When travelling as a tourist in London you will probably catch the tube (or underground). If you do, you will probably get in the way of regular commuters. In order to lower the number of swear words you hear as people push past please use the following hints

  1. Do not smoke. The Kings Cross disaster was caused by a dropped cigarette. People have a right to be safe.
  2. On escalators, stand on the right. The signs are everywhere. Do not stand next to your friend on the same step. Do not put your bag beside you.
  3. Before joining the queue for the ticket gates, have your ticket in your hand. Do not stand there blocking the gate while you look in the bottom of your bum bag.
  4. Do not stop immediately after the ticket gate and look at a map. Move to one side.
  5. If you have bought a single ticket, and not a zone card when you exit the tube after your journey, the ticket gate will keep it. Do not stand there expecting it to come out. It's gone. It's used. Get over it, and mourn later.
  6. Let people off the train before boarding. You may want to get on, but they are getting off with a purpose. Get out of the way.
  7. If you are travelling with a rucksack or back pack take it off. You have no idea how annoying it is to be in a packed tube, with some backpacker forcing his pack into your face and not realising because he can't feel anything. Better still travel at off peak times.
  8. Use deodorant.
  9. Do not eat smelly food. Do not drink beer. Be careful with any type of hot drink.
  10. Turn your Walkman/CD/MP3 player down.
  11. Don't pick your nose.
  12. Do not attempt to read a broadsheet newspaper in a packed carriage.
  13. Do not litter on the platforms. It will be swept onto the rails and can cause delays.
  14. Do not leave your litter on the train. I know we have no bins down here, but thats due to the nasty habit of putting bombs into bins, practised by the IRA a while back.
  15. Do not play tonsil hockey with your better half, or with someone you just meet in a pub 5 minutes ago,
  16. Control your children. The tube is not a playground.
  17. Do not hold the door open.
  18. Mind the gap.

    and most important of all


Enjoy your stay, just don't travel in front of me, ok?

It is also customary, especially on the Metropolitan Line, NOT to move up when somebody else wants a seat. If you're sitting in the aisle seat and the window seat is free, it's usual to let the new person clamber over you into the window seat. Moving up would be far too sensible. This is a very, very strange part of London life.

Disregard point 19 in the originating write-up. The London Underground has been voted the most romantic location for meeting a potential lover by women for the last two years.

This is not as strange as it sounds.

The combination of so many people, the element of chance, the notion of fate bringing you together, and people who are waiting, anticipating, and caught in moments of stillness, lost in their own thoughts, can often lead to love. The London Underground is the LAST place you would think of meeting someone, and that is why most of your defences are down, and when it looks like you have found someone you are more likely to make a go of it.

It happened to me, twice, so there is definitely something to it. Just remember, be polite. Be warm. Be helpful. Be open, and relaxed. Have fresh breath, and a sense of humour. She did. :-)

Blowdart must be using some other Tube system, one that is rightly off limits to people like me. I’ve seen people smoking on the Tube, both on the platform and on the train itself. I’ve seen people drinking beer, amongst other things. I’ve seen people not only playing tonsil hockey, but getting down and dirty in front of ten or twelve complete strangers.

I’ve seen, not once or twice but on numerous occasions, natives - not tourists, not with those accents - with their walkmen/CD players turned up quite loud. And more often than not, they were also singing. Just in case the tourists and other riffraff couldn’t quite hear the music clearly.

On one occasion I saw a nice group of local boys - I believe you folks call them “lads” - doing their best to clear the train of foreigners who could not follow the rules of Tube etiquette. They were doing this by taking turns hanging and spinning on the overhead bars. As each lad took his turn swinging, his friends - sorry, “mates” - called out encouragingly and fairly loudly to him, driving him to ever more impressive acrobatics. I think they must have had a wee bit too much to drink, though, as their performance was quite poor, and two of them actually fell on people who were doing their best to keep stiff upper lips and ignore the nice boys. (After all, London Tube etiquette does require that we not talk to each other, doesn’t it?)

And one beautiful spangled London night, I had the great honour of seeing a young guitar player sit down directly across from me and start fondling himself through the fabric of his trousers. Luckily for all of us, he didn’t mind us watching - at first he made an adorable pretense of shyness, hiding his passion with his bulky guitar case, but soon he cast it aside and proudly declared his great love for himself, getting right down to it. Such admirable enthusiasm these lovely Londoners have. They do no thing by halves, indeed. Unfortunately, I had to leave just then on urgent business, so I’m not quite sure how his little tryst ended.

Perhaps the rules are different in the mysterious alter-London they won’t let me into. Or maybe it's just that each man gets the Tube he deserves.

Yes, the London Underground is actually quite nice compared to some other systems. And yes, Londoners are usually fairly polite. But let's not get carried away. The Tube is made of people, after all. Sometimes it gets quite nasty. Like everything else in life.

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