Visiting London Advice
Dos and Don’ts when visiting London
As you would expect from a proud Londoner, I love the city immensely and have an affinity with its people. However I must admit that us British are an odd race. When I originally sat down and thought about writing this short guide of the dos and Don’ts when visiting London, I realised just how many unwritten social/cultural rules there are, all of which would be frowned upon should you break them.
This makes its hard for visitors to London, and Britain as a whole, as you would probably break every single one without realising as they can be quite obscure. Please don’t think you’ll be sent the Tower of London should you fall foul of them, however you may have an irate Londoner if you do!
Things have changed more recently. As London has become more ethnically diverse, Londoners have become more accepting of etiquette slips, however other areas of U.K. may be less accepting.
Of all the faux pas, this still has the largest reaction. Queuing has become a national obsession with the British. We will form a queue for absolutely everything and if someone decides to jump the queue and walk straight to the front, there will be outrage from the people queuing. If you are unsure whether the queue is for the attraction you want to visit it is common etiquette to enquire with the last person in the line.
The last thing to remember whilst standing in a queue, is that it’s very un-British to moan about the length of the wait whilst standing in line. Instead discuss the weather or the latest football results if you wish to blend in.
Us Brits become uncomfortable about discussing gratuities as it’s socially impolite to request money. I’m often asked by passengers in my taxi what the standard tip for taxi drivers in London is and when I hear that question I can feel myself become anxious. Then I began answering the question with a simple answer “tip me as you would in your own country” which is a perfect answer as it avoids discussing a particular figure which is considered rude.
In the interests of this article, I will suppress my anxiety. Tipping London Taxis is a standard practice and most tips are 10% which is the same as waitresses and waiters. Doormen at the hotels should be tipped £1 if they have handled your luggage.
Don’t be fooled by the courteous way someone accepts the tip. Many will thank you for the gratuity with a surprised reaction but don’t be fooled as certain jobs in the travel hospitality industry will expect a tip.
Historically the British have been a relatively reserved nation and that hasn’t really changed too much. Talking loudly in certain circumstances, including whilst on public transport, museums and art galleries is unacceptable. Even when walking through London you very rarely hear a raised voice, most are drowned out by the noise of the traffic (although this will change with the increased use of electric vehicles), and when there are raised voices many people will turn and look.
When sitting on the tube it is expected that you talk in hushed tones with the people in your immediate vicinity. You will rarely see large groups entering the tube and talking group wide. The tube is old and noisy, but people still manage to converse quietly.
Whilst on any form of public transport it is deemed poor manners to answer a call on your mobile. Its human nature to amplify your voice whilst on the phone which means you break the golden rule of talking quietly.
When using escalators, particularly those on the tube, there is an unwritten rule that if you wish to stand still and allow the escalator to take the strain, then you MUST stand on the right. If you are in a hurry, as most commuters are, then use the left side of the escalator.
There have been many times when I’ve travelled on the tube, that I’ve seen tourists standing on both sides of the escalator pointing at the advertisement on the wall, unaware that they are blocking the commuters scurrying up the left hand side. This has usually ended in an argument, commuters pushing past or London Underground member of staff shouting down the escalator. All eventualities are equally embarrassing and easily avoided.
As a whole, the British hate lateness. If you make arrangements to meet someone and you are running late it’s polite to drop them a text or call to inform them of your revised time of arrival. However good time management should be employed to ensure that this situation never occurs.
As I grow older, I am noticing that common courtesies that the British are famous for, are slowly ebbing away. I think this is mainly due to our lives getting busier, as is the city. That is not to say that you can be rude and ignorant in situations as, with the whole of UK, politeness will get you everywhere.
It’s amazing how an excuse me, please, thank you will help you during a visit to London. If asked correctly most Londoners will help out visitors with directions or advice, if the situation allows.
Jaywalking is not an offence in the U.K. making Londoners experts at crossing the road without the use of a designated crossing. Even when using these designated crossings, Londoners tend to cross without waiting for the green man to illuminate. The big thing to remember is the British drive on the left side of the road (we would say the correct side!) and therefore when crossing the road always look to your right and then to your left. Whilst crossing its always best to stay vigilant for rogue cyclists or motorcyclists who maybe travelling in the middle of roads. I have seen this catch many tourists out!