Are You A Person Who Has Just Moved to London? Here are some TIPS.

I live in London. Like most people who live in London, I do not come from London. A friend of mine, who also does not come from London, has just moved to London. He suggested that I write out some BEGINNER’S TIPS for people who do not come from London who have just moved to London, as everyone who does not come from London inevitably shall, at some point.

This is not a definitive list. I’ve only been here for just over a year – not nearly long enough to even discover 10% of this ridiculous city – so there’s still a lot more I have to discover. Also, most of it seems to be about public transport? Oh well.

  1. Escalators! Stand on the right, walk on the left. I’d assume everyone already knew this, but given the amounts of people I see flouting this rule daily, it bears repeating.
  2. Never pay with cash on the bus. This will immediately mark you out as a tourist, and also everyone will hate you.
  3. Enter through the front door of the bus and exit through the middle door. Attempts to use the wrong door will be frowned upon.
  4. Never make eye contact on public transport – unless someone is being badly behaved, in which case you may catch someone else’s eye and enjoy a mutual tutting session.
  5. Do not pronounce the “L” in “Holborn”.
  6. Think of the North London/South London divide as similar to the North England/South England divide. Neither party likes the other very much, and it’s almost impossible to get gravy below the border.
  7. If you don’t have anything to hold onto on the tube, bend your knees a little to avoid falling over. It took me a good six months, and a lot of wobbling, to discover this simple fact.
  8. It’s just called “Carnival”. You must go every year, but you will probably not enjoy it, unless you enjoy being hemmed in by huge amounts of people in sweltering heat and having some random old guy grind his erection into your back. True story.
  9. It’s difficult to buy booze in central London past about 11pm. I KNOW, IT IS RIDICULOUS.
  10. Don’t fall asleep on the Night Bus, or you’ll wake up in Hertfordshire. I speak from experience.
  11. Don’t get on the Night Bus in the first place, if you can help it.
  12. Arguing about the best route to take to a place using public transport is a popular pastime, and the faster you can familiarise yourself with the transport system in order to do this, the sooner you will be accepted. Try to cultivate a knowledge of “unusual” routes; this will make you look cool. Remember: TFL is not always right.
  13. Wait whilst people exit the carriage before attempting to board the train. This is just general train etiquette. You wankers.
  14. No one reads City AM. No one knows what City AM is about. Never accept a copy of it.
  15. If you exit at a tube station and there is classical music playing over the station speakers, be careful. You’re not in Kansas anymore.
  16. If you hear the public announcement system in a station calling for “Inspector Sands”, best make your way to the exit as quickly and calmly as possible. Just in case.
  17. If you are a small person, do not bother attempting to ride a Boris Bike. They are too tall, heavy and cumbersome for us.
  18. Everything outside of Zone 3 is considered to be another country. Zone 3 itself is pushing it.
  19. The best bet for an acceptably priced pint in central London is a Sam Smith’s pub.
  20. Whatever you do, never, ever, ever, ever, go into M&M World.

Do please add your own below!

40 thoughts on “Are You A Person Who Has Just Moved to London? Here are some TIPS.

  1. I’d add one more, along the lines of ‘If you’re a slow walker, don’t try and occupy the whole pavement’, and possibly ‘Don’t randomly stop for any reason when walking, as you will get smashed into’.

    1. The choicest of which is this one:

      “Zone 3 is outside London and don’t catch the night bus? Who the fuck wrote this? Prince Harry?”

  2. Don’t walk on an escalator if you cannot walk off one. Stopping at the end of an escalator is, in many ways, worse than standing on the left.

    1. Yes!! And if it’s rush hour it forms a backlog of people on the left side of the escalator that stays stagnant until end of rush hour!

      1. One odd thing I’ve noticed is that the left side will come to a complete halt if there are enough people to fill it. I guess it’s because of the escalator moving at roughly walking pace, or something.

  3. All points very well covered and accurate – as I was born and raised here – I suggest another one along the lines of walking around central London only using small/side streets, only tourists use Oxford, Regent, TCR, Long Acre etc. That’s the PRO way.

  4. Londoners class one tiny street as a borough/town/village. It’s not, it’s just another grotty London street. get over yourselves, it’s not all that.

  5. Are you sure you actually live in London? The reasons that aren’t blatantly obvious are just made up. And who calls it ‘Carnival’? Everyone calls it Notting Hill. Tosser

  6. The only quick tube line in London is the Victoria line. It’s like a friggin’ time machine. Use it wherever possible.

  7. Number 4 no longer applies – the happy smileyness of the Olympics has got us chatting to strangers and please let’s keep it up (depending on the stranger, obviously, which does rather suggest we should continue as we were).

    Buskers: Always give to buskers – particularly but not only if they are playing on official busking spots. They are not beggars, they are practising and trying to enhance the pittance they are paid for professional performances.

  8. 10 TIPS for the American traveller on how to interact with London Underground Staff, from someone who knows ; )

    1. If you see someone wearing full Underground uniform with embroidered logos, name badge, radio and possibly wearing or carrying an orange High-Visibility vest, DONT start you’re request for information with the words: “Excuse me, do you work here?”. You are likely to experience that famous British sarcasm that you’ve heard of but probably wouldn’t understand anyway.

