Even if you think you know all things English, the reality is that until you’ve spent lots of time in the U.K., you really don’t know Union Jack. Rather than standing out like a sore thumb, use these tips to experience London just like a local. By the way, if you hear the word “local” in England, there’s a good chance someone is just asking you for a drink in the nearest pub!
Put Away Your Cockney
To plenty of Americans and other travellers, visiting London is the perfect opportunity to try out all that cockney rhyming slang you might have heard in movies and television shows. The reality, however, is that a mention of the “apples and pears” instead of just saying “stairs” will get you laughed right out of the pub. So, don’t try to impress Londoners with your best cockney impersonation. If you really want to impress them, just buy the next round. Just don’t call it a King Lear–that’s beer!–or you’ll soon be sitting on your own.
Put Your Money Down the Tube
Hailing a black cab is expensive, but hopping on a double-decker sightseeing bus will instantly label you as a tourist in London. The perfect way to get around is on the Tube, the official name of the London Underground. The Tube system is expansive and can easily get you where you want to go. Plus, it’s cheap, relatively prompt, and surrounds you with other locals on their way to and from work, a night out, or a day of shopping. Instead of revealing yourself as a tourist and using cash each time you take the Tube, buy an Oyster card to scan your way in and out of each station. It costs a little bit upfront, but an Oyster card is definitely better than fishing for the right coins in your bag.
Stop Snickering About Spotted Dick
Let’s admit it: Some of the most common dishes on British menus can have you keeled over with laughter. Bangers and mash might sound a little risqué for a Tuesday evening, but it’s nothing more than sausages and mashed potatoes. Toad in the hole might have you giggling, but the whimsical name is just code for sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter. Bubble and squeak sounds downright ridiculous, but it’s a staple dish of cabbage and potatoes. Full up on bangers and toads? Try the granddaddy of all dirty-sounding desserts: spotted dick. Rest assured: This phallic-sounding treat is actually a sweet roll dotted with dried fruit. Tasty? Yes. Scandalous to a local Londoner? Not so much.
Get Used to a Long Reign
Elizabeth II has been reigning as queen for more than 60 years, but Londoners are far more likely to be talking about another type of rain: the kind frequently falling from the sky. For the British, and for Londoners in particular, chatting and complaining about the weather is a national pastime. So if you’re stuck in a line—stuck in a “queue,” if you’re British–mention the cool day, the drizzling rain, or the surprise sunshine to get a comment back. In weather terms, that should help you “break the ice” just like a local.
Burn the Candle at All Ends
Locals know that there is a lot more to London than just Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, and Big Ben. In fact, there are dozens of unique neighbourhoods worth exploring, and not all of them will be on the tourist bus route. South End, located in Croydon, is the best place to go if you’re after an amazing meal without a huge price tag. If you’d rather spend your afternoon shopping or your evening catching a theatre production, head to the West End. Gearing up for a night of drinking in the trendiest bars and pubs frequented by London’s young professionals? Visit Shoreditch, located in London’s East End. Really, the “Ends” in London are where you should end up!
Experiencing London like a local doesn’t have to be challenging. Put away your bad accent, brush up on your map guides, and stop falling prey to cockney rhyming slang. The Lon-do’s and Lon-dont’s above will ensure that you soak up the city just like a resident.
What are your tips for blending in with the London locals?