· An American’s Guide to Living in London ·
Think because you grew up reading Harry Potter and know Love Actually by heart that you know all there is to London culture? Think again. Don’t let the (mostly) shared language fool you, the UK really is a foreign country. Though they have Google and iPhones, they ultimately have their own cultural quirks and practices. We yanks don’t always have the most glowing reputation, either, so avoid being the stereotypical loud, brash American and follow these 11 tips on making yourself invisible in London instead.
Don’t talk on the Tube. Or if you must, do so in your best library voice. Actually, it’s best if you just imagine that all of London is a library and keep your voice down when you’re out and about.
Do stand on the right. Speaking of the Tube, make sure to stand on the right on the escalators. Most stations have reminders but it’s not to be ignored. Otherwise you’ll be on the receiving end of a seemingly-polite-but-actually-very-annoyed “Sorry!”
Don’t confuse nationalities. London is in England which is one country on the island of Great Britain and in the sovereign state of the United Kingdom. Confused? Probably. But the important take away is that the UK consists of four countries with their own histories, cultures, and heritage: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Try to avoid being both rude and ignorant and maybe stick to the overarching British instead.
Do learn the British term for things. Most people will look at you confused if try to order fries, and when your sandwich comes with chips, don’t be surprised when it shows up with fries. Feeling cold? Put on a jumper (sweater). Order a pudding (dessert) after dinner. And don’t forget your pants (underwear)!
Don’t be alarmed when you see a washing machine in the kitchen. Weird? Unhygienic? Maybe, but it’s pretty standard here. More frustrating still is that it’s really hit or miss if there’s a dryer. Get ready for crunchy jeans.
Do be stingy. It’s in our nature to want to tip 20% no matter what. But save some money and only tip when necessary. There’s no need to tip for coffee or beer at a pub or bar, nor if you order and pay for your food at the bar. When you’re seated and someone takes your order, you should plan to tip 12-15%. Just make sure they haven’t snuck in a cheeky service charge already!
Don’t be rude. Being polite and respectful is valued in London. Londoners apologize for everything (they even say sorry instead of excuse me). Prove the American stereotype wrong by channelling your best Emily Post manners.
Do know when to seat yourself and when to be seated at a restaurant. It can be confusing for Americans when you walk into a pub with tables (anything with a name that sounds like it’s out of Harry Potter). It looks like you should be seated, but you’ll be waiting for awhile (re: forever) if you want someone from the restaurant to take you to a table and then come to take your order. If there’s no one up front, do your best to find an empty table and have your table number ready when you order at the bar like a pro!
Don’t be offended if someone makes fun of you. It often means they actually like you as the British are known for “taking the piss,” or teasing you as a form of endearment. Your best response it to laugh along or give it right back. Try classic insults like “dickhead,” “wanker,” or “knobhead.”
Do talk about the weather or property shows. If you’re at a loss for what to say, you can’t go wrong with talking (mostly complaining) about the weather or indulging Londoners’ obsession with property shows. When you’ve reached this level of camouflage, your only giveaway will be your accent!
Sources: http://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryUK/HistoryofBritain/The-UK-Great-Britain-Whats-the-Difference/ http://www.effingpot.com/slang.shtml http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/08/14/british-stereotypes_n_5461440.html http://whatculture.com/offbeat/12-british-stereotypes-americans-believe-totally-true.php http://gouk.about.com/od/ukcurrencymoneymatters/f/Tipping_UK.htm http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/sep/29/how-much-should-i-tip-etiquette-tipping-service-charges https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taking_the_piss http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g186216-s606/United-Kingdom:Tipping.And.Etiquette.html http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/british-and-american-terms http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g186216-c1712/United-Kingdom:Customs.And.Etiquette.html http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Travel-g186216-s202/United-Kingdom:Culture.html http://metro.co.uk/2015/10/06/the-internet-is-loving-this-american-mans-hilariously-random-description-of-life-in-the-uk-5424630/