    2. Saying ‘Please’ & ‘Thank you’ go along way towards coming away with a positive experience (& possibly even receiving the correct answer to your enquiry!) Saying ‘OK’ and walking away does NOT equate to ‘Thank you’ in Britain.

    3. Please note: If the name of a station is more than one word long, you HAVE to say ALL of the words if you want directions to your desired destination. Liverpool Street is in London; Liverpool is a city in the north of the UK and is where the Beatles come from. Oxford Street is in the centre of London & is great for shopping; Oxford is a university city 55 miles North West of London!!

    4. Try to find out HOW to pronounce station names before approaching a member of staff, i.e: Leicester Square = ‘Lester’ Square NOT ‘Lychester’ Square and Gloucester Road = ‘Gloster’ Road NOT ‘Glychester’ Road. When in England now, speak English as G-d intended it to be spoken! If you don’t know how to pronounce it, don’t be surprised if you end up somewhere completely different to where you actually wanted to get to.

    5. Asking directions from LU staff only to then challenge their advice using ‘Are you sure?’ or ‘Wouldn’t it be better to go [alternative route]?’ will win you no extra points, admiration or favours in the eyes of the station staff you’ve just wasted the time of. Keep in mind that station staff are kept updated on any problems on the Underground network system and will advise you of the best route under the circumstances. Challenging the up-to-the-minute knowledge, wisdom & patience of Underground staff will only end in you incurring the wrath of said member of staff (and trust me, you don’t wanna piss any of them off !!)

    6. Yes, you do need to use your ticket/Oystercard to both entre AND exit the Underground. Don’t throw it away or forget which pocket you put it in once you’re in the Underground system. If you don’t want to spend your entire vacation away from the light of day, that it. And don’t stop at the top of the escalator, blocking the way to look for your ticket.

    7. If you use an Oystercard a) DON’T post it through the gate like the it’s a paper ticket; b) If you load it with money (‘Pay as you go’) or a ‘Weekly/Monthly (Travelcard)’, make sure you know when it’s likely/due to run out. Saying to staff “but I have Credit/a Weekly/Monthly on it’ when it fails to open to gate because it’s run out; c) DON’T throw it away once you run out of credit. Use the same card and put more credit on it. We don’t need more confirmation that you’re the incompetent moron traveller the rest of the world already knows you to be.

    8. Gate Code 36 means you’ve not got enough money to travel. DON’T get caught with this code at your destination or expect the Spanish Inquisition from station staff wanting to establish how you managed to entered the Underground system with no money, you cheapskate, freeloading tourist!!

    9. If you have large luggage/children/kids’ buggies, don’t try to fit through the usual size gates. Use the Wide Aisle Gate (WAG) for which it was invented and installed to facilitate. This also applies to those of you who are ‘frequent flyers at your National cuisine representative – McDonalds’. Going sideways through the usual size gates is neither graceful nor dignified.

    10. Do NOT send your under 11 year old children (who travel for free on the Underground) over to the ‘Nice wo/man in the Underground uniform’ and assume they will let them through the gates. Use your own ticket to open the WAG and walk through together. Underground staff are instructed to sell any abandoned children on eBay (the profit is in the p&p) & all proceedings go to our Christmas party fund.

    Please DON’T leave your children on the Underground to be sold on eBay!

  9. I was one of millions of transient people who moved to London from abroad and sadly, I no longer live there, but some of the comments here remind me of my favourite peeve: people who are newish to London who behave rudely to new people in a sad attempt to feel like “real” Londoners (I’m not referring to the author here, but specifically to New Londoners who are rude to newer Londoners or tourists).

    Standing on the right, walking on the left is actually an unspoken rule in every metro/underground/subway system i have ever used, as is the frustration of being caught behind people who don’t understand it. To all new Londoners: get used to it. You will encounter this in every major city on earth. Though it is irritating, London is a major metropolis with a lot of diverse behaviour and you will burn out quickly if you try to micromanage eight million people from all over the world.

    Politely ask if you can pass by. An awful American guy once lectured me about “standing on the right”, when it was visibly obvious that the reason I had stopped moving was because there was an elderly man in front of me who I did not wish to shove down a flight of stairs so that I could wait 30 seconds longer on my platform. It was a completely unnecessary confrontation.

    I also received incredulous, condescending and unsolicited “advice” when I mentioned that I was looking for a room at a rather low price in Zone 2. It’s definitely manageable if you know how to look. I’ve found such deals and know others who have too and I explained this to her. She immediately apologized and said they thought I was a new Londoner who had unrealistic expectation of prices. I had been in London only about a year, but I was a resourceful New Londoner who clearly understood the housing market better than she did. Would her behaviour have been somehow better if I had been a naive newbie? No. Be polite!

    People sometimes miss the feature that most readily distinguishes the British from the rest of the world: tremendous social grace. It’s something that takes a lifetime of socialization to master, and even many British don’t have it, but if you really want to be a “Londoner” through and through then it can’t hurt to try and adopt what is a generally a socially valued trait.

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