There’s nothing that quite ignites anger in Londoners as standing on the left side of an escalator. Avoid this and other cultural faux pas in London with our advice below.
1. Using the London Underground incorrectly
This is such a minefield that we’ve written a whole separate post about it. Read London: Rules of the Underground to avoid the many, many faux pas this gauntlet gives rise to.
2. Attempting to pronounce Leicester Square without prior training
It’s pronounced lester, not lie-ses-ter or lee-ses-ter or any similar permutation. Equally, you should probably ask a Londoner how to pronounce Marylebone, Westminster, The Mall, Grosvenor Square and Berwick Street before doing it in the wild. It’s also useful to note that the ‘Street’ or ‘Road’ part of a location is important.
If you’re American, you might be tempted to say you’re staying on “Pembridge” but this could mean Pembridge Villas, Pembridge Road, Pembridge Gardens, Pembridge Place, Pembridge Crescent and so on.
3. Wearing a Barbour jacket outside of Hackney or Chelsea
If you have a penchant for Barbour jackets or Hunter wellies or any other piece of traditional British clothing reappropriated by the hipster classes, you’ll do well to stay within the confines of Hackney or the well-to-do Chelsea. Otherwise, you’ll likely be ridiculed as a ‘dickhead’ (unless of course you’re actually a farmer in which case you’re probably okay).
4. Taking the rail replacement service instead of just cancelling your plans
If it’s a matter of taking TfL’s rail replacement service or staying home, stay home. If you really do need to travel, take a cab or walk or crawl or commission a band of sloths to drag you there instead. All of those options will be quicker and less stressful.
5. Balking at the C-word
Londoners swear! We utilise the expressiveness of fuck in all its expansive beauty. We have a hundred different synonyms for ‘penis’ and aren’t afraid to use them, often affectionately but mostly pejoratively. Our TV presenters use shit and crap and wanker among other colourful language. Take this in your stride.
6. Asking a Black Cab to take you south of the river
Despite the prosaic allure of Dulwich and the persistent insistence that Peckham is really and truly up and coming, South London is still largely regarded as a Mordor-like presence hulking beneath the safe confines of the River Thames.
You can reach its depths using public transport (the orcs must get home somehow), so don’t ask the driver of a Black Cab to cross the river for you.
7. And finally… touching the Queen
You don’t touch the Queen. She touches you if she so wishes but you don’t touch her. It doesn’t matter if you’re an Olympic Gold medallist or the First Lady of the United States: the rule still stands. (Take note, Mrs Obama.)
Very British Problems by Rob Temple is a hilarious insight into the British psyche.