Umbrella Etiquette: How to Not Annoy Other People With Your Brolly

Umbrella Etiquette: How to Not Annoy Other People With Your Brolly
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If you thought we were done with the wet weather that’s hung around all summer, think again. She’s here to stay, so it’s time to brush up on your umbrella etiquette — simple, polite rules to follow so you don’t irritate everyone around you.

The Bureau of Meteorology has warned that La Niña is sticking around for awhile yet, with wet weather expected on the east coast of Australia for the rest of April.

So once you’ve stocked up on all your wet weather essentials, make sure that staying dry doesn’t ruin the day for everyone in your vicinity by remembering these simple guidelines.

Yes, I take this umbrella etiquette personally. On wet days, the Sydney CBD quickly fills with two types of people: those who are getting wet because they forgot to bring an umbrella, and those who are going to get murdered because they have an umbrella and are deploying it to ruin everyone else’s lives. It doesn’t take more than a smattering of common sense and consideration to use an umbrella without becoming a nuisance to others.

The most important thing to remember is that umbrellas expand your personal space. You need to be aware that you’re taking up more room, and act accordingly. Don’t try and barge past groups of people while carrying an umbrella; someone will get injured. Ditto if you suddenly decide to open a large umbrella on a busy street corner. And above all, remember that people who are taller than you can get hit in the face or stabbed in the cornea by your umbrella. You staying dry is not more important than whether the tall dude standing next to you keeps his eyesight.

The second thing to remember is that you might not be wet, but your umbrella probably is. Don’t dump it on the seat next to you on the bus or train; that’s effectively rendering the seat useless for other people. Even if you’re holding on to it, bear in mind that it can easily drip water onto other people. It’s not difficult to take a plastic bag with you so you can wrap up your umbrella when it’s not in use. Failing that, put it on the floor. It’s already wet and dirty, so who cares that it’s down there?

If you’re on public transport. don’t hang it over the back of the seat in front; it’ll dig into the person sitting in that seat. If you regularly take buses or trains, a golf-sized umbrella is generally a bad idea.

The third thing to remember is that not everyone else has an umbrella, and the people that don’t want to get out of the rain quickly. The fact that you have an umbrella is not an excuse to linger dazed, especially when waiting to cross the street.

Finally, if you’re grabbing your umbrella from a stand at a shop or restaurant, remember that umbrellas look alike, so check to make sure you have the right one. And don’t be a skank and grab the one you wish was yours instead.

Any other umbrella etiquette rules which brolly users should bear in mind? We’re all ears (and spare plastic bags) in the comments.

This article has been updated since it was first published.


  • I agree with this!
    Except I’m so short that people always try to invade my personal space by hovering umbrellas over mine then bumping into my umbrella. I can never see my way : (

  • I was thinking about this yesterday!
    Here’s an umbrella etiquette question: When you’re walking through a crowd of people with umbrellas you often get wet from bumping into other people’s umbrellas. You can raise or lower your umbrella so that there are two tiers and you can easily walk past people without getting wet. But! what’s the etiquette around who raises theirs, and who lowers theirs?

    my thinking is tall people should raise, and short people should lower… but there’s always that awkward moment when it goes the other way…

  • I rarely bother with an umbrella, they seem to be more hassle than they’re worth.

    One of my biggest issues with umbrella users is that they seem to have a knack for taking up the sections of the footpath that provide some level of shelter from the rain. All they need to do is take two steps to the side and suddenly nobody is getting wet. Yet they don’t. Ever.

      • I think it might have something to do with the misguided notion of “walk on the left”. Footpath etiquette is a weird thing and not many people seem to realise that you can walk wherever you please, as long as you aren’t interrupting the flow of people.

        The only time where you shouldn’t walk wherever you please is when it’s raining. Then it’s umbrellas street side and un-umbrella’d fools building side, so that there might be just a little bit of reprieve from the rain from the buildings.

    • I cannot agree with this more, I always go out of my way to go into the rain if I have an umbrella, making sure anyone who doesn’t be allowed space to walk on the sheltered side.

  • And why do the people with the giant golfing umbrellas get their noses out of joint when I nip under their shelter for a brief respite from the downpour while we wait for a break in traffic?

    It’s not like they don’t have room.

    • As a golf umbrella tote-er, I don’t think that would bother me – as long as your friendly enough to strike up a bit of chit-chat.

      Some random person standing under my umbrella and saying nothing would be a little weird.

      • I used to use the “i have an umbrella and that cute girl doesn’t” idea as a great pick-up tactic…

        … perfect for being that nice generous guy that gives over some appreciated umbrella space and perfect for 2 or 3 blocks of chit chat 😉

  • I don’t think the issue is so much umbrellas, the problem is people who are inconsiderate and lack a sense of social etiquette; umbrellas are merely a means for those problems to become exaggerated. Unfortunately it’s becoming more and more prevalent these days to be inconsiderate of anyone except themselves.

