The UK capital is, of course, an enlightened, open and extremely tourist-friendly city. There are very few restrictions or limitations put on guests travelling from out of town or overseas; if at all. But what about the social mores or, rather, the etiquette? That’s a slightly different thing and, in some cases, British culture can take a little getting used to for those not familiar with it. It’s not like it’s a huge deal, but you might want to take note of these few dos and don’ts Tourist Etiquette In The UK Capital.
Do be prepared and alert when using the Tube. Yes, it’s true, there’s a lot of expected behaviour on the Underground but, to be fair, it’s evolved over the years for everyone’s benefit. For instance, to have your Oyster card/ swipe card/ smartphone ready to ‘tap in’ (the alternative to buying a paper ticket on other transport services) at a ticket barrier is to not hold up the city’s easily irritated, hard-working commuters. It’ll ensure you don’t make enemies as you travel about.
Do visit different neighbourhoods outside the West End; London’s a fascinating, vibrant, urgent, unmissable city with so much diversity to see and take in throughout.
Do ask someone for directions if you get lost. Contrary to stereotypes, many Londoners are friendly, pleasant people and will be only too happy to help those who are genuinely stuck.
Do stroll about the place; you’ll experience so much more than by getting about everywhere on the Tube. Moreover, it’s highly advised that, unless you’re a commuter, to avoid the Tube during the morning and early evening rush hours. At those times of day, it can become very crowded and, as a result, hot and sticky in the warmer months. So it’s more enjoyable, if you can, to discover the city above ground by relying on your two feet.
Do stand on the right side on escalators. Traditionally, this is another of the Tube ‘rules’, ensuring that the busybodies who would otherwise be grinding their teeth stuck behind happy-go-lucky standing-still tourists on escalators can go about their business at their normal ‘London’ pace. But, in recent years, this trend for escalator use seems to have spread far and wide throughout the capital. You have been warned!
Don’t complain about the place and area where you’re staying. Fair enough, you may find, having arrived and settled into your digs, they’re not what you expected and a little lacklustre, so why shouldn’t you vent your spleen? The trouble is Londoners tend to be proud of the place – and why not, it’s a fantastic city. So people from out of town noisily putting bits of it down, especially its attractions, doesn’t always go down well; especially among local strangers. The solution, of course, is to get your place of stay correct from the off – there are lots of London hotels deals for excellent places out there, so do your research and book the right hotel!
Don’t talk overly loud in restaurants. Today’s Brits – especially Londoners – don’t tend to be the reserved sorts of lore, but some old habits die hard; one of them being civility in public. This is true the world over, of course, but one of its prime examples in Blighty is to maintain one’s decorum when dining out. It’s considered respectful and sociable to speak in generally lowered tones and not too boisterously in restaurants – certainly the more high-end, more expensive ones.
Don’t flash the cash. Again, behaving in an über-reserved manner doesn’t necessarily open doors for you in today’s UK, but British etiquette still retains aspects of its ‘gentler’ past. So, should you be used to making it noticeable how many notes there are in your wallet, don’t expect people you’ve just met to be impressed. Centuries of civilisation has taught Brits not to openly discuss how much money they have or make. Plus, of course, the less you draw attention to how much money you’ve got on your person, the less likely you might get mugged – London’s a big city; it’s as well to bear this sort of thing in mind, although overall it’s very safe.
And finally… don’t jump queues. Nobody enjoys queueing really, but Brits rightly have a reputation for doing so equably and with respect for others – it really doesn’t do to upset the apple cart!