rude in some way or another. With that said to put it in perspective with over a billion people in China they cannot worry so much about personal space and be polite and waiting. If they were too polite they would always be left behind. Normally I understand it, but this time it really bothered me…. maybe because I was in Canada and expected a different attitude and reaction.

      • We are going with a travel agent. We will be on the buses while traveling, hopefully we don’t have to deal with the pushing and rudeness. Some of the Chinese from China that I have met in US are very polite and complained about the rudeness in China …

        • Yes some of the locals here also complain. A coworker who has lived in a few cities in China for years said you can see those who are educated and those who aren’t from the way they behave in public. A very nice Chinese young fellow helped me get a taxi when I was waiting. It was chaos and people were just running to the next cab and not honouring lines. When the next one came a lady went to run and get it and he kindly told her I was next. It is not all bad. I love the quiky nature of the place, but as I said I was just out of patience that day and it bothered me more than usual. If you are prepared for it and open minded then it won’t bother you as much. 🙂

  6. Freda Goulet

    You are right, Diana…I , too, have encountered rude people in many cultures. It is understandable that pushing and wanting to be first could become a way of life with so many people living together. Confucious (SP?) wrote that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us…perhaps we are expected to push and shove too!!

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