Follow the news to stay safe during your Paris study abroad

(Inside the RER. Photo by

Playing with my new favorite Smarter Paris app has got me back in the groove of following French news. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been slacking off a little. It’s not as official as Le Monde or Le Parisian, but I like Yahoo! France because it covers gossip, news, politics, and its comments are just as wild and obscene as those of Yahoo!. The very first news story was about a rape on the RER A line in Paris yesterday. A twenty-one year old woman says she fell asleep on the RER train when she was awoken by two men accosting her; one was raping her and the other was stealing stuff out of her purse. This happened at 8 o’clock on a Monday morning. I did a quick check on American Yahoo! to confirm if this story had made US news- it hadn’t. One of the reasons I recommend students to always follow French news is so that you can know what is going on in France. How would you know to avoid the RER train in Paris early in the morning if you weren’t reading stories like this?


(Always a useful skill to have when living in a big city. Photo by

Reading this article jogged my memory of the few times I took the RER and the things I’d hear about it. When I was in Paris, a young woman was murdered on one of the lines. I believe this was also a real early in the morning attack. My experiences on this Parisian train were thankfully uneventful, but I do remember not liking it as much as the bus or the metro. In fact, Parisian public transportation is gross. It’s one of my least favorite things about the City of Light. It’s very efficient (when there’s not a strike), but the safety factor for the metro and train are serious cons. Another con to this otherwise great method of transportation is the yuk factor. The yuk factor is the graffiti, smelly people, noisy people, and the pervs that can be found on the RER and metro. They seem to not use the bus as much. Yep, there are pervs. It is not uncommon to see a man masturbating, or at the very least, inappropriately touching his genitals on the metro. I wouldn’t be surprised if this has happened on the RER train a few times, too.

 rer3(Loving these ads by RATP which showcase other bad public transportation behaviors.

Why do these crimes and perversions occur? Well, it’s a major city with lots of different people who have varying degrees of mental health stability, moral values, and respect for women. Public transportation is still the best way to get around Paris and I still recommend every student to take it. But you also need to know that crappy things can happen to you or someone else when riding the metro or RER train. I don’t think that you need to go out and stock up on mace for your time in Paris. Just be aware of your surroundings; don’t get into empty metro / train cars if you can get in one with at least one other person; and don’t be afraid to call a perv out. I have heard a couple of stories from American female students who have witnessed men touching themselves on the metro. Naturally, they felt uncomfortable and didn’t say anything. Although silence is a natural response when we’re uncomfortable, it also gives the perv confidence that he (or she) can do what they want in public as no one is objecting. You don’t have to go crazy and confront them, but a “Eh, fais ça chez toi!” might do the trick. I also ok using tu in those situations. When someone is going to be gross and disrespectful like that, no need to hold them to the same formalities as others.

There’s no need to cancel your Paris study abroad (or pack your bags if you’re already in Paris), but it’s important to stay smart and sharp when traveling with public transportation.


Here’s the article from Yahoo! France

Bonne chance!

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