The British are famous for their satire, history, monarchy, and obsession with manners and tea. While understanding these things is useful, the ability to blend in with a crowd takes a little more effort. London, in particular, has its own rules and cultural norms.
[Image by Alexis Soon.]
Londoners are a busy lot, rushing about from place to place and seemingly impatient with life in general. If you want to fit in with the masses, try not to dawdle on commuter highways and busy streets. Work out where you are going in advance and march stolidly toward it.
Avoid making eye contact with other people on public transport and leave as much room as possible for fellow travellers, whether you are sitting down or standing up. Londoners do not tend to walk anywhere if it is possible to use the tube instead. Get an Oyster card as soon as humanly possible – it will save you a great deal of time and money in the long run and establish you as a true London local.
How to act
Unless you are in a pub or a bar, on the whole Londoners do not tend to strike up conversations with complete strangers. Appearing overly friendly will arouse suspicion, as will constant smiling. Act cool and keep your voice at a reasonable volume (again, unless you are in a pub). Also try to avoid complaining or making unreasonable demands when in public.
Londoners, like the rest of the UK’s residents, form orderly lines when waiting for buses and other services. Never cut in front of others in the queue.
[Image by _dchris.]
Most Londoners meet people through work or through friends of friends. With this in mind, accept all the social invitations that you can. It is fine to be friendly once you have been introduced to someone – just do not delve too deeply into your personal life straight away. Londoners like and expect a little bit of banter to start with.
As those studying English courses in UK language schools will admit, London is sometimes too much of an exciting place to live. There is so much going on that it is easy to find yourself going out every night of the week and spending vast amounts of money. Do not be afraid to cite lack of funds if too many social invitations roll in – Londoners understand only too well the high cost of inhabiting their city.
[Image by TJ Morris.]
Where to go out
Going to the pub is a standard procedure. Londoners may visit one straight after work, or arrange to meet in one later in the evening. If you go to the pub and the people you are with offer to buy you a drink, it is expected that you will return the favour. The rules for queuing do not really apply to pubs – especially the ones that get very busy. Prepare to jostle for position to reach the bar. Once there, it is polite to allow others who have reached the bar before you to order first.
More sedate and culturally rewarding activities include attending the many opening nights for art exhibitions around the city. While some of these are invitation only, many are open to all and can be a good way to meet other people.
Those students who are enrolled with language schools such as www.esl.co.uk can join in on the many social outings to museums and attractions around the city such as the London Eye. These meetings are good for making friends with other language students and for learning more about the city.