If you are fortunate enough to have earned a front seat at this year’s Olympic games, you are in the midst of a wonderful British cultural experience that Danny Boyle very creatively represented during the opening ceremony. Sure, London can be a little overwhelming at times and it does rain quite a bit, but the British Isles are home to verdant hills, a treasure trove of historical and literary sites, and some of the best pub food there is to be had. Well, we could do without the mushy peas, but the fish and chips never fail to hit the spot. If you’re a first-time visitor to the UK, here are a few things to remember.
Cross With Caution
There is a reason the streets of London have warnings to pedestrians alerting them to the direction they should look when crossing the street. If you don’t want to be pancaked by a London cab, make sure to take a moment to double check that you’re looking in the correct direction before crossing. It’s probably best just to get in the habit of looking both ways before even setting foot off the pavement.
Don’t Hug the Queen
It is strictly against royal protocol to touch the queen. Mrs. Obama was lucky enough to get away with it during a 2009 meeting, but for the rest of us, there will be no touching of the queen. No word on whether the queen’s corgis are included in that royal protocol.
Mind the Gap
Possibly one of the most famous announcements of all time, this warning to train passengers was introduced in 1969 and has become an iconic phrase of the London Underground system. While taking advantage of the Tube, be sure not to annoy Londoners by holding up the ticket line, standing on the wrong side of the escalator (stand on the right), placing your bag on the seat next to you when the train is crowded, pushing onto an overcrowded train, or refusing to let people get off the train before you get on.
Pubs Are a Great Place for Cheap Eats
Sadly, the British Isles are not known for culinary achievement. Despite being home to one of the most well-known chefs of our time (Gordon Ramsay) and some good, hearty cuisine, the running joke is that the best food to be had in the UK is Indian (ouch). While the curry houses in London (and throughout the UK) are amazing and not to be missed, if you’re looking for something quick, cheap, and delicious, your best bet is to duck into a local pub. Typical fare includes fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, pasties (baked pastry with meat and potatoes), bangers and mash (sausage and potatoes), and a ploughman’s lunch (cheese, cold cuts, bread).
Use Peace Sign with Caution
While watching the Olympics and the thousands of athletes from around the world, you may be inspired to flash the international peace sign, made by extending the forefinger and middle finger into a V. When in the UK, be sure that when you make this sign, your palm is facing out. Making this sign with your palm facing toward you is the equivalent of flipping someone off. See this post on hand gestures to avoid while traveling.