Should you stand up for a pregnant woman in the train or bus?

I shouldn’t have to ask that question — it should go without saying that you would do so. But, sadly, I do have to ask it.

This is because twice this week I have seen instances where people appeared reluctant to stand for obviously pregnant women.
This morning, a woman got on the train and, after a few moments, I stood up for her, and she gratefully sat down, thanking me and giving me a lovely smile.
I say “after a few moments” because I was surrounded by young men and women, most of them 20 or perhaps even 30 years younger than me. I admit, I’d thought one of them would stand (is that wrong?). However, they remained in place, even in the seats opposite with notices that say the seats must be vacated if elderly, pregnant or disabled people need them.


 When I got up, none of the young men or women made a counter offer. They settled further into their seats, one making eye contact but quickly looking away.
A 35-ish man standing opposite me was shaking his head in disbelief. “I can’t believe that out of that whole group, you were the one who had to stand up,” he said. “Manners! Modern society, eh?” He said it loud enough for others to hear; they just sat there. Now, I’m not elderly or infirm or anything, but I do think that very young people should stand up before middle-aged people. There used to be a rule, too, that if you were on a student ticket, you were obliged to give up your seat to an adult. What annoyed me most was that more than one of us should have been prepared to give up his or her seat.
As I said, this was not the only incident this week (I catch a lot of public transport!). A few days ago, I got on to a crowded bus with no spare seats. After me, a woman got on who was pregnant. She stood for a while: no one got up for her, including people in seats right next to her.
Finally, a young woman standing on the other side of me courageoulsy tapped one of them on the shoulder and said, “I think you should stand up for her”, indicating the pregnant woman. The seated girl was genuinely surprised, and leapt up immediately. “Oh! I didn’t even notice,” she said.
I wondered if this was indicative of what had happened in both incidents. That people weren’t being rude, ill-mannered, or insensitive. They just didn’t notice.
Are we so embroiled in our personal worlds of music played via headphones or ear buds, texting, social media and even reading, or a combination of those things, that we fail to notice when fellow humans need our assistance?
It seems we need to get over ourselves, look around, and notice what’s happening in the world.

9 thoughts on “Should you stand up for a pregnant woman in the train or bus?

  1. In the early 1970s I watched a heavily pregnant woman go into a dead faint while strap-hanging on a crowded London Tube train in high summer. Nobody moved to help her and I was gobsmacked and still am to this day when I think of it. Failing to assist others is not a new phenomenon. Interestingly I have found it is often the person you least expect – elderly or tough tradie type, for instance – who has a care.

  2. If it’s any comfort, Caron, it’s not just where you live. I’ve seen that kind of callous rudeness too. I don’t want to go off on a rant, but I do think that there’s a modern culture of self-entitlement (i.e. I got to this seat first; therefore it’s mine. Why should I move?). I remember when I was young (the dinosaurs roamed freely back then), we were always taught to offer seats to the elderly, to pregnant women and those with disabilities. It’s just something you did. I do still see some politeness, but not like there was…

    • Yes, I agree with your points. We actually had to give up our seats to any adult if we were riding public transport in school uniform. This habit continued even when not in uniform. I guess I come from the time of dinosaurs, too, though.

  3. Sadly I see this and worse all the time. And, like you, I am not sure if it’s bad manners or that everyone is so self-absorbed they’re oblivious. It’s most likely both. People fall and no one helps them. Elderly people or tourists seem lost or confused and no one helps them. Everywhere you look people are walking and driving and sitting plugged into a device of some sort — listening or watching or texting and paying absolutely no attention to the world around them. It is a very sad commentary on our society. Good for you for doing the right thing and giving up your seat. Sorry to say, you’re among a dying breed.

    • A girl fainted right next to me in a stuffy, crowded train I was in last summer. People were very kind, giving her a seat and some water. But not the other young people seated nearest where she’d been standing: it was a group of middle-aged women sitting half-way down the carriage. Having said that, I do sometimes see young people offering their seats to older people, and I always feel so pleased that there are some people left with good manners and concern for others.

    • I know. It’s almost unbelievable. Here’s another thing: our train doors have to be opened manually, but so many (I have to add “young”) people just wait for someone else to open the door, even if they’re closest and getting out at that stop. I’ve observed this happening more and more over the last five years. Another strange thing: if there are a few people going through a door, and you open the door for the next person, they just slip through without holding it for the following person.

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