It is well known thatLondonis a vibrant city bursting with people from all over the world. For centuries the city has opened its arm to migrants and different cultures and the evidence of this can be found in almost every part of the city from the architecture to the cuisine. Despite this however there are certain ‘rules’ which all Londoners know and understand and these can be tricky for newcomers and tourists to grasp if they have never been to London before. Whilst nothing terrible will happen if you make a faux pas or two (despite the stereotype, many Londoners are extremely helpful and friendly) it is always worth reading up on the culture of a city before you arrive, just in case…so here is what NOT to do when in London:-
Stand Too Close
British people value their sense of personal space so make sure that you try and respect that space where possible. If you stop and ask someone for directions then don’t crowd into them but instead, stand a respectful distance away. If you are being forced against someone due to a busy train then don’t stare as this will only make the person next to you feel increasingly uncomfortable. Large and outlandish public displays of affection are also often frowned upon, unless you know someone particularly well. However, don’t let that put you off speaking to someone or asking for help, if you need directions to your hotel such as the Montcalm at the Brewery, for example, most people will want to assist if they can.
Stand on the Left
We said most Londoners were friendly and this is certainly true. However, if you happen to get in the way during commuter hours then you will probably find a cross word or two thrown in your direction. As with any large and busy city, there are certain rules of etiquette which apply when using public transport and one of the major ones which you will find in Londonis the concept of standing on the right, and not the left when going up and down stairs or using the escalators. The rule is very simple: those who want to pass quickly will walk up the left, those who don’t mind standing and riding the escalator do so on the right. Additional points of etiquette include minding the gap on the platform edge, and having your ticket ready and in your hand when you come to the ticket barriers at the stations so that you don’t block the flow of people. If you are worried about getting in the way then we suggest avoiding the tube between the hours of 7am-9am and 5pm-7pm as these are predominantly commuter hours and everywhere will be much busier.
Forget to Tip
This is perhaps one of the trickiest concepts for international visitors to get their heads around as there isn’t a ‘one rule fits all’ policy when it comes to tipping inLondon. Generally it is customary to leave a tip of 10-15% of your final bill for your waiter if you have received table service. However, in some restaurants this will already have been added onto the bill and will show as a service charge, so it is worth looking at your bill before you pay. It is not customary to tip bar staff or in a pub unless you have eaten. In taxis and cabs, most people give the cabbie a little extra on the amount asked for but this is also not required if you don’t wish to do so. Bear in mind that tipping is not required and is entirely voluntary but most serving and waiting staff will be on minimum wage and any tips they receive will help to bump up their take home salary.
Just Stick to Central London
Lots of London’s most popular attractions are situated within a short distance of one another and it can be really tempting to just stay within Central Londonwhen visiting, especially if you have taken advantage of one of the Central London Hotels Packages. However, there are also lots of wonderful attractions set further afield; if you are willing to travel out to them. There are many advantages to exploringLondon outside of the heart of the city; generally there are less tourists and there are some real gems which are just waiting to be discovered. There are also a number of day trips which are perfectly doable fromLondon including to places such as Brighton,Oxford, the Cotswolds andBath.
Jump the Queue
There is a well known joke amongst people from theUKthat we love to queue, and will often join a line even when we don’t know what we are lining up for…and this is actually a very accurate statement! Lining up is considered to be polite and is a very natural thing for people from theUKto do and they don’t like it when people push in or queue jump whether you are waiting for the bus, or to pay for an item in a shop. Before you rush ahead to order food, or pay for a souvenir take a quick glance around you and check that there isn’t already a queue of people waiting their turn.
When you are visiting a city for the first time it is quite likely that you will suddenly spot a photo opportunity or suddenly forget which way you were meant to be going and need to consult a map. These are all perfectly natural things to want to do but whatever you do, don’t just stop in the middle of the pavement. If you need to stop, whether to chat to your travelling companion or consult a map, make sure that you move to the side of the pavement, or the corridor, or wherever you happen to be. People find it very rude if they have to step around you in the street, or if they happen to bump into your back because you have stopped abruptly.