The other night I was teaching a client in Moscow and he asked me to explain the phrase, "packed in like sardines" which he had heard was a good way to describe rush hour on the Moscow Metro, however he was a little unsure if it was an offensive phrase or not.
The phrase is not offensive and in fact comes from the business of food processing.
Sardines, as you know are a type of fish, and we normally buy our sardines in small tins. When we open a tin of sardines, its normal that there are a lot fish in the tin and there no free space.
Therefore the phrase packed in like sardines is used to describe a situation where people are in an area or space with little room to move.
So it is not offensive and in fact a very good way to describe the Moscow Metro during rush hour.
"Every morning I take the Metro to work, it is always full and there is no room to move because everyone is packed in like sardines."
Packed in Like sardines = No space to move
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