At first glance, issuing a manual on manners for users of Paris’ metro may seem like putting yourself forward for one of those Japanese extreme game shows. You know you’re going to look foolish in front of millions of people.
So you have to wonder why, last month, bosses at Paris’ RATP transport operator published just such a guide.
It’s called the Manuel du savoir-vivre à l’usage du voyageur moderne. Advice is divided into four categories: politeness, courtesy, propriety and helpfulness.
Among its top tips are calls to keep your arms down during hot weather – the implication being that this will spare your fellow passengers your smelly armpits. Using a handkerchief if you have a cold is also recommended.
The guide also calls on Parisians to help lost tourists – who can be identified by their Hawaiian shirts, apparently.
The manual is intended to help Parisians live more easily side by side.
Britain’s right-wing papers were quick to mock the guide. Yet what they failed to grasp, or chose to overlook, was its humour. Written and presented in the style of a book of rules from the time of the métro’s launch in 1900, the guide has its tongue firmly in its cheek.
Rule number one sets the tone for much of what follows: Being courteous… is understanding that the huge cigarette with a red line through it on the platform wall is not a contemporary work of art but a smoking ban.
If – like some of the London papers – you don’t get it, then perhaps the joke is on you.