7 Great Tips for Life in London When You First Arrive
It’s a fact, but every city in the world has its own individuality. And having a bit of inside information about London really can make your move that little bit easier.
If you’re coming from Europe, the differences in London life to other major cities, such as Paris, Berlin or Rome, might not be huge. But if you’re moving from another continent, then the little nuances that make London so unique might at first make you feel like you’ve moved to another planet!
But fear not, as all it takes is a little pre-discovery. And with that in mind, here are our top 7 tips for settling into life in London with as little fuss as possible…
1. Learn the ‘rules’ of the Tube
London’s underground rail network, The Tube, is a wonderful way of getting around the city. But be aware that there is an unwritten etiquette on using it. This includes such things as:
- Stand on the right hand side on escalators. Those walking up or down use the left side, and Londoners have a habit of ‘tutting’ if any unsuspecting person blocks their way. As in any city, many people are in a hurry, and giving those individuals freedom to pass will make your life a lot easier.
- Let passengers off the train before you try to board, even when it’s packed during the rush hour.
- Don’t dive on the train as the doors are shutting. There’s going to be another train along in just a minute or two, and getting stuck in the door means the whole train gets held up – and you’ll get a few choice looks if you’re the culprit.
- If you’re standing, hold on. Tubes are renowned for jolting people off their feet, so hanging onto one of the handy rails will stop you falling into others.
- Ignore the drunkard… Yes, every so often you’ll come across someone who’s being a complete pain. They’re normally completely harmless, but woe betide if you’re the one they manage to engage in conversation…
- Move down the platform if it’s busy. Not only does it let other people enter, but you’ll be more likely to manage to get on the train further down during busy periods.
2. Be prepared for the weather
The British love to talk about the weather. And for good reason, because it’s so changeable. Learn to love it, and you too will soon become as obsessed as the locals.
Carry a small umbrella at all times, wear layers so you can add or remove them as necessary. And go out without your scarf, gloves and beanie (or other hat) from October through to February at your peril (especially if you don’t have much hair…!). Download the BBC weather app to your phone and you’ll always have the latest forecast to hand.
3. Queuing is a way of life
Queuing (or standing in a line) is the way to do things in London – and indeed all of the UK. We understand that in other countries this might not be so, but in Britain, if there’s a line, we join the end of it.
Trying to cut in will cause the otherwise laid back Brits to become enraged. If we have to queue, then so should you.
4. Understand how to pay for things
‘Cash is king’, so the saying used to go. But not so much now. Yes, you can still use cash to pay for many things, but in the 21st century there are so many more ways to do so. For instance:
- Use an Oyster Card for public transport. This is a credit card sized smart card that can be used for the Tube and London Buses. You simply top it up, and can then just ‘tap in and out’ at tube stations or on the bus. It’s fast, convenient and means you’re not always scrabbling for change.
- Many places do not accept cheques. This includes most supermarkets and many other stores.
- Get a UK bank account with a ‘chip and pin’ card. Countries such as the USA don’t have these cards, and to use US Cards will take more time (as you have to manually sign a till receipt), rather than simply tapping in your pin code. If you have a card that supports it, you’ll also be able to pay for purchases of less than £20 by simply tapping your card on the cash terminal. Extremely handy and very fast.
5. Get out and meet people
London is a wonderfully multi-cultural city. This means there are simply thousands of interesting people out there for you to meet.
And whilst it can be comforting to spend time with people from your own country, you’ll really be missing out if you don’t extend your circle of friends to others, including locals and people from other countries who’ve made London their home.
The UK capital is an amazing place. But you’d be surprised how many people (including those born and bred in the city), don’t explore their home town.
On any given day there’s a multitude of exciting things happening. Check out listings in such publications as Time Out, on Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet. There are also listings in many London newspapers, such as The Evening Standard – a newspaper given out free all over London every weekday evening.
7. Ditch the car
If you come from a country where a car is a must-have, such as the USA or Australia, it may come a huge surprise to realise that you don’t really need a car in London.
The public transport system is usually very good, there are plentiful black cabs, which can be hailed on the street. And in all reality, London is a really easy city in which to walk.
In addition to that, parking in London can be a nightmare. If you can find a space it will likely cost you a small fortune, and thanks to the congestion charge, you have to pay every day that you drive in the city.
And if that’s not enough, driving in London can be a frenetic experience, especially if you come from a country that drives on the right, and not the left!