An Idiot’s Guide To Basic London Etiquette

Annabel Usher Annabel Usher

An Idiot’s Guide To Basic London Etiquette

There are certain acceptable norms and behaviours that true Londoners just know. To avoid making tragically awkward social faux pas, study this 100% scientifically certified guide* to basic London etiquette. *Results may vary.


1. How to handle conversations with taxi/Uber drivers.

[flickr: Alex Adkins]
Although polite conversation with your driver is always acceptable, it is not always highly encouraged. The likelihood is, much like other Londoners, your driver does not want to talk to you. Especially if you’re on your way back from the pub and what you think is interesting, engaging conversation is, in fact, just drunken garbage. If you do decide, however, to engage your driver in conversation then please do avoid embarrassing cliches such as ‘you been busy tonight?’ and ‘what time are you on until?’ Please also remember that if you are intoxicated you are probably at least 50% more annoying than usual and requests such as ‘can I open this drink?’ and ‘turn the music up mate!’ may not be met warmly.


2. How to maneuver a tube station.

[flickr: Oxfordian]
Stand. On. The Right. No Questions. Just do it. Prior to boarding the escalator it is imperative that you have already decided whether or not you are going to stand or walk down it. Do not start on the left and then sheepishly hop over to the right as you realise that perhaps you are not fit enough to walk the entire way. As you make your way along the tunnel towards the platform do ensure that your head is raised up from your phone screen to avoid collapsing on top on top of a busker. Please also refrain from stopping abruptly as you are certain to be in someone’s way. Finally, make sure that you have your Oyster card ready *before* arriving at the barriers.


3. How to go to Shoreditch

[flickr: Mike Knell]
One has not really been to Shoreditch until one has instagrammed one of the following: a ridiculously extravagant cup of coffee, a quirky cocktail, rude and amusing street graffiti or a bearded gentleman. If you truly desire to fit in in the capital’s trendiest place it might be worth investing in a little dog such as Yorkshire Terrier or Pug. Name said dog Alfred or Whinnie and carry him/her under your arm as you sashay past the pop-up-toenail-clipping-handbag stalls and flavoured ice markets.


4. Understand the geographical differences of certain Londoners

[flickr: David Howard]
There are many different types of Londoner varying between geographical location and it is important that you acknowledge their intricacies. If speaking to a West Londoner be certain to ask them their favourite brunch spot for a fried egg and single glass of prosecco, whereas when speaking to an East Londoner it is typical to make small talk by asking about a kilo vintage clothes sale they may/may not have attended in Stratford. South Londoners love to be asked if they actually live in Surrey and you’re sure to make friends with a North Londoner by checking whether or not they actually have a Hertfordshire postcode.


5. Do not discuss prices.

[flickr: Peter]
Discussing money is tacky at the best of times, but in London it’s down right insulting. I do not want to be reminded that one round last night cost me £120. I do not care that your tube ride here cost you £7 and yes we understand that things are cheaper up North. Constantly discussing it is painful and depressing. Okay?


6. How to handle bad weather.

[flickr: David Skinner]
If you find yourself in an *unprecedented* London rain storm there are a few behavioural norms that you should be aware of. Make sure to erect (don’t be so childish) your umbrella in due time and once you have finished using it, the best place to shake it off is always the floor on a busy tube – ensuring that you wet as many commuters as possible. They love water and will be very thankful for this. It is also important that you comment constantly on the poor weather with remarks such as ‘horrible weather isn’t it,’ and ‘so miserable outside,’ as hearing this over and over never gets boring to a Londoner.


Additional point: Shopping. Or, more specifically, Christmas shopping

It’s the most wonderful time of year – for some; those being the ones who were organised back in October and got their Christmas present list done and dusted long before the crowds had a chance to even leave the house. Christmas shopping in London can be a frantic, competitive and even barbaric affair. It’s better to keep things swift – know what you want long before you step inside the shop. If you’re heading to Oxford street (good luck), keep that pace up on the street and make sure you take snacks and water to avoid dehydration in the queues.

Be considerate of who you’re shoving with your shopping bags. Don’t just stand in the doorway of a shop. The trick is to keep moving, like a consumer conveyor belt – don’t think too much about anything. Grab, go, buy. Oh, and it’s not acceptable to grab an item of clothing from someone else’s grasp.

If in doubt, there’s also this fantastic thing called the internet…

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