A Newcomer’s Guide to London

So I’ve now spent three weeks in London and I thought it would be helpful to anyone else thinking of moving here if I passed on a bit of advice, based on what I’ve learnt so far, to help you avoid culture shock or finding yourself in an embarrassing social faux pas.

London can be a fairly grim place at times, so if you’re with a partner then it’s only natural you’ll feel like having a bit of a kiss and cuddle every now and then. The most appropriate time and place to do this is on the Underground, preferably on the most crowded train you can find — if you can find one that’s so crowded that there isn’t even enough room to hold onto anything for support then you’re on to a winner. Make sure you let people know how much you’re enjoying your kissing session by making lots of noise, and don’t forget to use lots of spit and tongue.

Littering is not only accepted, but actively encouraged. If you have to throw something away — a chewing gum wrapper, a newspaper, a worn-out hip — then just toss it casually to one side, wherever you are. Don’t bother using any bins you might pass by, as those are there for terrorists to dispose their bombs in, as part of the government’s ‘Bombs for Hugs’ initiative, whereby anybody who looks like they might be an Arab should run up to any London Met officer they can find and spontaneously hug them.

The Underground can be pretty overwhelming, so it’s a good idea to stop, put your bags down, and get your bearings every now and then. The best point at which to do this is at the mouth of an escalator. When actually on the escalator, you’ll find most people stand to the right, which can cause the machinery to unbalance. Rectify this by standing on the left.

Make eye contact with everybody you pass. A popular way of passing time on the Underground is to indulge in staring competitions with random commuters, so give it a go.

Everybody wants to hear your music, so make sure that crappy hiphop bullshit you’ve got stored as a 64kb/s MP3 on your cheap-ass mobile phone is played at the highest volume you can manage. The tinnier and crapper the speaker, the better. If you don’t have any music stored, don’t worry — take the time instead to select a ringtone. You probably have a few dozen to choose from so make sure you play through the list at least twice.

If you find yourself on a busy street and need to have a cigarette, you should first make a special effort to overtake someone — me, for instance — and then the second you’ve done so, slow right down so that I walk right into you. Take your time lighting up. Make sure you blow a massive cloud of smoke in my face afterwards. Similarly, if you need to discard your cigarette, just toss it to one side. It probably won’t hit anybody.

An espresso in London is not always an espresso — sometimes, it’s an Americano served in an espresso cup. However, you won’t discover it’s an Americano until five or ten minutes later when you prise the plastic lid off. The accepted behaviour at this point is to swear loudly, indicating to your fellow Londoners that you’re very happy with this state of affairs.

If you find you need to spit, just spit.