Just like any major city there are unspoken rules that local Londoners understand and follow that you’ll need to learn pertaining to proper underground etiquette when living in London.  Breaking these rules is a sure sign that you’re an outsider and it makes the locals upset.  To avoid being targeted by criminals as a Yank or tourist take the time to learn the unspoken rules of London’s Underground before your plane ever arrives to make your time living in London more enjoyable.

  • Have tickets ready, in hand – No one appreciates the person digging through their pockets or purse looking for their ticket.  To avoid being ‘that person’ hold on to your ticket while traveling.
  • Don’t be loud – the British are not known for their jubilant attitudes in public.  Talking quietly is okay, but please keep the loud talking to a minimum for other’s sake.
  • Give up your seat if needed – Just like in the US if someone who needs a seat comes on board it is only polite to offer yours.  This rule extends to the elderly, the disabled and parents with young children.
  • Keep your belonging on you – You will get lots of glares if your backpack, laptop case or some other bag is parked on the seat next to you.  Either hold your bags on your lap or put them by your feet, please.
  • Use escalators properly – If you are standing on an escalator stand on the right side.  This frees up the left side for those walking up or down the moving staircase.
  • No eye contact needed– Once again the British are a stoic bunch and don’t appreciate intimacies with strangers.  If you make eye contact and smile to strangers on the train you will stand out as both rude and certainly not a local.
  • Don’t overcrowd a train – Use common sense and if a train is full wait for the next one.

In all honesty London is not that different from the US in regards to public transportation etiquette.  Although these rules may seem obvious to New Yorkers those Americans from more rural parts of the country may not be aware of proper Underground etiquette while living in London.