A year in Martinique

June 27, 2009

Ethnocentrism and Ethnoglobalism, Strategies for Culture Orientation

Filed under: Culture,Living Abroad — Phil Klein @ 2:25 pm

Ethnocentrism is a way that people have historically oriented themselves within their own cultures and in relation to other cultures. I’ve been thinking about it with increasing frequency while living in Martinique and considering the multiple cultures to which I and my family belong. Why is it that generally speaking, racism is considered morally wrong to the extent that we have laws against it, yet ethnocentrism remains a perspective present in nearly all cultures? Are there tendencies that counter ethnocentrism in cultures? Why should the first culture we learn be the last? Given our increasingly globalized and inter-culturally integrated and ethnically diverse and socially complex world, it’s surprising that there have been so few significant attempts to describe alternative tendencies in culture orientation.

From Wikipedia:

Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that one’s own race or ethnic group is the most important and that some or all aspects of its culture are superior to those of other groups. Since within this ideology, individuals will judge other groups in relation to their own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion. These ethnic distinctions and sub-divisions serve to define each ethnicity‘s unique cultural identity.[1] Pasted from <Deric Bownds for this term) which makes us reluctant to trust others who are different in some ways. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnocentrism>

Ethnocentrism can be viewed as two separable but related tendencies, towards in-group favoritism and out-group hostility. People cooperate and share with people from a common culture, and disparage and withhold from outsiders.

Seeking to acknowledge a measure of openness and permeability of cultures, and to describe people who identify as members of multiple cultures, I see another culture orientation tendency, which I have come to call Ethnoglobalism:

Ethnoglobalism: the tendency and preference for people to orient themselves in relation to many cultures, including but not limited to a home culture. Ethnoglobalists participate in, are accepted in, and self-identify with multiple cultures. Cultures are viewed as learned, not exclusively endowed, and in some measure are accessible to outsiders. While recognizing that people are most familiar with a first or primary culture, that familiarity does not inherently make that culture best or better than others. People form in-groups that span across cultures, facilitated with increasing ease of low-cost global transit and communications. Cross-cultural competency is valued. Ethnoglobalists dispute the view that one is limited only to one’s own single culture’s point of view, as is the view that foreign cultures are fundamentally inaccessible. The limits and difficulty of understanding unfamiliar cultures is recognized and visible, because the difficult road of learning another culture is one they have already travelled.

Ethnoglobalism is a strategy that supports greater socially complexity, providing both greater differentiation and integration across cultures. Hence it confers numerous advantages over the simpler worldview entailed in ethnocentrism.

In comparison to ethnoglobalism, ethnocentrism seems to fall short in some ways, yet also retains advantages. With ethnocentrism, other cultures are hidden behind a veil of inferiority non-familiarity, and people are blinded by an uninformed favoritism of what is known over what may be best. Ethnocentrism identifies outsiders easily, and builds on the strength of in-group loyalty and accountability. Resource hording, exploitation of outside resources, and centralization make for strong positions in times of threat and for maximization of profit. In-group cooperation between people or organizations that share a highly developed culture in common makes for efficient communication and action. The weaknesses of ethnoglobalism are that it promotes a distribution or distributed network of looser relationships, perhaps based on different evidence of trust. Another factor that weakens a tendency to be open to other cultures is a limited “acceptance perimeter,” which people have evolved to help us focus our social investments of trust and acceptance of people who are nearer and more similiar to oneself.

Robert Axelrod has modeled ethnocentricity as a strategy in a multi-cultural context, and he found that ethnocentricity (defined as in-group favoritism, not out-group hostility) over time as the dominant strategy. Non-ethnocentrists tend to evolve, in his model, towards ethnocentrism. What attributes in his model, if modified slightly, would instead favor inter-cultural in-groups, or an ethnoglobal strategy. With the rapidly changing and evolving dynamics of travel, internet communication and transactions, how do these change inter-cultural dynamics and costs and benefits of inter-cultural cooperation?

In any event, ethnoglobalism seems a view that merits further research and study. Perhaps there was a time and there are places still where one is likely to be raised and die entirely within a single culture, where cultures were generally isolated and insular. Today, few cultures are islands. The dynamics of ethnoglobalism, if it reaches the bar to be considered a serious theory, could be important and consequential to understand.

