These are some of the major London faux pas that tourists make when they first visit the city. If you make any of these, don’t worry, it’s totally fine! However, it’s always good to be informed, so have a read to see what some are common cultural mistakes that visitors to London make.
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London Faux Pas #1: Standing on the left side of the escalator
When you’re on an escalator in an Underground station, you’ll see that people who want to stand, and not walk, will stand on the right.
Londoners are not keen about people standing on the left. It’s a sure-fire way to tell you’re a tourist, plus it blocks the path for people trying to get down quickly. So just be sure that if you’re on the escalator and you want to stand, and not walk down, to stand to the right side so people can walk down the left side.
London Faux Pas #2: Cutting a line (aka a “queue”)
This is quite the London faux pas since the Brits are known for being very good at keeping an orderly queue. I once accidentally jumped the line at a grocery store and my friends said I got the dirtiest looks from people… oops!
Stay in line, respect the line, and it will respect you… for the most part!
London Faux Pas #3: Not putting your fork and knife together when you finish eating
This is not a custom I grew up with as an American. In London, when you’re done with your food and you want the server to take your dish, put the fork and knife together in the center of the plate.
Don’t worry if you forget, I do it too. Sometimes I’m sat at a restaurant wondering “Why hasn’t anyone taken this plate away yet?” Then I remember that I’ve left my fork and knife splayed across the plate 😉
Read more about experiencing meals like Sunday Roast, afternoon tea, and all that delicious market food in my tips about London food and drink.
London Faux Pas #4: Not letting passengers off before getting on the Tube
I think this faux pas is common in most cities with public transportation, but since many American tourists are not used to using public transportation, this is worth mentioning. It’s common to let everyone off the train or Underground carriage before you get on. To do that, be sure to stand to the side of the door so people can exit quickly and easily.
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London Faux Pas #5: Not moving down the Tube car
When the train or Tube car gets crowded, you’ll hear the train conductor making announcements saying “Please move all the way down the car”. This means to move towards the middle of the car, away from the doors, so more people can get on.
If you’re a pushy New Yorker like me you could say “Excuse me would you mind moving down the car?” But then other people in the car will think “Why are you trying to talk to me? We’re on the tube, this is awkward. ” (See Faux Pas #9)
London Faux Pas #6: Leaning against the pole on the Tube
Definitely add this one to your list of London travel tips. It is considered rude to lean against the poles that are in the middle of the Tube cars. It doesn’t allow other people to use them. just keep standing straight and you’ll blend right in.
While we’re talking about transportation, do you know which Oyster Card is best for your trip… the regular Oyster Card or the visitor Oyster Card? This article breaks down the pros and cons of both.
London Faux Pas #7: Talking really loud
This is definitely an American thing, but some other cultures do it too. Londoners, and the British, by nature speak at a lower volume than other cultures. If you’re loud, you might be interrupting someone’s nice dinner or conversation. Try to remember to lower your voice to avoid this common London faux pas.
London Faux Pas #8: Tipping the bartender
Bartenders don’t need to be tipped when you order at the bar in London, even if you end up ordering food too. When you get table service at a bar or club, you should tip, but they’ll typically add a service charge onto the bill automatically.
London Faux Pas #9: Not knowing when to end a conversation
By nature, Londoners are not as friendly with strangers than in most other parts of the world. They don’t mean to be rude, they just prefer to keep to themselves, more than people who live in the UK suburbs, and especially more than Americans.
Sometimes I hear tourists having conversations with their server who is trying to be friendly, but is also trying to do their job and can’t continue a conversation. If you have a conversation with someone, be wary of signs that they need to end it. If they keep looking away or answer questions briefly, it’s a sign to wrap it up.
Interested to learn more of my London travel tips so you can make the most of your visit? Check out these resources next.
If you’re a first time visitor, my free London 101 Guide answers lots of typical tourist questions.
Learn how to avoid these five common mistakes that tourists make during their first 3 days in London.
Read about how to use your phone in London if you’re not sure about what to do when travelling internationally.