Expatations, London

How to Avoid Looking Like a Tourist in London

September 26, 2016

avoid looking like a tourist in london

Visiting London and keen to blend in? I don’t blame you.

Londoners have a very specific way of behaving, often contrary to that of those who live a mere stone throw out of the city. It’s pretty easy to look like a tourist in the UK capital, even if you’re trying your best not to stick out like a sore thumb.

Here’s my somewhat alternative (and very tongue in cheek) guide to Londoning like a local. If you follow these steps, you’re sure to fool everyone into thinking you’re a local (not that they’ll care or take any notice of you in any case!).

Related: How to Spend a Weekend in London

After over two years of living in London, I think I've worked out how things are meant to be in the UK's capital. Here's my somewhat alternative (and very tongue in cheek) guide to Londoning like a local.

Jaywalk at every available opportunity

Everyone in London is in a rush, whether it be to work, home, an event or simply to meet friends for drinks. I’ve seen grown men thrown tantrums because they’ve missed the Tube by three seconds (never mind that the next one is two minutes away).

Naturally, locals won’t let silly, harmless things like “oncoming traffic” hold them up for any length of time. So, you’ll often find people rushing across roads, or crossings, even when there are cars, motorbikes or even buses hurtling at breakneck speed towards them.

I’m not saying that this is a thing that you should do, particularly if you value your life. Just that everyone does it.

avoid looking like a tourist in london

Swap your daily water intake for wine or beer

Social activities in London are geared heavily towards drinking. Alcohol is used to celebrate, or commiserate every occasion. Come Friday every street corner is guaranteed to be packed out with people drinking at the pub after work on Friday. Or in the summer, any day of the week.

Unlike my home city of Sydney, public transport is somewhat reliable in London, clubs stay open late and corner stores are not forced to close at 10pm. So, residents are free to hit the sauce as hard as they want, whenever they want. This is a freedom that most people seize upon, eagerly.

I have actual concerns about the state of my liver, after spending two years living here.

Adopt the “London pace” and get irrationally angry whenever those walking in front of you fail to keep to it

As I previously mentioned, London is a busy, busy place. London is also full of people. The city is crammed full to the bursting, with residents and tourists alike. So, you may be in a hurry to get somewhere, but your path there is guaranteed to be filled with obstacles… in the form of the slow-moving people in front of you.

I don’t know why people like to spread out across the pavement and walk at the pace of a snail. Nor do I know why they insist on walking while staring at the screen of their phone, seeming surprised when they nearly plough straight into you. Yet, it’s what people do and they’ll do it to you. Try not to punch them in the back of their heads, as a passive aggressive “excuse me” will do just fine.

However – if you fail to keep to the right when standing on an Underground escalator… God help you.

Make disparaging remarks about friends living south of the river

I’ve lived south of the river for almost two years. I like it there. It’s quiet and rent is cheap(ish). Yet, most people mistakenly seem to think that north, or particularly east London is where it’s at.

As such, your friends who live north of the river will not understand why you’re reluctant to journey for an hour and a half (after your train gets cancelled) to meet them for a one hour lunch date. And if you make plans in your neck of the woods, they’ll joke about having to find their passport, before they can travel across the river to meet you.

Just remember that they pay close to a grand (or more) a month for their tiny bedroom, while you have a flat with a garden. Peckham over Hackney any day, thank you very much!

avoid looking like a tourist in london

Fail to have your finger on the pulse and end up queueing up for everything

There’s always something happening in London. As such, it’s really hard to stay abreast of everything. New restaurants, gigs, art exhibitions, plays… try as you may, you can’t go, do or see everything.

I find out about a lot of things via social media, which is good and bad. Good, because I’m aware. Bad, because it’s usually around the time that everyone else is, too. So, I will instantly want to go, see, do or eat said thing, along with most others within the city.

This has led to much time spent queueing, lest I suffer from the fear of missing out. Oh well. No regrets, yeah?

To be totally honest, the queues are only worth it if the thing you’re lining up for doesn’t cost you a penny. Here’s a list of free things you can do in London.