Questions  

  • Does ethnoglobalism damage or dissipate the integrity of cultures or help them, perhaps inoculating them against exploitation?
  • Does it generate groups that are too small to survive, or does it increase the survival odds by providing greater cultural mobility?
  • Is ethnoglobalism rarely or widely pracised, is it predictably learned, is it a capacity that we have that we replace with learned ethnocentrism?
  • If ethnoglobalism and ethnocentrism are in part learned ideologies, which should we be teaching children in our schools and families? What have studies shown regarding multi-lingual or bicultural education?
  • What ways can we use to asses our culture orientation, and promote healthy culture orientation?
  • Does ethnoglobalism just redefine the frame of in-groups and out-groups to span across cultures, or are their differences in how in-groups and out-groups are formed and how much repective loyalty or hostility they are due?

 

 


 

Notes

Ethnoglobalism arises in

  • families that have parents from multiple cultures
  • polycultural contexts where immersion in multiple cultures is normative
  • and in multi-lingual groups.

 

Ethnoglobalism has arisen in many cultures independently, and has been a motive for emigration, inter-cultural marriage, inter-cultural trade and learning. There has been some form of reciprocal altruism between some cultures for millennia, and numerous cases where multi-lingualism and familiarity with multiple cultures have been successful strategies.

 

Ethnoglobalism doesn’t idealize other cultures. Rather, it acknowledges what is not known about other cultures, and progresses from that ignorance through learning and advancement through the culture-specific rites and requirements of acceptance to reach a state of belonging. Nor is ethnoglobalism inherently disloyal to one culture, because participation across many cultures is not necessarily exclusive. Cultures which are more closed or which require exclusive participation bar or limit access to a prohibitive degree, and for these cases, ethnoglobalism is a problematic strategy.

Ethnoglobalism is not:

  • Multiculturalism – multiculturalism emphasizes diversity and cultural bounds. Ethnoglobalism seeks to transfer perspectives across those bounds, and may support or not support a multiculturalism view. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiculturalism
  • Cultural Relativism – suggests that ethnocentrism may be inescapable. Too many people live today who have full participation and fully developed worldviews from multiple cultures for us to believe that one is only limited to one point of view. Ethnoglobalism agrees with the need to take one’s cultural biases in consideration when viewing other cultures.
  • Transculturation – the process of moving across culture boundaries, including acculturation to a new culture and deculturation from a former culture. This implies a serial mono-cultural view and denies the ethnoglobalist view that one can participate fully in multiple cultures simultaneously, once one has met culturally defined criteria for full membership or participation in multiple cultures. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transculturation
  • “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” – ethnoglobalism does not involve mimicry of local or extra-cultural practices, but involves full cultural participation
  • Assimilation – this is the adoption of cultural features from a dominant culture, ethnoglobalism involve http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_assimilation
  • Ethnoconvergence – ethnoglobalism doesn’t imply a convergence of cultures, but complex coexistence, inter-penentration, but not dilution of dissipation, which are not necessary consquences

Wade Davis proposed the existence of an ethnosphere in his TED talk on endangered cultures: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/wade_davis_on_endangered_cultures.html 

 Definition of Ethnocentrism from Robert Axelrod

Robert Axelrod quoted from “the evolution of ethnocentrism 2004 (page 1-2)” short version at http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~dcrocker/Courses/Docs/Cross%20Cultural.pdf http://www-personal.umich.edu/~axe/research/Hammond%20and%20Axelrod%20JCR%2006.pdf longer version at http://www-personal.umich.edu/~axe/research/AxHamm_Ethno.pdf

 Ethnocentrism

Ethnocentrism is a nearly universal syndrome of attitudes and behaviors. The attitudes include seeing one’s own group (the in-group) as virtuous and superior and an out-group as contemptible and inferior. The attitudes also include seeing ones own standards of value as universal. The behaviors associated with ethnocentrism are cooperative relations with the in-group and absence of cooperative relations with the out-group (LeVine and Campbell, 1972). Membership in an ethnic group is typically evaluated in terms of one or more observable characteristics (such as language, accent, physical features, or religion) that are regarded as indicating common descent (Sumner 1906, Hirshfeld 1996, Kurzban, Tooby, and Cosmides 2001). Ethnocentrism has been implicated not only in ethnic conflict (Chirot and Seligman 2001, Brewer 1979b) and war (van der Dennen 1995), but also consumer choice (Klein and Ettenson 1999) and voting (Kinder, 1998). In short, ethnocentrism can be in-group favoritism or out-group hostility.

 

In practice, ethnocentrism is visible in two separable practices: in-group favoritism and out-group hostility.

