American tourists in London are quite easy to recognize, especially from their accent. They are usually loud, smile a lot, often wear sneakers, confident a lot (even when walk in the wrong direction lol), and probably often ask ‘How are you?”. Whatever it is, there are plenty of ways to do your utmost to look like a local Londoner.
Although it’s easier said than done, sticking out as a local is sometimes necessary. Melting into the crowd would help you to enjoy your vacation and explore the city more optimally.
The following is a little inside knowledge to prepare yourself to not look like an American tourist in London.
Where to stay for the real Londoner’s experience?
One of best ideas, learn how locals behave and adopt what they do! And you can do this more quickly if you choose the right area to stay.
There are several good areas to easily blend in with the locals, and some are also a bit more affordable. Here are a few examples:
Shoreditch (East London), a hipster central of the city (your best bet if you’re looking for vintage shopping). Here you can find tons of street art.
Try also a trip further east from Shoreditch to find other excited areas with real Londoner’s experience such as Hackney and Homerton. A tip: choose location close to the Old Street Station so you can access the Northern Line easily.
Notting Hill, a place where locals would naturally strike up a word with you. Many Londoners love it since it’s a lovely place to live in and raise their families.
Here you can find many hyper-fun local pubs and local restaurants. Plus it’s easily accessed, 10-15 minutes from central London with the Tube.
Kensington! If you’re expecting local experience with tall white houses, Kensington is probably your best bet. This beautiful area is the paradise for luxurious buildings of Europe.
But it’s harder to find an OK location when you’re on a budget. In fact, it’s also home to some wealthiest people of the city. Pros; it’s easy to find another side for local experience, ‘high class’ spot of the city. It’s also safe and peaceful (recommended if you’re traveling with kids and family). If you’re lucky, it’s possible to find a cute-fun café right from where you stay.
What to remember, the list above is just a curated thing (not inclusive), based on my own opinion! So it’s possible to choose other areas of the city as long as you feel comfortable and find what you’re looking for!
Be a local with local transportation
There are many types of public transportation in the city to choose from. But when it comes to expecting the real Londoner’s experience, here are a few helpful ideas:
First things first…
It seems most Londoners are naturally in a rush at every available opportunity, especially when they’re going to work. Even when they simply want to meet friends, every second counts!
So it’s not uncommon to see them rushing across roads, including for those with motorbikes and cars. They won’t let a silly thing — oncoming traffic for example — holds them up for a while!
This doesn’t mean that you need to adopt this, but however there are a few adjustments to follow. The main one is probably to also practice “London pace”.
London is crammed full of people, both residents and tourists. That’s why it’s also likely to find obstacles of a ‘slow-moving people’ in front of you when you’re in a rush.
So it’s a bad thing to walk like a snail on the pavement if you want to look like a local. Also, I don’t know why some people insist on their walking while playing their phone!
And if people walking in front of you fail to keep their steps, say a passive aggressive word ‘excuse me’ should be OK (you don’t have to get angry or violent)!
Don’t go with the tourist bus!
Using the tourist bus is definitely a bad idea if you’re looking for what the locals do. Even though it can give you an overview of the city more easily, we all agree it’s the iconic thing for tourists – as the name suggests.
Instead, try the route of regular bus. This idea is a great way to melt into the crowd naturally, plus you can save more money.
Even regular bus in London is cheaper than the Tube Underground. It only charges about £1.50 per journey! If you’re lucky, you can get the seat on the top deck of the bus, which is the best position to get the best view – and many real Londoners also love this!
A tip; download a navigation app (Citymapper for example) to avoid wasting time just waiting for a bus. It would help you to easily figure out the cost, journey duration, and how to go in the direction of where you want. Because the bus system in London could be pretty daunting at first, particularly true if you’re new in this town!
The same goes for Heathrow Express, avoid it (if possible)
Heathrow Airport is probably the biggest airport in the city, and most tourists visit it when travelling by air. If you arrive at the airport, don’t use Heathrow Express especially when you travel on a budget.
Heathrow Express is a quick express service from the airport to the central London, but it’s also likely to be a tourist thing (though not always). It offers exclusive non-stop route to the central city for 15 minutes travel time and available every 15 minutes. It’s probably not bad idea if you go with a lot of luggage.
But if you’re expecting for the real Londoner’s experience, the Tube Underground is your best bet. Plus, it is a lot more affordable.
And don’t use a paper ticket! To make it easily in exploring the city, get a pre-paid Oyster card. Get this card at the airport, station, or even in advance online.
For more ideas how to go to the central city from the Heathrow Airport, see this comprehensive article!
Don’t use the Tube everywhere!
It’s hard to resist that the Tube is the easiest way to get around and explore the city, but it’s not everything. Just because most Londoners rely on this, even nowadays the Oyster card has become more important than the key of the house — we won’t use it everywhere!
In fact, some main tourist sites are also welcome for people walking. The key is the map, so please understand where you’re going to! It’s possible to use the Tube for 1-2 stops while this actually only requires a few minutes to walk.
For example, some people mistakenly take the Tube from St. Jame’s Park to Piccadilly since they don’t know that tourist sites in this area are very walkable, which only takes about 5-10 minutes to walk.
What else? Like in most urban destinations, many Londoners love riding bicycle. This could be a great idea to cover ground and see sights from a local perspective without being stuck underground.
A tip; try Santander Cycles, public bike-sharing scheme to enjoy the sights naturally. With hundreds of docking stations and thousands of bikes to pick from, you can easily ride the bike as long as you’d like!
Be smart in the Oxford Street!
We all know that the Oxford Street is one of the most popular spots for tourists. Many times it is incredibly crowded. That’s why it’s not a good destination if you’re expecting a much better glimpse into real Londoner’s life
Also, you’re likely to find a bit high price tags for everything in this area, which is very bad if you’re on a budget. So don’t go to the Oxford Street (if possible)!
If you have to go there, I recommend going to the side streets where you’re likely to find more real Londoners than tourists in interesting pubs, restaurants, and cafes.
And in case if you’re very interested in shopping, don’t worry – London is not only about Oxford Street, there are plenty of good shopping destinations with good price tags. For examples, head to Harrods (especially for the posh part of shopping, loved by locals) or Camden for clothing.
Enjoy football match
It’s OK for American to use the term ‘soccer’, but not in here. Because we know well that Londoners call it as ‘football’ (probably due to its American connotations)!
Whatever it is, we can find top footballing talent in London – let’s say the Blues (Chelsea FC), the Gunners (Arsenal FC), or Spurs (Tottenham Hotspur FC). And as with most cities in the UK, Londoners are also crazy about football.
So it’s great idea to join the local fans to feel the real atmosphere of football in this country, which is particularly true if you love football! Popping into a sports bar is also recommended to get inevitable banter with the locals.
It’s going perfect if you speak like a Londoner
The ‘Cockney’ accent, a popular term used to call the native British accent in London. Just listening Adele or Mary Poppins during the interviews and you would easily figure out how this accent is.
I know it’s hard to do, including for Americans. The Cockney accent is quite complicated since it involves some complex soft consonants, vowel sounds, and even a lot of complicated slang words.
You don’t have to be perfect on this, start from simple things to help your American accent a bit unseen. A simple tip: avoid pronouncing boroughs and streets phonetically, replace “s’s” by “z’s” – drop “u’s”! For instance ‘Leicester’, pronounced ‘Less-tah’
And although we can find thousands of examples for complicated slang in the Cockney accent, the good news not all of them are in general use – there are only a few common ones.