Umbrella Pas de Deux

Rainy Sydney Source: Rainy Sydney Source:
Rainy Sydney Source:
Rainy Sydney. Source:

When it’s raining, and everyone has their umbrella out, and you are passing someone going the opposite direction, and you are holding umbrellas at about the same height, and the footpath is narrow, your umbrellas will collide unless one party raises their umbrella, the other lowers their, or some combination of the two. What is the protocol for Umbrella Pas de Deux?

I posted this in Twitter-breviated form and got some serious and snarky replies:


The protocol is to – stop – consider together the injustice of two people fighting for space while car drivers are comfortable and dry – organise – overthrow the status quo


You’ve discovered the true reason why Minnesotans build skyways.


I believe it is honorable ritual suicide, but will double check.


Widen the footpath


Both dip their umbrellas away from each other. The equitable non-heightist solution.

Huffington Post has addressed this issue in Urban Umbrella Etiquette. They claim:

There is a general unspoken rule when passing people in tight passageways – the shorter person holds the umbrella over the taller person so they can pass, and the taller person raises their umbrella above the shorter person’s umbrella. Better still; close the umbrella till you get out of the scaffolding

Geri Walton also has an entire article on umbrella etiquette, but there is no rule but politeness for the pas de deux.

Gentlemen were advised that when walking in stormy weather and carrying an umbrella, they should “hold it so that you can see the way clear before you … [but also] avoid striking your umbrella against those which pass you.”[3] Women were likewise advised to “always hold an umbrella … so that it will clear your bonnet, and leave the space before your face open, that you may see your way clearly.”[4]

The Etiquette School of New York identifies 10 tips to avoid umbrella rage:

4. Raise or lower your umbrella depending upon the other pedestrians passing you. In other words, be flexible–be prepared to adjust the level of your umbrella to accommodate others.

Which is basically just to negotiate it in an ad hoc way. This is not the systematic solution I was hoping for.

Margaret Page has pored over this as well:

When passing someone on the sidewalk, adjust your umbrella for height. Using the “duck n’ lift” approach: taller person raises, shorter person takes the low road.

The tip your umbrella away from the other person and the `duck n’ lift’ strategies are not fully compatible. When I tip my umbrella, one side is lowered but the other side is raised.  Even if I lower the umbrella before I do this (‘dip and tip’), the higher end is higher than before.  Encountering someone the opposite direction who chose not to do this, but instead lowered their’s might result in an umbrella crash.