<end quote>

David Crocker 2004, discussed 3 anti-ethnocentrist views, in relation to international philanthropic projects.

  1. Particularist anti-ethnocentrist — rejects culture exportation and importation. every society should develop cultural standards according to their own views; no external imposition.
  2. The Universalist anti-ethnocentrist — replace cultural bias with impartial reason
  3. The anti-Anti Ethnocentrist– we can only evaluate cultures from our own points of view

 

Phil Klein: I’m not persuaded these are the best alternatives.

 

Pasted from <neologism, coined as the antonym of Ethnocentrism. Xenocentrism is the preference for the products, styles, or ideas of someone else’s culture rather than of one’s own. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenocentrism>

John D. Fullmer of Brigham Young University offered that Xenocentrism results from an attempt on the part on an individual to correct his or her own ethnocentrism. He argued that as an individual reacts to his own perceived ethnocentrism, he or she will often overcompensate and instead begin to place undue consideration upon the ideas and needs of social groups that are far removed.

Thereby, a wealthy philanthropist may hear of an obscure disease in a distant country and invest in its research, although the matter is not entirely pressing within the community that he resides. The tendency for xenocentrism is also used to explain the reason that, in the political systems of many liberalist democracies, emphasis is often placed upon legislation to protect groups that are of a minuscule minority and with whom most voters have no immediate experience.

While Xenocentrism is defined by Fullmer to be a principal cause of ethical bias, emphasis is placed upon its position as an important step from inborn ethnocentrism to a state, labeled by Fullmer as “Omnicentrism.” This ultimately ideal state is characterized by the complete lack of any familiarity bias, whether for or against one’s own culture. Fullmer offers that the step from Ethnocentrism to Xenocentrism is one made by an ethically advancing individual, but that many fail to progress beyond this state, instead remaining biased by the unhealthy excesses of Xenocentrism.

 
 

Pasted from <http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0208/8642.html ). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xenocentrism>

Phil Klein: Omnicentrism commits the fallacy of universalism.

Phil Klein: Key knowledge may be attained from other cultures (for example, minority cultures tend to find ways to exploit acquired knowledge from larger or more powerful or occupying cultures, which aids in their survival. Michelle Obama’s senior thesis at Princeton was largely about power in white society

Phil Klein: President Obama appears to be a good if obvious example of ethnoglobalism’s success over ethnocentrism, as he grew up across multiple cultures, demonstrates his familiarity with and self-identifies with multiple cultures, while retaining a strong positive national identity as American, and he has very successfully oriented himself and won allegiance across many distinct cultural subgroups as a favored in-group member.

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June 15, 2009

Notes for TEDGlobal

Filed under: NPTech,TED,TEDGlobal2009 — Phil Klein @ 4:40 pm

This July, I will be attending this extraordinary conference and am bringing together ideas I have on the theme.

The Theme of TEDGlobal 2009 is “to explore and make visible the Substance of Things Not Seen.” To address hidden influences in our behavior, we need expose these by describing and exploring them, developing a language, applying tools from the arts and sciences to understand these. Each historic moment has a set of such unseen questions that are pressing to explore. Here are some that to me seem particularly pressing to understand today.
 

  • Information Technology
    • What if the web is really a social problem-solving system? New developments address deep complexity, and reduce costs of production, distribution and customization of information-based products and solutions.
    • What social problems can we now solve that we couldn’t before?
    • What’s the intersection of KM and Philanthropy? How do we apply business intelligence to philanthropy?
    • Now and in the near future, the web, with engaged participation, is a social problem-solving platform, machine, and environment. The web will surface attempted solutions, collaboratively filter them, and generate an attention-based attraction to relevant problems, then fit solutions are suitably packaged and delivered in actionable form where needed. The internet is a hospitable habitat for solutions to social problems.
  • Psychology
    • Cognitive illusions – in economics, happiness, relationships. Could we have a talk that included someone like John Gottmann to bring new knowledge on Relationships into the TED Arena?
    • Dealing with predictability of one’s death – Remember Randy Pausch and his incredible Last Lecture. There’s a growing group of (especially young) people who are told their death is coming by their doctors. What are healthy and transformational ways to deal with this ?
    • Habits – how do we manage the habitforming and habitchanging process?
    • Beliefs—how do we recognize and evolve our beliefs, and recognize the beliefs of others?
    • Greatness, excellence, perfection, joy, wisdom, ecstasy—what do we know about these?
    • Deepening attentiveness to the future and past in the age of twitter, multi-tasking and ADD.
  • Philosophy
    • Certainty and uncertainty
    • The illusory reality of future and past time, the fact of how we model these
    • Habits
    • Beliefs
    • Greatness, excellence, perfection, joy, wisdom, ecstasy
  • Culture
    • The influence of our cultures on what we do and think
    • Intercultural dynamics, economics, evolution
    • Does ethnocentrism have a future?
  • Language/Storytelling
    • How language structures us
    • Whose voices are silent that we need to hear?