    Admittedly, I’ve never worked in the CBD for any longer than a few weeks at any given time, though when I had, I did witness how crowded the footpaths are during peak hour. It’d be an immediate recipe for disaster. While I usually do carry an umbrella if there’s a high likelihood of rain, if population density was an issue, I simply chose not to use it and carry it instead. It’s not like there was ever far to walk between my starting point and destination anyway.

  • Sydney CBD is full of golf-umbrellas with corporate logos – companies don’t bother emblazoning their logo on anything smaller.

    Additional rules:
    1) If your umbrella looks like a metal spider wearing a scarf, then chuck it. It’s much harder to see one of those metal spikes approaching your cornea than one that has cloth stretched from it
    2) If carrying a folded umbrella in your hand, don’t swing it backwards and forwards or swing around on the footpath. I’d rather not be stabbed in the nuts.

  • When walking up or down escalators or stairs keep the pointy end of your umbrella pointed downwards. One fall and you’ll end up skewing anyone in front of you.

    Keep you f’ing umbrellas out of my eyes! Sick and tired of getting the spines sticking out the edge of umbrellas stuck in my eye. Look around you and don’t be an asshole. If you walking off a train platform and there isn’t enough room to swing a cat, don’t put up your umbrella!

  • Don’t forget to close or fold up your umbrella when already under cover. It’s annoying when walking under cover, trying to get past lazy people with thier umbrella open. It’s just lazy of them, I always close it when under cover.

  • Oh man, this is one of my biggest pet peeves. I’m not a gigantically tall guy, but if I didn’t wear glasses, I’m pretty sure that inconsiderate umbrella-carriers would have cost me both my eyes by now.

    People also seem to think it’s OK to carry them point-forward when they’re ‘down’.

    I’d rather just get a bit wet than be ‘that guy’.

  • If you’ve got a golf umbrella save it for the golf (or somewhere similarly devoid of other people).
    Golf umbrellas are not going to keep you much drier than a small umbrella, unless a few people need to get shelter from it.

    Use a small umbrella because golf umbrellas are too big for the city.

  • Here’s another one, give tall people a wide berth! I’m 6 foot 5 and most umbrellas happen to be right at my eye line. I’ve been hit in the face and poked in the eye many times during the winter months. I don’t use an umbrella myself becuase, being a giant, it only really keeps my head and shoulders dry.

    Umbrellas are right near the top of my enemies list a long with that bald guy who drove a green ute from uni, door to door sales people and nazis.

  • As a tall person, what annoys me most are the short people who insist on spinning their umbrella as they wander aimlessly along the footpath. I’ve avoided being decapitated by these wannabe circular saws on enough occasions.

  • This needs a part two… Part two is all about how to maneuver your umbrella for best personal use. You know the Muppets who end up with an inverted umbrella or who manage to get saturated even with a 6×6 golf size brollie.

    PEOPLE!!! Rain is light (little droplets of water) and as such it generally follows the direction of the wind. You need to place your umbrella in between you and the oncoming wind. This maybe directly in front of you, maybe to your left, right or behind AND sometimes (just sometimes) above your head.

    By doing this you achieve to things.

    1) prevent the prevailing wind from turning your brollie inside out.
    2) minimise the amount of water that actually lands on you.


  • I’m just going to go ahead and say it… WOMEN are the single most frequent cause of “umbrella eye poke”. It seems that everywhere I go, women expect you to lift your umbrella out of their way. In turn, they will do their utmost to poke you in the eye because, like I said, it’s not their job to be courteous. Even if you do manage to avoid their eye-poke, you will probably have to move your umbrella and get soaked anyway. Sorry, but I’m not trying to be sexist. It’s just an observation.

  • “And above all, remember that people who are taller than you can get hit in the face or stabbed in the cornea by your umbrella. You staying dry is not more important than whether the tall dude next to keeps his eyesight.”

    Not wanting to sound like a sexist pig (although their may be a height thing coming into play here) women are the worst at this to copping me in the face with umbrella corners.

    It also seems like anyone who puts up their umbrella immediately becomes the person who does not have to give way to others. The amount of times Ive been smacked in the face by people too precious to angle their umbrella way from a crowd of oncoming people is ridiculous! For what? The odd chance a few droplets of rain might grace their prestigious crown?

    I’m just waiting for the day i get hit in the eye, then snap in a fit of rage and someone is one umbrella down for the rest of their afternoon.

  • A peeve of mine that has been touched on in a couple of comments – don’t walk in a fully covered and rain free area with your umbrella up EVER. Also, what’s with people keeping their brolly up *anywhere* when it’s barely even a drizzle?

  • Talk about necro. You resurrected a post nearly 2 years old?

    Here’s a bit of umbrella etiquette for you:

    1. If you have an umbrella, don’t walk under cover with it. Either put it down or go back out in the rain. When you walk under cover with your umbrella up, all you’re doing is blocking people who don’t have umbrellas and want to get out of the rain. Stop it.

    2. When your umbrella is folded/closed, hold it so the shaft is parallel with (and basically runs along) your arm. Don’t hold it perpendicular, like you would a suitcase, ever. The number of times I’ve nearly been stabbed by some idiot swinging their closed umbrella, it’s a wonder the crown jewels are still intact.

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