What I Wish the Internet Had Told Me About Walking in Europe

While living in France for 7 1/2 weeks I pretty much only used public transportation.  Public transportation means lots of walking.  Being a pedestrian in Europe is pretty much like being one in the States, but I decided to point out three differences, crosswalks, escalators, and parking lots.

Crosswalks

Crosswalks are not in the same place in Europe as in the U.S.  They are slightly farther away from the intersection.  You might not always see them right away because of the tall buildings.  When you come to an intersection, be sure to look around the corner to see if it has a crosswalk.

If the intersection has a light, look for the lighted sign of a person.  Green means walk, red means don't walk.  Unlike in the States, there is no flashing "Don't Walk" warning you that it is about to turn red.  It just ends.  But don't worry, they have quite a delay before the cars can go, so don't feel like you need to run through the intersection.

If the intersection doesn't have a light, you get to play "chicken" with the cars.  But don't worry, it's not as bad as it sounds.  Basically, it's the same principle as how customer service works in France.  If you want the car to stop for you, you need to look like you want to cross the street.  Just standing at the edge of the crosswalk is not automatically going to get the car to stop.  You need to actually look at the car and move in like you want to cross the street.  Warning: The cars slow down quite quickly, you might not think they are going to stop, but they are.   It takes confidence and boldness to use the crosswalk, but they will stop for you. Just don't be surprised if the car stops just a few inches away from the cross walk and then speeds up immediately after you pass by the car.  

Escalators

Like crosswalks, escalators are pretty much the same in Europe but there are few minor differences.

In France, Belgium, and Germany, I noticed that you'll find down escalators far more often than up escalators.  So be prepared to use stairs to go down.  

Some escalators are motion activated.  This means if no one is on the escalator, it won't run.  To check to see if it is motion activated or just broken, step on the pad in front of the escalator and see if it turns on.

Sometimes the down escalator is on the right of the two, and sometimes it is on the left-hand side (opposite of what seems natural).  So if you are at the top of two escalators and both are stopped and you don't know which one is the down escalator, look for the indicators on the handrail.  The one you can use has a green light.  The one that you can't use has a white light with a red bar through the middle. 

Common courtesy is to stand to the right, climb the stairs to left.  Just like in the U.S.

Parking Lots

Cars are really good to stop for pedestrians.  But what drivers don't seem to like is when a pedestrian is walking where they aren't supposed to be.  I learned this walking through a parking lot.

In America when you walk through a parking lot you basically leave your car and take the shortest route the exit.  Not in Europe.  Very large parking lots have walking paths for the pedestrians so that they don't get in the cars' way.  If you find yourself in a parking garage or very large parking lot, looking for a painted pathway directing where you should go to get to the door. 

Enjoy walking through Europe and always be aware of your surroundings.  Violent crime isn't common, but pickpocketing is.  

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