Hard Rock Ballet

Filed under: Daily Life,Uncategorized — Phil Klein @ 3:38 pm

 

Dance class cancelled? No problem. There’s a rock to climb nearby.

 

If it looks like the girls are at risk climbing here, rest assured this is an illusion. Hopefully we’ll be able to rent some climbing gear so we can do some real rock climbing.

Fromager above St. Pierre

Filed under: Daily Life — Phil Klein @ 3:32 pm

Took these from my phone after a hike at Canal de Beauregard from Fond St. Denis.

This is a magnificent, huge, thick-trunked tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

View of Mt. Pelee from the road

Video tour of a few spots in Martinique

Filed under: Uncategorized — Phil Klein @ 3:07 pm

At Sean Henri’s blog: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c7c7853ef010535dd64a3970b

Sean won a trip to Martinique last year and took the time to document his brief visit.

He captured the view from the Morne Rouge bathrooms, which is quite something.

Hopefully he can come back, get some sunnier weather. Tour takes you up the caribbean coast, up to Mt Pelee, then down to the atlantic coast and back to hotel (at Club Med? I think?). next time you come, please also video: St Pierre, the church at Morne Rouge, Precheur, Habitation Depaz, more of the Atlantic coast (i think you just did anse Charpentier), Presqu’ile de la Caravelle, Habitation Clement, the beach at Point Faula, the coast at Anse Michel, Cap Ferre, Cap Chevalier and ilet Chevalier, the beach at Anse Trabaud, les Salines, Anses D’arlets and ti Sable during a concert at night, Morne Larcher, Diamant, Anse Noire, and a few more of the amazing places here that aren’t we documented online.

I couldn’t even find any good photos on Flickr of the Canal de Beauregard (Alas, another case of uncharged camera batteries). The Canal de Beauregard an excellent easy walk near Fond St Denis. A longer walk can take you down to St. Pierre.

 

 

 

May 20, 2009

Animals we’ve found in our house

Filed under: Daily Life,Uncategorized — Phil Klein @ 2:47 pm

We’ve had many animal visitors here. Since it’s warm and there is much tropical life everywhere, and since we keep our windows and doors open to appreciate the wonderful breeze, many animals feel welcome coming into our home.

Here’s a partial list:

  • Animals in our house
    • Mouse
      • We had a small, fast moving mouse for a short time.
    • Lizards
      • Small green lizards
      • Brown & green striped lizards
      • Medium brown lizard
      • Spotted, red-eyed lizard
      • Teeny tiny Baby lizards, just hatched
    • Crabs
      • Big white crab with one claw larger than the other.
        • This guy was really big and came in on a night after a big rain and flooding.
      • Smaller brown crab
      • Hermit crab, carrying his sea-shell home on his back
    • Night butterfly
      • A huge black and white moth, with long legs and antennae
    • Frogs/toads
      • Big frogs that can jump surprising fast for their size
      • Small frogs
    • Birds fly inside looking for breadcrumbs
      • Black with red neck bird
      • Striped, brown grey black bird
    • Crickets
      • These are loud and we hear them every night, all night.
    • Long green leaf-shaped insect
      • One night we found one of these on our bed net.
    • Spiders, beetles
    • Lightning bugs
      • These are wonderful, and kind of like night lights. We had one on our light bulb, so when we turned off the light it was still there.
    • Mosquitoes
      • These ones are not invited, but we have them often. We use bed nets to help keep them away which usually works.
    • Tiny ants
      • They’re called fourmis fous here, which means “crazy ants” because they move really fast and in circles a lot. They’re attracted to sweets and food. Keeping clean keeps them away.
    • Millipedes
      • These red millipedes, which can be 10 inches long and which move fast and have a poisonous sting, are the only dangerous creature we’ve had here. A bite from them means a trip to the doctor right away, and maybe to the hospital.

