7 things I learned on the subway in London

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We all know “the tube”, the underground network of trains that connects the people of London.  Being the country mouse that I am, I don’t get to the city often.  I am not a pro at zipping through the train stations.  I can’t tell you if the District Line connects to the Jubilee Line or where you get off to go to Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace or pretty much anywhere.


Even though I live just outside London I stick out like an amateur with my map and look of general cluelessness on the tube.  Give me a “Keep Calm” tee shirt, a fanny pack and some white tennis shoes and you’d swear I was a tourist from Nebraska.

To be perfectly honest, the tube scares the crap out of me.  Not being a big city girl, I’m intimidated by being thrust in to the throng of busy Londoners who confidently and quickly hop from point A to point B.

Here are some fun things I learned on a July day of sightseeing and tube riding:

1. Good diction is not a pre-requisite for getting a job as the person who makes announcements on the train. 

Is it:

“Westbound service on the Circle Line is delayed 10 minutes”;

or is it:

“Best loud perverts in the circus tribe will play for 10 minutes”? 

Confusing to hear when you’re trying to figure out what stop is yours, right?

2. Deodorant is good.  Everyone should use it.  Not everyone does. 

There is not a lot to add to this.

3. Mind the gap.


Really, mind the gap.  It’s not just a cutesy coffee cup slogan.  This means look out for the big space between the train and the platform.  An awkward move resembling a cross between the mambo and the electric slide is not sexy, even if you’re doing it to recover from a near-miss stumble on to the train tracks.  Not that I’ve done that.  Ahem.

4. Misspelled graffiti is funny. 

If any wannabe taggers are out there reading this (which seems highly unlikely), hey you:  it's a lot less badass if you have typos.  Just sayin'.

I can't smile wihtout you...so sweet.
I can't smile wihtout you…so sweet.

5. London is a melting pot.

I saw Bolivian priests, monks in orange robes (and Birkenstocks with orange socks, for real), women in head to toe Islamic dress, a group of girls in stunning neon colored saris, and a family of tourists from Sacramento (yep, rockin’ white tennies and fanny packs).  I also saw lots of young girls in tight denim shorts with black panty hose (why in the hell is that fashionable? Camel toe is never cute, ever.)

6. Don’t make eye contact with people when you’re jammed in to the car “nut to butt” during rush hour. 

Getting on the tube at 5PM reminds me of a clown car.  That car is only so big but there is an infinite number of clowns that fit inside.  Although the Brits are pretty good about observing the personal bubble, all bets are off on the tube at rush hour.

Everyone wants to get where they’re going and getting cozy with a stranger (deodorant optional) is just part of the fun.

It’s unavoidable.  If you brave the tube during rush hour you will be squished against someone in an awkwardly close way.  You may be tempted to say “I’m a Capricorn and I like long walks on the beach” or even “hot today, huh?” but watch the people on a subway at rush hour sometime.  Eye contact and chit chat seem to be unwritten taboos.

And finally,

7. It isn’t all about me

Actually, I didn’t learn this on the tube and I don’t like to even admit that, but my day out in London gave me a taste of the small-fish-big-pond experience.  I’m a big fan of diversity and it was pretty cool to enjoy, appreciate and laugh at (okay that doesn’t apply to the no deodorant thing) some stuff that was outside the box for me.

The world is big, people.  Whether you experience London or simply the next town over, get out there and grab a slice of life.

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  1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Omg.. Much like the subways in N.Y. or the “L” train in Chicago. Omg, this made me laugh, especially the whole deodorant thing. That’s seems to be from one extreme to the other! Either somebody isn’t wearing it or somebody is wearing enough for the whole train! And I have to say, I’m jealous.. I would love to ride the tube and the first stops I’d learn and memorize, Kensington and Buckingham stops of course! I’m a yank in love with the Royals but, just for the record, I wouldn’t be caught dead with a fanny pack. – Love this post. – Stopping by from Bloppy Bloggers. 🙂

  2. Ah, the memories! And I was one of those tourists trying desperately to not look like one, but probably failing miserably.