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The Strategy in Choosing a Seat on a Public Bus

In my last blog entry, I described how many Swiss people prefer to stand in a public bus rather than sit down next to someone they don't know. While this may seem a strange thing for many, an even more peculiar behavior can be observed in the seat an average Swiss person chooses on a public bus.

leerer bus
Empty Bus - Fabio Sommaruga  /
Let us assume that a passenger boards an empty bus and sits down in the rear part of the bus. A second passengers enters and now has to decide where to sit down. He takes into consideration personal preferences (e.g. window or aisle seat) and proximity to the driver (older people generally sit closer to the driver in the front part of the bus). According to my observations, the most important factor in the choice of seating, however, is the presence of one or more other passengers on the bus. In an almost natural inclination the new passenger sits down in a seat two rows away from an already sitting passenger. This means, there is at least one row of empty seats or one empty seat between the two passengers.

To illustrate, let us assume that the first passenger is the blue dot. He (or she) is already seated when the second passenger enters the bus. In most cases the green passenger will choose a seat outside the blue circle, which means at least one empty seat away. This is marked with green dots. A lot of passengers intuitively make sure that the distance between themselves and other passengers is maximal.

Thus, if several passengers enter the bus, the distribution of passenger throughout the bus would work as follows (keep in mind that this is only an observation, no proof exists of this peculiar behavior):
1) The blue passenger enters first and sits down.
2) The light blue passenger(s) board the bus and sit down at a conveniently and comfortably large distance from the blue passenger.
3) The yellow passenger(s) enter next and sit down with the greatest possible distance to the blue passenger and the light blue passengers. In fact, they tend to sit down right in the middle between the blue and the light blue passenger.
4) Any further passengers (green passengers) will abide by the unwritten rule of not sitting next to a stranger and pick the empty seats in the rows between the blue, light blue and yellow passengers.

I am not sure if this is a strictly Swiss behavior in public transportation vehicles. I can imagine that Germans would behave in a similar way but I honestly never paid too much attention.




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