How to be a tourist in London

Once upon a time, the British were known for their politeness and good manners.  Now we are consistently voted some of the most obnoxious tourists by other countries, due to our reputation for getting shitfaced and puking all over foreign resorts, as well as being very rude within our own country. Londoners are the worst offenders - and you don't even have to be from abroad to be dubbed a tourist, as any out-of-towner who is unfamiliar with the way things are done will get the same scathing looks and disgruntled sighs. I can slightly understand where this comes from, as I was very ignorant about my own country before moving to Manchester: you get big city myopia, something I first read in relation to New York, but affects a lot of Europeans too. While in the US, industry and power is spread out - New York for fashion and finance, LA for film and TV, Washington D.C for politics - everything in the UK is based in London.  Therefore the people that live and work there are a bit entitled, and not so sympathetic to the wide-eyed wonder of someone visiting for the first time. So here's some things I've learnt, as a Londoner but also someone who's been an annoying tourist abroad more than my fair share.

  • Don't carry huge backpacks!  I find German families are the worst for this - what have you got in there?!  This isn't a wilderness hike, you're in one of the most highly populated cities in the world! You'll most likely be on public transport throughout your trip (unless you're posh enough to splash out on cabs), so not only will your back thank you, but your fellow passengers will appreciate it too. Well, they won't acknowledge this, but certainly a rush hour commute on a packed Tube is uncomfortable enough without a massive bag encroaching on your personal space.
  • Research places to eat in your area of choice before you set out. There is such a thing as affordable, good food in central London but when you've been traipsing around attractions for hours and just want a meal without having to keep wandering a meal, you might end up in somewhere like EAT or Pret a Manger. Nothing wrong with these franchises, but they're really about quick lunches for workers, and I strongly believe that good food is how you get to experience a place (despite the bad reputation of British cuisine).

  • Look up the pronunciation of places you want to go, including the Tube stations. This is for you, Americans - if you ask for directions to "BuckingHAM Palace" you'll get nothing more than a withering stare.  (We say "Bucking'um").  Other ones to know a Holborn ("Hobun"), Marylebone ("Marlibun") and Southwark ("Suthuck"). But you're allowed to laugh at Cockfosters on the Piccadilly Line because that's just funny.
  • Always keep to the right on the escalators to allow harried business people and hyperactive teenage boys to hurtle past on the left.
  • Have your fucking Oyster card/travelcard ready at the turnstiles.  Oh my God I can't tell you how annoying it is when you're in a rush and someone's blocking the way, fumbling through their handbag and saying, "Honey do you have our travel passes? I thought they were in here but I can't find them!" I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR YOUR FANNYING ABOUT I HAVE TO GET TO WORK
Shittiest mascot ever. Ugh
  • Don't let anyone intimidate you out of taking pictures. There are a lot of really touristy pictures you'll want to take (holding up traffic trying to cross the street on Abbey Road is an infamous one) and you'll get all kinds of dirty looks, but this is your holiday and you get your mementos.  I'll always stop to snap something picturesque, even if that is considered rather gauche.  The one thing I will say on this though: DON'T take your photos while standing in the middle of the pavement on a busy street, like all the people opposite the Houses of Parliament.  A lot of people work in the area, and trying to navigate around twenty people trying to align their cameras is bloody frustrating.
  • Don't ever, ever mock the accents (Americans again). Even if you think you're being complimentary. Because understand, you are in Britain.  Population 63 million. Aside from the fact that a "British accent" is not a thing due to the huge variety of accents in the country, it's also not cute or a novelty over here, it's just how we talk. It's a very neo-colonialist thing to do to visit another country and treat the people there like they are different. You are the foreigner, you are the novelty, so have some respect and I hope that people will respect you too.

  • And finally: take a load off. If you're lucky enough to visit during the one week of sunshine a year*, make the most of it and go and crash in one of our lovely parks. Hyde Park and Regent's Park are popular choices, but if you wanted to hop a Tube into Richmond you'd find the huge, deer-filled grounds there quite lovely (always a local favourite of mine). My point here is that when on holiday in a city you can overwhelm yourself with so many attractions and constantly walking around, especially somewhere with such a rich history as London, but take some time out. Spending a few hours in the pub is the British equivalent to kicking back on the beach in a sunny country. Which may explain our high rates of alcoholism
*An exaggeration but it bloody feels true sometimes

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