a city through the eyes of a girl who's not sure how she ended up here

Friday, 1 June 2012

'Welcome to London!': An open letter to our city's tourists

Dear visitors,

We're delighted you've chosen to spend your holidays here in our little city of London.  Not a bad place, eh?!  Lots of beautiful buildings and parks to visit, fun things to do, endless options to eat, drink, shop, dance and learn.  That's why we, the citizens of London, decided to live here.  But just occasionally you guys make us wish we didn't.  So we'd hugely appreciate it if you'd heed a little advice to make us all less angry, and ensure you have a delightful stay here.

Now, we appreciate that a holiday is something to share with your family and/or friends, but do you really need to do everything with each and every one of them?  Your vast gaggles outside hotels, museums, and tiny cafes that can serve three people at a time at most are something of an obstacle for Londoners on their way to work, or out to lunch or heading home.  And really, when you're at home, do you honestly walk arm-in-arm with five of your closest personal friends when you head out for coffee?! No, just here? Lucky us.  (And to all of you on that tour group in matching purple baseball caps, yes, yes we are laughing at you and your naff, coordinated headgear.)
We know there's a lot to see here in London but don't try and see it all; you just can't.  So, don't stop in the middle of the road or pavement to marvel at mundane things like telephone boxes, buses or taxis (surely you have motorised vehicles where you're from?).  Or we will walk in front of your camera-shot, just to spite you.  Save your wonderment for the stunning architecture, the fascinating things in our museums, even for the first pint of real ale you've ever drunk.  Oh, and a word about squirrels - they are neither rare nor particularly cute.  In fact the rest of the city thinks these furry little critters are vermin.  Don't waste your time feeding and photographing them - it's like taking a picture of a subway rat, and you might catch something nasty from them. (See also 'pigeons'.)

Travelling around the city can be a tad tricky on our public transport systems, we know.  If you've spent more than 10 minutes attempting to get a ticket out of a machine at one of our stations or stops, just give up and ask at one of the staffed booths.  It's what the staff are there for - selling tourists tickets - and it also prevents Londoners stuck behind you from ripping your nerdy backpacks off your shoulders in annoyance.  And wheeled suitcases, they sure are handy aren't they?  But do check, as you drag them along, well outside your own field of vision, that they are not running over the feet of those unlucky enough to be stuck behind you.  (A similar principle applies to large shoulder bags, backpacks and viciously pointy camera cases which the average Londoner does not massively enjoy being squashed with on a busy tube train.)  Fancy using a Boris Bike to see the city?  Ha! Good luck working the hire system out.  You're on your own there.

Whilst you're on the tube or ambling aimlessly along a pavement is not the greatest time to check your location on the farcically enormous maps you guys seem to bring with you.  Maybe use a smaller book-based map, or an iPhone.  Or ask someone.  Really, we don't mind.  In fact, we'd rather you drew us to one side and asked us a question than stopped right in front of us, bringing the entire street/platform/square to a standstill as you ponder your location, using your ludicrously huge map.  Stand on the right on escalators; there are even signs indicating which is right, for those people who still struggle with this basic distinction.  This is pretty low-grade stuff, but your loitering in the middle of an escalator, or continuing a conversation across the whole thing will create a queue of frustrated, tube-rage-filled Londoners behind you.  And believe me, nothing will take the shine off your holiday like the wrath of a Londoner.

Have a nice stay!

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10 comments:

  1. Ha ha, love this! I don't live in London, but I did do some of my studies there and have worked there as well, so I definitely go into 'commuter mode' whenever I visit and therefore have the exact same issues with tourists that you've listed above. Great advice ;)

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    1. Yeah, I think the problem applies elsewhere too, Fire Fairy, but once experienced never forgotten eh?

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  2. Very funny indeed! Just like you, I never understood why tourists keep taking pictures of squirrels. Apparently, they belong to the rats' family.
    As for me, I am fleeing London. Off to France! I can't take the cohorts of tourists any more. Good luck!

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    1. Have a wonderful, tourist-free holiday Muriel! Don't photograph any local vermin...

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  3. So right.

    I've been working around Westminster recently which is always jam-packed with tourists looking at Parliament and taking pictures. You get to know where the main obstacles occur and to cross to the other side of the street.

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    1. Very true, rashbre; with a bit of time, you start to map out our own tourist-free routes and places, don't you? It's a key city-living survival tactic.

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  4. Will forward this to friends who will be studying abroad in London from September.

    But, being a non-Londoner, I will admit to using my wheely suitcase as a weapon against some of the silly things that can happen whenever I go down south to work. Guys, I'm 5'3" and weigh under 8 stone, if you crowd around tube entrances I will be swinging it into your torso to get past. And you see me with a wheely suitcase give me as wide a berth as possible because I will be taking no prisoners, I want to get to where I'm going as fast as I can so I can dump the thing. In short I hate travelling to London as much as you hate some of things tourists do.

    But, once I'm there it's all good!

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    1. Ah, but sounds like you're using your suitcase as a weapon consciously, NeonRaine, rather than the brainless tourists who seem to have totally forgotten that they have one trailing behind them. You sound like a very sensible non-Londoner!

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  5. HAHAH! Spoken like a true Londoner my dear. I was getting on the Tube at TCR midday for a work thing and we literally had to shove some tourists to stand on the right hand side as we rushed down the left. God help us come Olympics...

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    1. Oh don't mention the Olympics, Ariel...man, that's going to be a tough few weeks for those of us Londoners desperately trying to pretend that it's not happening!

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