       

    •  

     

May 11, 2009

Basse Pointe

Filed under: Uncategorized — Phil Klein @ 7:18 pm

On May 2 there was a 10K Run at Basse Pointe, in the North of Martinique.

About 200 runners attended the Foulee de Basse Pointe.

Basse Pointe is at the foot of the gradually rising expanses that slope up the 4500 foot volcano, Mt Pelee.

The run was entirely through banana fields.

 

The start and end were here, beside the open building normally used for holding, washing and packing bananas.

 

The drive south from Basse Pointe is beautiful, with late afternoon sunlight flooding the air.

Hundreds of cattle egrets roosted in the trees by a river.

 

Coconut trees are still yellow from the now past dry season.

Each valley knows it’s own charm. On higher pastures, light colored cattle bask in the later day’s rays. Very light brown, they are a mix of several varieties of cow, bred to thrive in the warm climate and to withstand ticks. They are mostly a mix of Brunes des Alpes, Charolais and local Creole cows.

As night falls, the insects begin to chirp and sing. With windows rolled down, you hear the insects harmonizing to each other from across the road, impatient to be heard and to meet.

April 26, 2009

Paris in April

Filed under: Living Abroad,Uncategorized — Phil Klein @ 3:41 pm

We left our home in Martinique on an overnight flight on a an Air France Boeing 777-300ER. For us, Martinique is the center, and Paris and mainland France is a distant overseas territory for us to explore and discover.

The morning light is diffuse and the spring colors are cool and the red-roofs look rustic and beautifully aged, arranged in an ancient density.

 

The Louvre, as seen from the roof of the Musee d’Orsay. The Musee d’Orsay was created as a museum to bridge the periods of antiquity and modernity, captured and displayed by the magnificent Louvre and the Centre George Pompidou.

 

 

The Ile de la Cite.

i

Sailing boats in the Jardin de Luxembourg, just beside the French Senate offices.

The spectacular Saint Chapelle church, the private church built for the Royal family, defines beautiful ornamentation.

Versailles, where the enormous grounds and gardens go on for kilometers. Worth renting bikes or bringing a bottle of wine and a picnic.

From the Eiffel Tower at dusk.

The neighborhood patisserie.

Staying Connected during a year abroad, What’s easier, less easy than expected

Filed under: Living Abroad — Phil Klein @ 2:48 pm

One aspect of being here that’s been easier than expected is staying connected and having good communications with Seattle and friends in the US as well as with family and friends here. We have fast internet, unlimited phone calls to/from US for $3/month on Skype, a Seattle phone number that rings here, online banking, easy withdrawals from our US bank at ATMs here. Skype is very good much of the time, pretty reliable during off-peak hours, with video now very commonly available on laptops, as an added dimension that’s really nice. For business purposes, Skype is still prone to unreliability, dropped calls and poor sound quality are common at peak hours, so alternatives and backups are needed. Cell phone calls are reasonable to US (about $.10/minute for very clear cell connections) which is a good additional communications backup.

Really, it feels like I can be most anywhere, and still be close to all I care about. The possibility that you can live where you want to live, and work where the work is seems increasingly realistic.

While on the phone last night troubleshooting a computer problem, the tech asked me what that chirping noise was in the background, so I told those were the usual night sounds of insects here in Martinique. He asked me how I got permission to come here, and I told him that I just made the plans and told my colleagues what was happening; permission didn’t really enter into the conversation. I think we have a private more permission that we believe.

What’s been more difficult than expected has been:

  • finding a place to rent
  • realizing we needed to furnish our own place as we couldn’t find a furnished place within our budget; needing to buy a fridge and washing machine.
  • accepting that what we can afford to rent is far less nice than what we can afford for a vacation.
  • confronting the high cost of living. It’s the dollar that feels like fake money, not the unfamiliar looking euros. Since we arrived, the Dollar has luckily grown stronger against the still expensive euro.
  • adapting to a smaller home than accustomed.
  • navigating the institutions here, the way of doing things is so different, yet most locals assume we know that this is of course how things are done. we’ve been able to feel like fools pretty often and easily. People tend to be unaware of how many ritualized rules they follow which are local, assuming them to be global.
  • of course you have to wait in 3 lines for half an hour each to maybe be able to return something you bought.
  • of course you can only return an item at the specific store you bought it at, even if you’re at another location of the same store.
  • of course you have to go in person to have the water turned on
  • of course every kid will eat blue cheese and little tinned hotdogs in oily liquid.
  • of course boys and girls at public school use the same bathrooms without doors on the stalls
  • of course there is no toilet paper or soap in most public bathrooms, when they exist
  • change is stressful and can be hard on kids, especially when they don’t feel they can control or change the situation.

