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Rant re: tourists on the Tube

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London UndergroundFact: London is the greatest city in the world. That’s why so many people want to come here on holiday, which is fantastic, but a very ungenerous part of me does rather wish that tourists would simply steer clear of the Tube – or at least only use it on specially designated open days (come to think of it, I may pitch that idea to Boris!)

Here’s the thing: The London Underground is not just a transport system. It’s actually the closest thing we sad, repressed Londoners have to a community. Not the kind of community where people do crazy extroverted things like talk to each other, you understand (see Crime No. 2), but the kind with a collective understanding of where stuff is and how it all works.

Those of us who live and work in London are used to the rituals of the Tube: we’ve learned the cadences of the station announcements, we know how to position ourselves on a crowded platform to get onto a packed train, we clock the latest ad campaign for Match.com, and we chuckle (inwardly) at the ‘Thought of the Day’ messages scrawled on the station update boards. We tut if someone is faster than us at diving for the spare seat, we roll our eyes if the next train isn’t due within 5 minutes, and we sigh loudly if the train is held on the tracks for more than a few seconds without an apologetic driver announcement.

There’s a certain comfort in the shared familiarity of it all: the unspoken etiquette that guides our conduct in this bizarre underground ecosystem. And then the tourists show up, complete with their jazzy t-shirts, backpacks, giant cameras and Cheshire Cat grins – and they unwittingly unbalance the fragile equilibrium.

Here are some of their worst offences. Tourists, read and learn!

1.    They take photos of Tube signs. And Tube carriages. And maybe even me, “A local, riding the Tube – LOL”.

2.    They keep trying to make conversation beyond the socially acceptable limits of “Have you finished with that paper?” and “Move down please”.

3.    They make eye contact. (What’s THAT about?)

4.    They walk down the stairs towards the platform, put their luggage down and stand in front of the map at the entrance, seemingly completely unaware that they’re causing the rest of us to delay our entry to the platform by at least 2 crucial seconds.

5.    They have no idea how to use the ticket machines. No idea at all.

6.    They stare at an information board that lists Earls Court as the destination – then when the train comes they check with at least 3 independent parties that the train will in fact take them to Earls Court.

7.    And finally, their worst crime of all: THEY DON’T STAND TO THE RIGHT! (See below photo for a demonstration of how this works)

Stand to the right

Now that I’ve got the rant out of my system, I should conclude with the admission that I am a complete hypocrite. I am guilty of far worse crudities when attempting to navigate foreign underground systems. Possibly my most shameful moment was during my recent trip to New York, when I became so bewildered by the Subway system that I abandoned it mid-journey in favour of a cab … and then gave the wrong directions to the cab driver. To be fair to the London tourists, it’s not likely many of them will have been quite that inept.

Written by Emily

April 17, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Posted in UK

Tagged with , ,

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