Single Girl Diaries: Eurotrip: Decoding my Londonisms

(Wannabe Brit) Columnist Ellise Verheyen on a few of the Londoners’ quirks.

So I’ve been abroad for roughly two and a half months at this point. With all that time in London under my belt, I’ve picked up on quite a few Londonisms. (I just made that word up. Go with it.) Therefore, I thought I’d share the lesser-known aspects of living in a city with 13,614,409 other people.

First, you must understand that while London is a colorful city full of life and diversity, the people here are remarkably more reserved as opposed to their American counterparts. You don’t often have strangers coming up to you to share their life stories or open up the way many would in an American city. You can test the waters with someone by mentioning the weather. If they disagree with whatever bold statement you made about the day’s cloud cover, it’s game over. Stop talking. Wait for the next train. If they concur, you could have yourself a lovely conversation.

However, that conversation will end abruptly as soon as you hop onto the Tube. London Law Number One: Never talk on the Tube. Forgot your headphones at home? Too freaking bad. You’re stuck reading the Tube map for the next 20 minutes. And eye contact? What kind of monster are you? How dare you accidentally look at someone at the same time they look at you? (Slight exaggeration. You won’t get beaten up, but you get the picture.)

Now we all know that the Brits are crazy and drive on the incorrect side of the road, but that begs the question of what side of the pavement (i.e., sidewalk) are you supposed to walk on? The answer is not as simple as one would expect. I just assumed you’d follow the rules of the road. However, the pavement is fair game. You walk on whichever side your little heart desires and face the repercussions of playing chicken with the mother assertively pushing a buggy.

If you’ve ever been on an escalator, you can relate to the slight thrill of not having to actually walk up the stairs. (The same goes for lifts (i.e., elevators).) However, what I’ve learned during my short time in the UK is that, while the pavement has no rules, the escalators are very particular about which side is used for standing versus walking. If you happen to stand, even if unintentionally, near the middle or left side of the escalator, you can fully expect to get body checked, yelled at and/or lose a limb. The left is for the rushing Londoners who are in a hurry to get everywhere, and if you cross them, you’ll regret it.

Londoners aren’t all this hostile. For the most part, they are extremely kind-hearted and warm people. Just don’t slow them down or ask too many questions.

One of the better Londonisms is tea. I know, tea and crumpets. So cliché. But you guys, tea here is amazing. It’s also taken very seriously. Anytime someone enters the studio I intern at, we offer tea. It’s almost considered rude to reject the tea. And there is a certain way to make tea and, if done incorrectly, the British man in the office will judge you until the end of time.

Words and phrases of the Londoners are something I wish we, as Americans, could pick up without sounding like idiots. Calling each other “mate” just doesn’t have the same je ne sais quoi as it does here.

Also, the British like to say, “All right?” as a way of asking, “How are you?” For the first three weeks, I was convinced people thought I was depressed. Rather, they were just saying, “What’s up?”

So with only a month left, I’ve made it my goal to master as many of these Londonisms as possible. I’ve already become extremely aggressive when it comes to transport and getting around the city. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out here and one must always remember to “Mind the Gap.”

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