Pay an upsetting amount of money to live in a room the size of a cardboard box

London is notoriously expensive. If you’re not spending at least a third, or even half of your pay on rent, you’re a very lucky person indeed.

What’s most infuriating is that it’s near impossible to get bang for your buck in this city. You’ll find yourself paying hundreds of pounds a month (plus utilities) for a scabby house somewhere that may or may not have a shared living room.

avoid looking like a tourist in london

Do not pronounce street and borough names phonetically

This a rookie error that most newcomers to the United Kingdom will make. The English have a barmy way of pronouncing various names of their towns, villages and boroughs. Yet, we are speaking their language after all (even you Americans, with your crazy spellings), so we must adhere to their rules.

Here’s a quick guide to get you started.

SouthwarkSuth-uck
MaryleboneMarl-e-bone
LeicesterLess-ster
RuislipRice-lip

And for goodness sake, don’t ever talk about your pants, of any description, in public.

Related: What NOT to Do When Visiting the UK

Avoid colour in the colder seasons

Winter in London can be quite bleak, aided greatly by the fact that Londoners tend to eschew all colour, of any description. They’ll embrace whacky patterning and fluro yellows in the summer months, swapping them out for black and grey coats WHEN THE COLOUR IS ACTUALLY NEEDED AND WOULD GO FAR IN HELPING TO LIFT EVERYONE’S SPIRITS.

It makes zero sense, but that’s just the way that things are done here. And I do like my black coat a lot. I guess.

Completely abuse your health

When you move to London, you are given two choices.

You can choose to make the most of your time here and embrace every consequence that comes with this decision. The long working hours. The weekend trips to the continent. The wild Friday nights at the pub. The alcohol that gets served with every meal. The 3am curries on the way back to your flat. The coffee addiction and ten kilogram weight gain that comes part and parcel with life in this city.

Or, you can choose to take care of your health. You can shop at the exorbitantly priced farmer’s markets with their somewhat disappointing selection of produce (not much is grown in England). You can go to the gym, rather than the pub every evening after work. You can get up at 7am on a Saturday morning to make your way to yoga. You can stick to herbal tea. You can sleep a full eight hours every night and even be in bed before midnight.

However and listen carefully here, because this is important. You can’t have both.

Either you accept that you’re here for a good time, not a long time and suffer the consequences when you move elsewhere. Or you actually choose to take care of your body, while acknowledging that you’re not fully capitalising on your time here.

Make you decision, make your peace with said decision and act accordingly.

avoid looking like a tourist in london

Never make eye contact with anyone. Ever.

Not on the Tube, not on the street. It genuinely makes people uncomfortable.

It’s strange, because eight million people live in this city. Yet, it can be one of the loneliest places to be, if you are truly craving human interaction.

Find your crew and find them fast. They’ll guarantee your survival here.

At the first sign of sunshine, head straight to the local park or pub

It took a long time for me to see the sense in heading to the pub when the sun comes out. Wouldn’t you want to be outside (not including beer gardens), preferably near the closest body of water? Yet, I understand now. Not only because that body of water is generally the Thames.

This is England after all and there’s no guarantee that the sun is going to stay out forever. So to celebrate, head to your nearest pub, to stand armpit to armpit with your fellow Londoners and celebrate with… yep! More drinking!

In all seriousness, there’s no place in the world like London. And there’s nothing worse than looking like a tourist. Just kidding, but it is fun to blend in.

Best of the British to you!

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23 Comments

  • Reply Simon September 26, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    The idea that people can’t be trusted to cross the road by themselves is absurd, and I for one would be embarrassed to be from a country where the government had to legislatively hold my had to pop over the road for a pint of milk!

    • Reply LC September 26, 2016 at 11:20 pm

      You’re right.. I definitely did not see someone dash across the road near Borough markets last week and miss getting hit by a motorcycle by a whisker.

