As a Londoner, I recognise how important tourists are to my fair city. Heck I even went to university in Canterbury and saw that tourists (and students, obvs) made up a huge proportion of those milling around the cobbled streets. Tourism is great for business, great for employment and even better for bringing more culture and internationalism to our door. Now, more than ever we are seeing a tourist boom with cheap flights, and in so many ways it’s lovely to see. But there is the tourist trap to bear in mind.
I used to work in the heart of Westminster. I walked past Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, and the novelty wore off pretty quick, I barely noticed them (terrible, isn’t it?). Up until this point I had worked in the heart of the City, a place where few venture unless they have to and where I was more likely to bump into a performing dog than a tourist. Oh how I missed those days. The peaceful walk to the station. Only elbowing fellow commuters who knew the rules on tube platforms. Those that walked with purpose.
Bloody hell. Tourists don’t half get in the way!
So in the spirit of those experiences, I’d like to propose a manifesto. Well maybe not a manifesto – maybe more a friendly “top tips for behaving in the fair city of London” leaflet. I don’t want to appear draconian. This leaflet would be handed out at every port, and as you pass through customs at every airport. Just for safe measure, maybe you’d get it with your vomit bag on the plane. You know – peruse duty free, study the safety guide, learn what is expected of you when you arrive for your first full day of touristing in the capital.
- When using the London Underground, there is a reason why people stand on the right when using escalators. The left is for those who who are busy, in a rush and need to get somewhere quickly. This is especially true during key commuter times when the stations look full of stressed, worker types. Please don’t hang around on the left of the escalators, have whole conversations at the top or bottom or leave your luggage in unfortunate places.
- I love watching you take photos of our historic landmarks. I enjoy seeing someone take a cheeky photo with Big Ben looming in the background. But please don’t stand in the middle of pavements taking an age to get that perfect picture. I know these are going to be a great record of your trip, but people need to use the pavements to get through or get past. They can only stop for so long whilst you are zooming in and out with your lens. And say thank you to those who have stopped for you.
- It’s great you bring your whole family on your trip. I loved seeing new places when I was small. But please keep hold of your children and don’t allow them to wander off and be a nuisance to those who are trying to get to work.
- We Brits adore queuing – it’s kind of our thing, and the guidebook might not have mentioned that. But what we hate most of all are tourists pushing in the queue, and then being really rude when asked to join the line from the back. Sure we enjoy queuing – but not that much.
- If you ask someone for directions or some help, it’s only polite to say thanks even if we can’t give you as much help as you need – tutting or swearing at someone when they’ve stopped to try and help you is not considered good manners.
- I know that tourists, by their very definition, walk slowly. You are taking in the sights, the smells, the atmosphere and I love that you are appreciating our fine city. But please don’t wander and meander in the middle of the path or take up the whole path when someone who is moving much more quickly needs to get past. Sometimes it feels like we are running the gauntlet with you.
I think these simple rules should be added in London guidebooks and made standard practice – it would certainly make the Summer high season period much nicer, and visitors to London much more pleasant to tolerate. We all need to share a small space, and whilst us commuters and workers are no angels (that is a whole other story) tourists need to be respectful too.
I know I am just as bad when I got to other cities to check things out – and we all make mistakes around what is accepted behaviour – but there is no need for rudeness, ever.
***all of the above things have happened to me regularly whilst working in London, but this post is supposed to be satire so please don’t be offended. I know I am just as bad when I go to other cities to check things out, and I’m sure you could write something similar for you home city too – if you do, please share it in the comments below!