Escalator & Elevator Etiquette You Need To Know

Here’s a quick experiment: next time you get into an elevator full of people, don’t turn around and face the doors when you get in. Just stand facing forward, facing them, and wait for your stop before turning around and getting out. Better yet, get a group of people and all do it at the same time.

If you noticed that everybody was a little freaked out by it, congratulations! You’ve replicated a famous 1962 study that tells us a lot about how we deal with etiquette.

All of these little rules make up our society, and they’re usually there for a reason: without some of them, it makes every interaction a little bit of a guessing game. And there’s no better place to test or learn etiquette than on an escalator or in an elevator.

Escalator Etiquette

Be the best and stand to the left

When getting on an escalator, the unwritten rule on anything larger than one-abreast is to gravitate to the left. Standing on the left means that anybody who’s confused about the idea of an escalator, and thinks that it’s regular stairs that you can walk up, can walk to the right to overtake.

This serves a useful function, if you think about it. Everywhere in the world that you go, you won’t have to navigate frogger-style through a gaggle of people in order to make your way to the top quickly. Just stick to your left if you’re coasting, and the right if you’re rushing.

Sometimes people break this rule and stand in the direct middle of the escalator. By international law passed down by the U.N, it’s perfectly legal to sue them without a trial. Or it should be, at least.

As a quick aside, under that same U.N law, bags and other objects count as people. If you’re on an escalator, remember that just because you’re on the left doesn’t mean that people can get through if you’ve plonked down a great big suitcase, or you’re carrying more shopping bags than Carrie Bradshaw. Keep them to the left too, to the best of your ability, and if you’re carrying that much it might be better not to go up the right past people at all.

Don’t stand in front of the escalator

Another thing that you can do if you want everybody to harshly judge you is to stand idly in front of the escalator entrance or exit. This isn’t just annoying, but it also has the added benefit of causing a large pile up, so if you’re looking to make life incredibly inconvenient for a large amount of people this is a great example of what to do, (hint, don’t do this!).

Escalators aren’t rides

Finally, don’t let your kids go up and down the escalator as a ride. Not only is it unsafe, but nobody wants to get up halfway only to be faced with an oncoming horde of 8 year olds.

Elevator Etiquette

As we’ve already seen, getting into an elevator can be a strange example of social conformity. As our first rule, ‘conducting a social experiment to make other people feel uncomfortable’ is a pretty big no-no in elevator etiquette in general. Sorry about that.

Don’t pollute the air

You’re going to be in an enclosed space for up to a minute with a group of people you’ve never met before so…for the love of sam, keep flatulence to a minimum. Nobody wants that. If you’ve got some gastric distress coming along, maybe consider waiting for the next lift. Or take the stairs; maybe some exercise will help out with your digestion.

Don’t push all the buttons

While we’re on the subject of uncomfortable situations, don’t press all the buttons on the lift when you get in. Imagine a scenario where you’re the only one in the lift, and think it’s funny to press all 30 buttons on your way to the 23rd floor.

Bad idea, now you’ve got two problems. One, your lift is going to stop at every floor. Every. Single. Floor. This means that you’re going to be pretty cozy in the lift, and that you’ll also get to know everybody who rides with you very well. You’ll also get to feel their cold, unyielding, judging eyes boring into the back of your neck as they stare at you for making their trip from 10 seconds to 3 minutes. Fun prank, terrible payoff.

Don’t play goalie when people are trying to leave the lift

If people are trying to exit the elevator (and if you’ve broken the rules here so far, they’ll be wanting to get off sooner rather than later), stand to the side as much as possible to let them out. Nobody likes the feeling of being packed in like sardines, so treat others as you’d like to be treated.

Testing the elevator cable is never funny

Finally, some people think that it’s a right old lark to test out the cable strength of an elevator. Wait, hold on.

Why would you ever do that? Firstly, the only possible outcomes are:

  • It does absolutely nothing (this will happen 99.9999999999999% of the time).
  • You annoy, or worse, upset your fellow passengers.

You’re actually much more likely to trigger a safety system (still unlikely) than you are to do anything to the cable, which will simply lock the emergency brakes and trap you in the lift for a duration of time. Amazing work, master prankster!


Liftronic Pty Limited is Australia's most reliable vertical transport supplier. With almost 40 years in the industry, our team shares the latest insights on the world of elevators, escalators and everything else that takes us to new heights.