While the massive metropolis of London is wildly heterogeneous, with inhabitants running the gamut from eccentric and permissive to prim and proper, a few faux pas are universally frowned upon by locals.
A Quora thread outlines universally condemned customs in London.
Here are 15 faux pas you should avoid making in London during your next visit.
1. Not using a location’s full address
Don’t be lazy and omit the “street” or “road” part of an address. Omitting those signifiers can be very confusing to Londoners, especially when there are similarly named addresses all over town, like Pembridge Villas, Pembridge Road, Pembridge Gardens, Pembridge Place, or Pembridge Crescent. Saying you’re “on Pembridge” helps no one.
2. Not saying please and thank you
Brits are known for being exceedingly polite — some might even say for being obsessive about manners — and thus please and thank yous are greatly valued, as well as used in abundance. Most exchanges will either end or begin with “I’m sorry,” “excuse me,” “please,” and “thank you,” and often even contain all of them.
3. Not buying a round
Brits are dedicated adherents to the pub etiquette of buying rounds. This means that instead of repeatedly buying yourself a drink, you will buy everyone in your group a drink once. In accordance to etiquette, everyone in that group should then take turns returning the favour. Buying yourself a separate drink, or buying a round of drinks and then figuring out who owes what is a no-no in British culture.
4. Being loud
Londoners, and Brits in general, are taught to be discreet, and are generally wary of drawing attention to themselves. Thus, they will frown upon anyone loud or brash, two stereotypes that are unfortunately often associated with Americans, so try not to validate their preconceived notions. To put into perspective just how serious they are about volume, one Quora reply states “If you have just gashed your femoral artery in a pub brawl and require medical help instantly or you’ll bleed to death, say, ‘Would you ring for an ambulance, please?’ to the bystanders. Shouting at them hysterically will only tempt them to let you die.”
5. Drawing attention to yourself
The British hate drawing attention to themselves or “making a fuss” as they put it. Thus, making a scene — whether you’ve lost your luggage or find that the steak you ordered at a restaurant is overcooked — is unacceptable.
Don’t complain about anything, at least not while it’s happening. Brits like saving their complaints for later, and find it humiliating when you complain out loud, like, say, confronting a waiter by sending back a dish at a restaurant.
7. Doing anything on the Tube that will force someone to engage with you
Londoners are incredibly serious about their Tube etiquette, and generally ask visitors to please have their Oyster cards ready, and not block the flow of traffic. Their biggest concern however, and a common one in dense cities filled with commuters, is that you not speak to them or attempt to make small talk on the Tube. Londoners like to keep to themselves, and they don’t want to have to speak to you. Obstructing exits, for example, and thereby forcing them to engage with you will make you deeply unpopular.
8. Standing on the left side of an escalator
Right is right. Do not, whatever you do, stand around on the left side, which is essentially the escalator’s fast lane.
9. Cutting the line
This should be a no-no anywhere, but even mild-mannered Brits will lose it if you mess with their sense of courtesy. Not “queuing” appropriately was mentioned time and time again as a major London faux pas. Whether in line for the bus or in line for the bar, don’t cut and always indicate whether someone was there before you and that you’ve acknowledged their superior position in line.
10. Being overly sensitive
Mild mannered they may be, but Brits have a fiercly sarcastic sense of humour. Friendly banter is the norm, so roll with the punches, learn to dish it out, and don’t be offended.
11. Accepting offers
Brits are polite, and this means that they will without a doubt offer you help or some sort of assistance, even if it’s not exactly sincere but a by-product of their civility. Americans are generally quick to accept these favours, assuming that those were genuinely offered, not purely out of politeness.
12. Initiating talk of politics, religion and money
Unless you’re very close with someone, these topics are considered inappropriate and gauche.
13. Saying “what”
Make that “Excuse me,” “sorry,” or “beg your pardon.” While the norm for you, saying “what” to elicit a repetition is perceived as incredibly rude in the UK.
14. Mimicking the English accent
Erase the words cheerio and guvna from your vocabulary right now.
15. Assuming every Londoner understands cockney rhyming slang
They don’t. And they certainly don’t use it.
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