Say we're a family of four, and would like to sit together on a train in the USA that does not have assigned seating. How can I ask people to give up their seats without sounding rude?
closed as primarily opinion-based by Jason Bassford Supports Monica, SamBC, Lambie, Davo, Hellion Feb 18 at 16:00
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If you have no seats to trade and they would have to stand, don't even bother asking.
But if you do have seats to trade, say this:
"We were hoping to sit together as a family. Is there any chance you would consider trading seats with us? If so, we'd be grateful. If not, no worries."
This makes a polite request without applying any pressure, so it is very unlikely to appear as rude. And because it's so nice and disarming, it is very likely to achieve the intended result.
By the way, if they do trade with you, make sure to thank them warmly.
You could say "Could you please move, so that we can sit together?". Be prepared, in Britain, at least, for people to consider the request rude, no matter how you phrase it, and to say "No. Go away" (or worse!), especially if they have reserved their seats, or if they would have to stand in order to accommodate you. In many countries you can reserve seats at the time of buying the tickets, and ask to have them together.
Where I live (Germany) it's considered so rude that one shouldn't even ask; and they should consider themselves lucky to get single seats near each other.
Of course, there's always the gambit of deciding whom you want to move and telling your little ones to sit across from them -- so they will ask you to make the exchange -- but this of course is rude, too.