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Understanding the Etiquette of London

Posted By Chantal Callaghan

26th July 2023

Visiting London for the first time? Wondering what life in London is like? We’ve got you covered!  

We don’t mean checking out the best galleries, restaurants and theatre shows – although, we definitely recommend checking out some of our favourite attractions. At Stansted Express, we consider ourselves London locals, so are keen to share our knowledge on the culture, language and behaviour you can expect on your visit to the UK capital. After all, you want your trip to London to go smoothly.  

Cultural norms when in the capital 

Cultural norms are beliefs which are more or less hard-wired into Londoners - and often those who live throughout the rest of the UK. If nothing else, remember these: 


Probably the most common cultural norm in the UK, that’s not always shared in other countries, is queuing. In the UK we love to queue. We do it for the bus, cinema, and even the toilet. So, if you don’t want to cause a fuss when you’re out and about, do remember your place. Never skip the queue, if you see people gathered around a location, always ask if they are in the queue. This will save you any embarrassment and the possibility of Londoners from loudly tutting in your direction.  

Buying a round 

The pub is a popular social venue in the UK, and it’s common to go with a group of people. If you do, then always stand your round. It’s considered incredibly rude to let others buy you drinks and not reciprocate. 

Mind your manners 

We tend to apologise a lot here in the UK, so be prepared for Londoners to say “sorry” when moving past you. It’s also the norm to always say your ‘Ps and Qs’. Whether it’s a waiter, bus driver or a friendly Londoner holding open a door, make sure you always say “please” and “thank you”.  


To tip or not to tip… it varies between countries. In London, it’s expected, but not required that you’ll leave a gratuity of 10 to 12 per cent of the cost of the bill. Just check that you haven’t been invoiced for a ‘service charge’, as this often doubles as the waiter’s tip. 

Public behaviour 

Be mindful of the following etiquette rules when you're in London. It's important to be respectful of your surroundings and your fellow Londoners. This will avoid any embarrassment on either side and a lot more apologies as well: 


When you’ve finished eating, place your knife and fork down on the plate at ‘6.30.’ That way, your host knows to clear it away to move on to the next course. Don’t put your elbows on the table either, and never bring out your mobile phone – that will definitely be frowned upon – and probably commented - upon. Also, never, at any time, talk (or eat) with your mouth full, as this is seen to be very impolite. 


We Brits do have a thing about meeting up on time. And some of us can be quite fastidious about it. Again, leaving someone waiting for even five minutes is considered rude. Better to be early than late. 

On the underground 

When on the underground escalator (or any escalator, for that matter) always stand on the right-hand side. That way, anyone in a hurry can dash past you freely (and usually in a very purposeful manner). Secondly, if you’re getting on a train or other mode of transport in London, make sure you let those off first – otherwise, there’ll be a scramble as the doors start to close. 

Common phrases you may encounter in London 

Every region has its own innate words and phraseology. The UK actually has 37 different regional accents, from Geordie (North East) to Liverpudlian (Liverpool area) and Glaswegian (West of Scotland).  

London, of course, is no different. The capital is famous for its Cockney Rhyming Slang – some of which even other Brits don’t understand. Here are some of the more baffling sayings you may encounter, together with their meaning: 

Cockney rhyming slang 

  • Dog and bone = phone 
  • Apple and pears = stairs 
  • Pork pies = lies 
  • Hank Marvin = starving 
  • Butcher’s hook = take a look 
  • Adam and Eve it = can you believe it?
  • Pete Tong = wrong 
  • Trouble and strife = wife 

Don’t worry, not every Londoner uses Cockney Rhyming Slang. However, there may be some common phrases you hear and cannot understand. We have translated common phrases popular in London, and across the UK, that you can slide into conversations and speak like a proper Londoner. 

London vocabulary translated 

  • Cheers = another way of saying ‘thanks’ 
  • Chuffed to bits = very happy about something 
  • Minted = extremely wealthy 
  • Mate = a good friend 
  • Bob’s your Uncle = it’s done, i.e. mission accomplished 
  • Donkey’s years = a long, long time  
  • Quid = a pound, i.e., the chips were 4 quid 
  • Blimey = surprised  
  • Ain’t = it isn’t 
  • Innit? = isn’t it? i.e., don’t you agree? 
  • Ace = that’s fantastic  
  • Hunky Dory = great or cool  
  • A load of old cobblers = that’s just nonsense 

London phrases and their meanings 

  • To get the hang of something = to master the art, i.e. become proficient at a task, skill etc. 
  • Gain the upper hand = get control of something 
  • Caught off guard = surprised when something unexpected happens 
  • Not my cup of tea = not something I’d like 
  • Take the Mickey = to make fun of something 
  • It’s raining cats and dogs = it’s raining heavily 
  • I have to see a man about a dog = I need to go  
  • It’s all gone pear-shaped = it’s turned out very badly

There are many unwritten rules of etiquette and unique sayings that visitors to London should be aware of. By following our guidelines, you can avoid making any faux pas and ensure that you have a pleasant and respectful stay in this wonderful city.  


Planning a visit to London? Stansted Express offers hassle-free transfers from Stansted Airport to London Liverpool Street, Tottenham Hale and Stratford. With tickets starting from £9.90, what’s the wait? Book now to test out your favourite London phrases! 

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