Londoners (those both old and new) have a love/hate relationship with the London Underground. Personally, I’m mildly obsessed. Mostly, it’s the history that I love; how the growth of each colourful line tells a story about London’s past and future. Find yourself in town during a Tube Strike and you’ll realise quickly that it truly is the lifeblood of London. Because of this, there’s understandably a bit of etiquette involved. So if you’re new in town or just stopping by for a visit, there are a few golden rules of riding the London Underground that you need to know before you even attempt to mind the gap:
1. RELINQUISH ALL PERSONAL SPACE.
In any other scenario, it’d almost be considered inappropriate. On the Tube, it’s practically a necessity to get up close and personal with your fellow commuters. It’s totally fine to be breathing down someone’s neck, reading their book or newspaper over their shoulder if it means we can all fit on board. Further to this:
2. PUSH OR BE PUSHED.
Go on, you can fit. Really. Where there’s a will, there’s a way and politeness will get you nowhere except very, very late to work.
3. DO NOT TALK. ESPECIALLY TO STRANGERS.
As much as it pains me, most London commuters would rather chew off their own arm than engage in conversation during their morning or evening commute. You’ve been warned.
4. STAND ON THE RIGHT.
Over two years in London and this rule still baffles me. Australians drive on the left and keep to the left. Brits drive on the left and keep to the right. But whatever. Conform or find yourself the recipient of some huffing and puffing and profanity.
5. EVEN FLEETING EYE CONTACT IS JUST NOT OKAY.
Trust me. Just don’t.
The thing I absolutely love about these rules is that to Londoners, these are all just the way of the world: none of the above is out of the ordinary whatsoever. Most of the time, I find there’s something comforting about the shared lack of comfort – the unspoken acknowledgement of the ways of the Tube. But you know what they say about rules: they were made to be broken by chatty expat Australians.