Londoners are a contrary bunch. Both arrogant about living in one of the greatest cities in the world, yet at the same time miserable about it. It’s not all Beefeaters and black cabs, but rather tube delays and over-inflated prices that preoccupy the thoughts of most people in London. Most weren’t even born by the sound of Bow bells (except for those who were born in Bow), and the Cockney accent that the rest of the world assumes is all pervading in the city is rarely heard outside of “realistic” TV dramas.
Anyway, these city folk (like the girls in the picture by kоnstantin, above) know a thing or two, and here’s a list of things that they learnt on the streets whilst fighting pigeons in Trafalgar Square.
The Tube only likes North London
As far as the London Underground is concerned, south of the River Thames can pretty much go hang.
Only a small part of the 150-year-old network enters the lower half of the city, and if a tourist wants to properly venture down there they have to use the complex system of mainline trains that the residents are forced to use.
Just get an Oyster card
Even if you’re only in town for a couple of days, you ought to get an Oyster travelcard. You’re pretty much gangpressed into it these days, with non-Oyster travel fares around double the price.
You used to be able to get monthly travelcards too, but these were obliterated into non-existence by the almighty Oyster.
Praise the great O for He shalt deliver thee unto Tooting Bec at a reasonable levy.
People actually like the mayor
Boris Johnson, the current Mayor of London, has subtly become the city’s cuddly mascot, cheering people up with his constant gaffes – even when they’re ludicrously offensive.
The previous mayor, Ken Livingstone, was seen as overly curmudgeonly, but Boris’ positive attitude seems to reflect what Londoners would prefer to be confronted with at a managerial level.
The rest of the country likes to pretend they don’t know who Boris is, but they’re sure to take notice once he’s Prime Minister.
Stand on the right side of all escalators
If you don’t do this, you will most certainly hear a gruff “Ahem!” behind you, perhaps even a light tap on the shoulder.
In all fairness, a stern “Get the &%*! out of the way, you gibbon!” is appropriate treatment for non-Londoners who do not obey this sacred law.
Taxis: good and bad
Black cabs are brilliant sometimes, as the drivers really do know their way around. Minicabs, on the other hand, may be cheaper but are often piloted by people who rely purely on GPS directions and may even be completely ignorant of their surroundings – often they take you on the most absurdly long route just because some satellite doesn’t know its way around London either.
On New Year’s Eve, minicabs are double their usual price too, but nobody knows why – black cabs merely add on an extra £5 to their usual price, while tubes and buses are free until 4.30am. That is how out of touch minicab drivers are in London.
Victoria Park is nowhere near Victoria
If you’re heading to one of the many music festivals or outdoor cinema screenings held there, you will in fact find there are very few convenient train stops nearby.
The nearest tube is Bethnal Green, and it’s not even that close.
Guess the language
London is a melting pot of cultures and identities, and despite a reputation for being predominantly Cockney, you’re more likely to encounter different languages altogether in central areas.
Playing Guess The Language is always a fun pastime when hearing other people’s conversations on the streets and public transport.
Seeing as there is an unwritten rule that you should be silent in public places unless drunk, guessing languages is the best way of whiling away your journeys in the capital.
Bike around the city for just £2
The Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme (sometimes referred to as “them Boris bikes”) is a nifty way of getting around central London. If you’re visiting, you can get a 24-hour pass for £2 using a credit card from any of the bike stations, and then get charged for however long you use the bikes.
The great thing is, after the £2 charge, you can pretty much avoid paying any further. Any journey under 30 minutes is free and there are plenty of stations around, so just make sure you swap your bike at a station every 25 minutes and you can ride around for next to nothing.
It’s a cheapskate move, but in a city as absurdly expensive as London, you need to take as many freebies as you can get!
Canals are the only refuge from city life
With around 11 million residents, London can be a bit overwhelming and even claustrophobic. Respite in the parks is difficult – they’re often full of people, particularly since Londoners call in sick even at the smallest hint of sunshine.
But head to the canals and it doesn’t feel like London anymore. Even when you can see iconic buildings like the Gherkin or St Pancras Station in the distance beyond, the canals seem to be in their own differently-paced universe, where birds drift calmly along softly rippling waters and people actually smile. Marvellous.
Obviously, having told you this, the canals will now be stuffed with people who’ve read this article. Apologies for that.
Finally… Don’t call it “The Big Smoke”
If you call it that, it just means you’re not from London. Nobody says that, it makes you look like a tourist. Avoid avoid avoid.