Not all of us can be as good at blending in as a Secret agent or even more so, Wally from Where’s Wally. London is a very large city and there’s plenty to learn from the many walks of life emanating from the city. As a multicultural hub, there are hundreds of millions of people living within the city which spans over 1000 kilometres in diameter. The amount of languages and the amount of space that the city takes up is daunting to many, which makes fitting in even more difficult. If you’re visiting for a mere few days or even hours it’s difficult to get a handle on how to live like the locals. Fear not though as many locals who live here have to come to the conclusion that they will never actually know the whole of the city. There is always more to see, and that’s part of the problem. Perhaps no one is ever truly a “Londoner”; as there is so much to experience and such a vast wealth of different landscapes, emotions and culture on offer, that to harness it all would take several lifetimes. There may be some consolation in that. The cities ever changing identity may still have even the most hardened city veteran surprised at an everyday (or not so every day) occurrence. Like many of the sprawling metropolises of the world, part of the draw is often the very unpredictable nature that people try to harness in calling themselves a Londoner. To say you are a Londoner is to say you have seen it all, and few, if any can ever say that with truth behind it.
For those who would like to absorb all they can and feel, to an extent, what every Londoner feels day after day, then there is a cheat sheet they can use to get to grips with basics quickly. This will help you traverse and understand the city better so as to really sink your claws into this stunning city.
Take a tour
A great way to get to grips with the city is through taking a tour of it. There’s nothing better than finding areas you love and having a trained professional and expert letting you discover even more about it. There’s always more to learn about London’s vast history. This is due to the city has existed since 43 AD and therefore has amassed an insurmountable depth of history. With the London Bus Tour you can see some of the best views and landmarks of the city whilst getting a bearing of this city where it’s so easy to get lost. More specific tours, such as the one of the Whitechapel area gives a focus on hauntings which in themselves brings history into the equation as one thing ghosts have to be, is old!
The Great British Pub
Drinking in London is definitely not cheap and it can often be difficult to find the “locals” where you can meet true Londoners. Depending on the area you are in, you may often find yourself in commuter pubs, where workers go to unwind after a long day at the office. Many of these pubs where people go for after work drinks can be found in financial sectors of the city and more broadly, in Central London where much of the commerce is concentrated. The further out you go, the cheaper pubs will become. There are several pub chains that are cheaper in their drink prices. If you are in central London then the best way to keep your eyes peeled for a bargain is to hit the happy hour periods, usually after work hours, between 5 and 8 in general. There are also areas where drinking may be cheaper, with nightlife centres such as Camden and Shoreditch holding many pubs and bars off the beaten track. At the end of the day, whether you’re a tourist or just new to living in London, you’ll find yourself spending a fair amount of time in our charming British pubs. Whether you’re drinking or not, you’ll find the culture of the British Pub to be quintessential to the feeling of not only London, but the UK as a whole.
The Underground doesn’t need to be a place of stress and worry. Like the inevitability of day and night, there is always going to be a rush hour crush of people. There will always be a delay on one of the lines and there will always be a moment where you see a mouse on the line. One of the best ways to keep calm on the tube is to follow the unwritten rules. If walking down the escalator, take the left hand side or stand on the right. If you don’t, you may find yourself getting a lot of dirty looks! There is always the case of common courtesy and giving someone elderly or disabled the seat in which you are sitting. Another less unwritten and more common sense rule is to take all rubbish with you. As tube stations can get very hot and sweaty it is good to try and keep bad smells to a minimum so any rubbish and detritus should always be taken with you to the nearest bins.
Contactless makes everything cheaper in London. From contactless payment cards to Oyster Cards, the little pieces of plastic can be the difference between a swift journey and a bumpy ride. This ingenious invention makes travel through the city very simple indeed but also comes with its own rules and intricacies that can take a little while to get your head around. With London being split into zones 1-6, underground travel costs are all dependant on where you’re travelling to. If you’re staying in zone 1 then it’ll obviously cost you less, whilst an underground trip from zone 1 to 6 will be far more expensive. If you know which zones you’ll be travelling through and within, then you can choose a travel card that suits your needs and not have to travel outside of your designated railcard pricing. These vary in price and range from a daily to monthly cards. If you know you’ll be travelling through further zones then you may have to spend more, but if you’re taking more than two journeys a day then you’ll be saving money on daily travel expenses and won’t have to worry about travel costs.
Visit British cultural sites
A good way to get a sense of British culture and an understanding of the kind of entertainment locals like to see, is to visit them yourself. The Tate Galleries show the best in up and coing art from both international and British artists whilst the Leicester Square Theatre shows the best in stand-up comedy. Other off West-end theatres, such as the Soho Theatre, the Royal Court and the National Theatre give you some of the best in up and coming theatre whilst also giving well known performers such as former Doctor Who David Tennant a chance to act. There are countless music venues as well, spanning from cheap gigs in pubs showing next year’s stars to the well renowned at venues such as the 02 Academy and the Camden Roundhouse.