These kinds of difficulties have helped us learn how to thrive and respond positively to unmet expectations and thwarted intentions, and to rise above these to succeed.

More that’s been easier than expected

  • finding excellent food.
  • incredibly helpful teachers, extended family loaning us beds, furniture, closets, dishes
  • buying a car, thanks to a contact here who sells cars.
  • encouraging the kids to go swimming and play outdoors
  • coping with the hot sun midday. We’ve quickly adapted to making the most of early and late hours of sun, staying out of sun from 10:30-4 is easy and natural.
  • being accepted and welcomed by neighbors and peers.
  • dealing with a fender-bender. I was rear-ended while in traffic, and the offender just calmly got out, admitted his mistake in a friendly way, gave me his insurance information, and the claim was painless and matter of fact. No bristling or justification required.
  • adapting to the changes. At first this seems daunting, but before long, new routines become normal, and the aspects of discovery and learning that are daily experiences become less like surprises and more like how life should be all the time.

April 17, 2009

Using the Velib bike rental program in Paris, a review

Filed under: Daily Life,Living Abroad,Uncategorized — Phil Klein @ 12:42 pm

In April 2009, I spent 10 days in Paris with family, and my wife and I tried out the Velib program (official site in English, in French) and loved it. Overall, it’s an excellent, speedy, fun, inexpensive, and very fun way to tour Paris and for point-to-point travel, 24 hours a day. If you’re not completely new to riding a bike and have some experience riding in a city, Velib will take you between most any 2 places in Paris faster and more pleasantly than the metro or even taxis (assuming conservatively travel of distances of 10K/6 miles or less). For me, it took easily about ½ as long as the Metro for most trips, ½-3/4s the time of a cab ride depending on the time of day. Many roads have bike/bus lanes that are wide and traffic is often slow and easy to navigate. Some of the faster arterials and throughways are worth avoiding when they have no bike lanes. Compared with cities in the US, auto drivers Paris are maybe a bit less cyclist-friendly in their driving habits (about the same as in San Francisco or Washington DC, — not as friendly as Seattle).

There are a number of tips, caveats and issues with the program that are worth knowing beforehand.

  1. There’s a 150 euro debit or authorization on your credit card that is a precondition for using the system. If you lose a bike or it’s stolen, you lose your 150 euros. Not likely to happen, but that’s not a trivial amount.
  2. The 1-7 day ticket plan is great for visitors. Even for just a few hours in Paris, it’s worth it.
  3. During the payment process, sometimes the paper subscription card gets stuck in the machine. On several occasions, it took an oddly long time to come out of the machine. One time, I needed to bang on the machine to have my card drop down. While this issue is definitely a time-wasting hassle, this isn’t a risk for losing money, because your card is protected by a 4 digit code that’s not on the card.
  4. Pick a bike with a seat about the right height, or adjust seat before taking it out. A seat turned backwards means there’s something wrong with the bike. Often seats can be stuck and hard to adjust easily.
  5. When you return the bike at any of the many, easily found bike stations, just park the bike into a stand, wait 5 seconds for the light to turn green, and you’re done.
  6. The cost is free for 1st 30 minutes of a ride, 1 euro for each 30 minutes afterwards. To spend as little money as possible, plan for 30 minute-1 hour rides. Imo, it’s cheap enough to just ride as you need.
  7. Occasionally, often at key sites, a bike station will be full, meaning you can’t return your bike at the optimal location. Most stations have maps of nearest other stations, within a few blocks, so sometimes it can take a few extra minutes to do this.
  8. We didn’t have more than a few drops of rain, so rain might be an issue. The metro or a cab is a perfect alternative in the rain, though the velib tires seemed like they’d do fine in light rain.
  9. For groups of 4 or more, it may be difficult to always pick up and park bikes at the same locations.
  10. Remember to be safe, and that on a bike, you’re on the road with cars and need to stay aware of traffic and obey traffic laws.

The Velib system is always open, 24 hours/day, so it’s perfect for late night rides, especially after the metro closes. The traffic is less then, and the bikes all have lights, and Paris is well lit by streetlights. For me, my favorite rides were those we took from 1am-3am, with Paris lit up, cafes and bars closing, in the cool spring night air.

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