London is sometimes seen as a city-state rather than just a capital – while Britain has its own culture and quirks, London has additional rules and etiquette requirements that aren’t seen or observed elsewhere. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the city’s social expectations and have the most pleasant stay possible.
The Tube is another microcosm within London, and has its own special rules and expectations. Firstly, tourists should avoid using the tube during rush hours if possible (around 6am-9:30am, and then 4:30-7pm) – the tube is a vital part of London’s infrastructure and is used by people every day to get to work. As such, it’s already extremely crowded and best avoided if you can – you’ll have a far more pleasant experience and won’t be hurried by irritated commuters.
Another potential tube stumbling-block is the escalator – stand on the right, pass on the left. There are signs that explain this. Also, it is best to get your ticket or oyster card out and ready while waiting on the escalator so that you can pass straight through the barriers. You do not need to wait for them to close before you swipe your Oyster card.
Finally, the Tube isn’t a particularly chatty place. People in London are surrounded by people all day, so it’s seen as polite to just quietly ignore each other unless absolutely necessary.
Tipping in London is really no different to the rest of the country – 10-15% is typical. There is no need to tip in pubs if you are only drinking, but you may see tip jars in coffee shops. In restaurants you will need to check your bill to see whether gratuity is included or not. If it is, it’s typically at a rate of 12.5%.
London has a huge number of free museums, who do not require tickets for most exhibitions and you can therefore visit them for free. However, there is a cost to maintaining these museums so it is seen as polite and expected to leave a donation, depending on what you can afford. If you would like something a little more tangible from your visit, the gift shops are another good way to support these institutions. You will see donation boxes near all of the entrances/exits.
Asking for Directions
Even though we mentioned that the Tube isn’t a chatty place, don’t be afraid to ask for directions. Londoners are (secretly) a helpful and friendly bunch, and most people know their small pockets of London fairly well. There are also maps found on the streets throughout London, with helpful circles to show how far everything is. If you are unsure which direction to go in when exiting the Tube, staff are always willing to help or you can just read the main attractions on the exit signs.
This post was written by Izabela Sikorska