Does elevator etiquette differ between cultures?

Americans tend to distance themselves from other passengers and rarely initiate strangerly chitchat or much interaction whatsoever. To my knowledge, Americans enforce broader personal boundaries than, say, a Saudi, so I wonder if this factors into elevator conduct.

Not IME (Western Europe, Latin America, US). An elevator simply isn’t large enough for ways to deal with personal space to come into play.

In my experience, assuming they are all strangers, the first four in will occupy a corner each. After that it’s free for all.

Not in terms of space, but in terms of gender. I was raised to believe that men should board an elevator before women, but let the women exist first. (In case there’s no car, to bravely spare the tender maidens from plunging to their deaths? To keep their contact with elevator operators to a minimum? Who knows.)

This rule of etiquette seems to have been subsumed by “ladies first no matter what”, or what I practice now, “other people first unless that’s more annoying than just getting in the damn elevator yourself.”

If I’m there already when someone boards, even if there’s just two of us, I always ask people their floor and offer to push the buttons for them. Most other people find this weird and usually ignore me and reach around to press their own floor. It seems that people would really rather not be spoken to, but I would feel rude if I didn’t offer. Of course, one man’s “polite” is another person’s “creepy,” so what can you do.

for a bit of fun, try pushing the alarm button and see what happens.

lift rules are country specific.

In my experience, Japanese people sometimes will crowd onto the elevator before letting people get out. This behavior is inexplicable. I’ve also heard anecdotal evidence from other sources that people have noticed this behavior.

I don’t recall riding any elevators while in Japan, so I can only relate to the couple of times I’ve seen this happen in America.

One other weird elevator experience I had was in Caracas. I was getting on an elevator and the door was shutting. So I stuck my arm into the door to push on the sensors. The door completely closed on my arm and I had to rip it out of the door, fortunately before the elevator moved. Christ, that was scary.

I’ve encountered that behavior in people from several nationalities, including American. AFAICT it’s not cultural, it’s just that being polite is local whereas being a jerk is universal.

I did that one, but I extended my clear plastic water of bottle between the doors instead. Turns out some elevators use an IR sensor to determine if there’s an object between the doors, and it sees through clear water bottles.

The elevator occupants weren’t happy.


Obligatory link

Personally speaking, I greet everyone getting on the elevator with a warm handshake and ask them to call me, Admiral.

I was in the Soviet Union in the late 80s and they hadn’t discovered lift door sensors yet. They relied on an old fashioned magic eye and light tripwire placed just in front of the door. It was at just the right height that you could easily step over it if you were running for the lift with hilarious consequences. Come to think of it, I only remember seeing this system in hotels used by westerners, so maybe it was an evil soviet joke. Along with the turn styles on the metro that were open by default and only slammed closed on your groin if you didn’t insert a ticket.

At my company, which has a fairly traditional ethos, it’s “ladies first no matter what”, even if that actually makes it slightly annoying. I.e. if there’s a group of men to the front of the lift and a woman at the back, all getting off at the same floor, the men will have to organize a parting through them so that she can exit first. Same with getting on.

I also believe women have to exist first. Who’s going to birth them babies otherwise?

It’s not even monolithic in the US. In my culture of origin (suburban Yankee whitebread) there was not a strong “ladies first” rule, and everyone generally pushed their own button, but calling a number or asking what floor occasionally happened. In the cultures I regularly navigate now - the Veteran’s Administration hospitals and African Americans living or visiting in Section 8 senior buildings - there are very strong cultures of “ladies first” and “nurses first” (and maybe “white women first,” or “obvious visitors first,” I can’t readily account for those variables). It’s taken some adjustment on my part. If I don’t go first, we’re going to have a square dance in the elevator car before anyone gets off. Also in those cultures, it seems customary for the person closest to the buttons to push them for everyone, and each person calls their destination as they step through the doors to get on. If you don’t call it out, you’ll hear a slightly annoyed, “What floor?” and if you reach around someone to push your own button, people get irritated.

When alone, I press on all the buttons. There’s just the risk of being caught as I step out. In one perfect caper, I stepped out in time to see someone go in (he didn’t see me.) He was contemplating the button rack as the doors closed.

Something I picked up from Australia: There was this old turkey vulture in our office who like to tell people off (for whatever reason.) Once she called me stupid in front of other people. So after hours, I wheeled her chair out, put it in the elevator, pressed the top floor and waved the chair goodbye. It took maintenance half a day to find it.

I have worked in half a dozen buildings in the US, in DC, Manhattan, Atlanta and Kansas City. Can’t recall a single time the door was rushed, before the occupants could exit. At least without apologies, and the rushers backing out.

In China and Japan this rushing seems to happen as the rule rather than the exception during morning But to be fair, the elevators seem to be a lot more crowded. And there just doesn’t seem to be a culture of implicit queuing, where people mentally keep track of who arrived first.

Maybe it’s just the crowding.

i used to work in a building which has 69 floors. a guy who got in on the ground floor pressed his floor and then the magic number 69. meaning the lift would go all the way up there before it made it back to ground.

now that’s real nasty.

I used to work with a guy who would rush elevators with no apologies. He was definitely in the “jerk” category, though.

Born and raised in Ohio. General rules: Let those getting out of an elevator leave before getting on yourself. Let ladies get on the elevator first, and then let them off first, unless it is so tightly-packed that you’d smoosh those behind you to make room for the ladies to get off. If others can’t reach the floor buttons, offer to push the buttons for them. Talking on a cellphone in an elevator is kind of rude.

Obligatory Far Side cartoon:

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I haven’t seen that, but what seems to be universal is that people waiting for an elevator, even on the ground floor of a busy hotel lobby, crowd around the door of the one that’s about to open, and invariably look surprised when the doors open to an elevator full of people! They have to back away to let them out (and do, rather than rushing in, thank goodness). But really IMAGINE! there are PEOPLE on that elevator! OMG! Stupidity abounds.

That’s similar to how people wait for luggage at an airport. Everyone would be far better off if everyone stood two or three feet from the conveyor. About 20% of people do this, and roll their eyes as idiots step in front of them. But at least there’s logic to the idiots’ behavior.

Airports should paint a line with the words “Wait behind this line”. Of course, everyone would ignore it so never mind!

My guess is she had a perfectly good reason for telling you off, given that you’re the kind of [expletive deleted] who’d press all the buttons on an elevator.