Being an Australian, when I first moved to London I thought fitting in would be a piece of bakewell tart. I mean, we sort of speak the same language and appear to have many cultural similarities, yes? How hard could it be? As it turns out, quite. So in the name of cultural exchange, I thought I’d reach out to the new arrivals of today. Follow these simple rules, and just like a hipster in Shoreditch with the facial fuzz of a person who never wants to be kissed again, you’ll be blending in like a local in no time.
You can read this post at work and pretend you’re catching up on important political matters on Huffington Post (not passing the time reading some chick’s stories about her bum) by pressing here. Or if you’re not micro-managed, just scroll down and enjoy.
1 – Logistics
If you want to get somewhere in London, you can rely on this.
If you want to get somewhere in London on time never rely on this.
2 – Greetings
Forget ‘hello’. You will be greeted with ‘alright’, asked as a question and with a hint of concern, just the way you might enquire when you see someone fall down a flight of stairs. This is not because they know you had too many beers last night and actually did fall down a flight of stairs. Translated, this means “Good morning/afternoon, how are you?” Unlike the rest of the world, replying to this with an evaluation of your health and mood that day is unnecessary.
3 – Chilli is not a spice, it’s a seasoning
It will be served in everything, so if you don’t like chilli, make ordering a side of yoghurt your new annoying habit.
4 – Renting
Think of renting a home like adopting a baby. Adoption involves background checks, assessments of your lifestyle, bank accounts and payslips and glowing references from employers and reputable friends. Renting is the same, except the thing draining your wallet each month from then on will be the cupboard you now call home, not an orphan.
5 – Rain
Don’t take out your umbrella unless it’s absolutely pelting with rain. Londoners are used to rain. Drizzle is nothing. This also explains why everyone is wearing a hat.
6 – Sun
On sunny days sit on some grass, close your eyes and smile serenely skyward, as if the sun is double chocolate fudge cake and you’ve been on a cabbage diet for the entire winter. When the temperature reaches a sweltering 14 degrees, take your top off. If you’re female, best skip that last bit.
7 – Tea and Beer
There is no problem that can’t be sorted over a cup of tea.
There is no problem that can’t be sorted over eight pints of beer.
8 – Trains
Manners have no place on trains. About two thirds of your life will be spent on public transport, so learn this quickly. Think of a seat as lungs; if you don’t have one you will die. Push, shove, run, vault, or trample an old lady to get one. Talking is forbidden, not to a friend, a stranger or yourself. Mobile phones however must be used whenever there is a signal, preferably to engage in an argument. If you accidentally look someone in the eye, look away quickly, as prolonged eye contact with a stranger will burn your eyeballs. If you don’t get a seat, be prepared to reach a level of intimacy with strangers’ bodies one usually reserves for a dark corner of a bar on a particularly dodgy night out. Nobody will move out of your way, so refer to the rules for acquiring a seat in order to leave the train.
9 – Making Acquaintances
You only need to know ten words to make acquaintances in London – cold, wet, miserable, grey, cloudy, windy, rainy or sunny, followed by “isn’t it?” In the unlikely event weather conversation runs dry, immediately supplement with “How about ____ last night?”, filling the blank with any of the following – X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, I’m a Celebrity, East Enders or David Cameron.
10 – Banking
Think of opening a bank account like adopting a baby…
* When in the presence of a lady with a pram, manners must miraculously reappear. Stop what you are doing, make room, rush to her aid, take one end of the pram and help her up stairs. Men need no help with prams. Child still ensconced , they will hoist the pram under one armpit and virtually sprint up the stairs to prove to all they are indeed – manly.