London – Paris

A recent trip to the “La Ville-Lumière” opened my eyes to a few cultural differences that exist between London and Paris.  Nothing huge, just little variances I noticed which caught my ever keen attention.

Quite a few elements, unsurprisingly, revolve around Paris’ excellent Metro system.

Busking
London typically offers an average singer-guitarist, occasionally someone more talented and entertaining, but nearly always an individual.  Paris swings full spectrum and it isn’t uncommon to have large classical bands or even a string quartet performing for your loose change.

One of London’s more talented

A classical twist from Paris

Tickets
Metro tickets are deceptively small, I guess the French used to be much more environmentally aware than Londoners were.  Then London got Oyster, which takes the notion of reusable tickets to another level.

The credit card size Oyster

The smaller Metro ticket, about one third of the size

Station Signage
Whereas London feels that consistency is best in the station signage, Paris offers a bit more character and individuality to the station name and decoration.  From the upper-class and elegant Louvre Rivoli, to the beautiful mosaic style of Chemin Vert and of course the more traditional Varenne.


Seating
Paris seems to have realised that strangers don’t actually want to sit next to each other, to the point in London where I’ve seen people avoid an empty seat just because there is someone in the adjacent seat!

Crammed together in London


Spaced out in Paris

Maps
LED maps (similar to the Barcelona Metro) offer location at a glance.  I have my suspicions, however, that London could be holding back on this concept for, ahem, budgetary reasons.

Particularly helpful for tourists

Door Signage
London sticks to silhouette line art for this, whereas Paris, even with the bizarre introduction of a rabbit character, gets the message across in a much more light-hearted graphic representation.

Spikes automatically emerge as the doors close?

Cruelty to animals?

Bicycles
Paris has had a bicycle hire scheme, or “Vélib”, since 2007 and from what I observed it is still running well, though you wonder how much Barclay’s corporate colour scheme had to do with them winning the London advertising bid, especially when you compare it to the Parisian equivalent that seemingly  blends into the street.

Vélib cycle hire

Boris Bikes

A bit cheeky, but I also love how the French are, almost painfully, obvious in their directions and signage for both large landmarks, and exit routes, clearly overstating on both fronts.

Sorry, where is Notre Dame again?

Which way out?

Overall, and all tongue-in-cheek comments aside, I completely recommend Paris as a city.  Beautiful architecture and museums, fantastic scenery and incredible food – there’s very little not to like!

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5 Responses to “London – Paris”


  1. 1 Tony March 3, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    The observation about seating is so true, but it is not confined to the tube.

    In any mode of public transport, you often observe people who will stand rather than sit next to a stranger.

    You also see something similar in gent’s toilets, though in stand up mode, rather than sitting down.

    (I would like to add that I am not an expert in public lavatories and their facilities, have not studied them in depth and do not wish to be thought of as having a particular interest in that area.)

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  3. 3 financial investment companies March 30, 2011 at 1:57 am

    Looks like a lot of fun! Nice place too. 🙂

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