      • Reply simon September 27, 2016 at 8:23 pm

        Well I guess they weren’t Australian then because Australians can, so I’m told, not avoid getting hit 😛

  • Reply Ashley October 16, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    I can relate to so many of these points – especially the abuse your health bit! I Feel like it’s been such a struggle to be healthy in Edinburgh. I think I’ve aged about 10 years since I moved here, haha

    • Reply LC October 17, 2016 at 12:55 am

      Haha I know what you mean. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think WHAT HAVE YOU DONE. Worth it… right?!

  • Reply GIORGOS SPYRIDAKOS December 26, 2016 at 7:11 am

    London sounds very exciting! I ve never been there when though my brother was living there for 2 years! I definetely need to pay a visit when I will plan a trip to Scotland!

    • Reply LC December 26, 2016 at 7:18 am

      It’s a funny city, I like it a lot. 🙂

  • Reply Patryk December 26, 2016 at 8:30 am

    Haha I love your post! Even though I’ve never actually lived in London, I’ve visited this city many times and I’ve noticed many of these things! I’ve heard that the rental fees inthis city are really high and the rooms are too small.

    • Reply LC December 26, 2016 at 10:27 am

      Way too high and much too small. It’s a funny place. Thanks Patryk.

  • Reply Kemkem December 26, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Thanks for the great laugh. I’ve visited London too many times to count and l find this list accurate..haha! I have to admit l am grateful for the directions on the ground as to where to look when crossing. It takes a bit of getting used to 🙂 . Great post!

    • Reply LC December 26, 2016 at 10:28 am

      Haha fair enough. I can understand the confusion when it’s not second nature! I feel the same way almost everywhere else in the world. Glad you got a lol out of it. ?

  • Reply chanelle December 26, 2016 at 11:58 am

    lol, I love this, tongue and cheek and hit the nail on the head with some points. I find the no eye contact the saddest thing, being lonely in such a big city can be hard, that’s why as you say, find your tribe. We are all human being craving human connection.

    • Reply LC December 28, 2016 at 7:51 am

      Thanks Chanelle. That’s exactly right. I worry about the repercussions of our rapid urbanisation, sometimes!

  • Reply Hallie December 27, 2016 at 2:22 am

    I love a good tongue in cheek guide to a place haha. The pronunciation would definitely throw me. How long did it take you to catch on to that? haha I’d dig the drinking wine and beer whenever though. ^^

    • Reply LC December 28, 2016 at 8:19 am

      Luckily, I only pronounced Southwark incorrectly once, in the company of friends. I double checked with a local from then on! Yep, it’s a great place for boozehounds, I speak from experience!

  • Reply saurabh December 28, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    I have been to London twice, but haven’t traveled extensively. Thank you for sharing helpful tips. I will keep those in mind in my next visit. BTW great photos included

    • Reply LC January 5, 2017 at 2:11 am

      Thank you and no worries.

  • Reply Abigail December 29, 2016 at 9:37 am

    What a fun post to read. As one of the most popular cities in the world, I would love a chance to try out some of these myself someday!

  • Reply Jackie Taylor December 30, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    I’ve been to London 4 times, but only for short visits, so this was an interesting read! A helpful guide for newcomers that’s for sure! Although being from Canada (where I’m used to everyone being super friendly- even to strangers) it would feel so different about the whole ‘no eye contact thing’ haha! Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply LC January 2, 2017 at 11:57 am

      Ha I felt the same way. People are pretty friendly in Australia – slightly less in Sydney, where I’m from but possibly not to the same degree, haha. Either way, it’s a great city and I miss it a lot.

  • Reply danik March 29, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Do you not hear the ‘e’ sound at the Marylebone station on station announcements etc. Its my station of work in my ‘real job’ and the way you mention it doesn’t sound like that :O And if you go further up the line to Birmingham, its worse, they say – Mary-le-Bone with a hard ‘B’ :O (shakes head)

    • Reply LC March 29, 2017 at 11:04 pm

      Damnit, I checked with some of your fellow countrymen before I wrote this post, so that’s just further proof that no one in the UK can currently agree on anything.

  • Reply parveen kumar July 11, 2017 at 11:09 am

    this is one of the most popular cities in the world, I would love a chance to try out some of these myself someday! ha ha ha

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