We’ve all been there. Experiencing that why-I-oughtta fist-shaking moment during high-tourist season, where throngs of holiday-makers create no-go areas, like Times Square on New Year’s Eve, or Oxford Street on, well, any Saturday.
Maybe it’s because I’ve done my time as a flustered tour guide navigating central London with 70 Spanish kids in tow, but I reckon we need to cut London tourists a bit of slack.
1. Stopping to take pictures of unexceptional things
Most people can get on board with tourists wielding selfie sticks outside Buckingham palace. But your average Londoner will really lose their shiz when someone blocks the tube door trying to take a picture of the Baker Street platform. Or worse, stops suddenly in the street to photograph a painfully average-looking pigeon.
Why it’s okay: Pigeons aside, a lot of the buildings we pass every day are actually awesome. And so is London’s street furniture, like red telephone boxes, postboxes or underground signs. They may seem commonplace to us, but they’re iconic around the world. So next time you walk into the back of someone who’s abruptly stopped to whack their camera out, maybe you’re missing a good Instagram opportunity…
2. Getting excited over ridiculous shops (here’s looking at you, M&M’s World store)
We can all agree that the M&M store in Leicester Square is a colossal waste of prime real estate. In fact, I can think of hundreds of sweets I’d rather go into a several-storied building dedicated to (Twix, Smarties, Minstrels, heck even a Bounty). It amuses me no end to watch hundreds of people flock to spend all their sterling on over-priced M&M dispensers.
Why it’s okay: I hate to admit it, but my barely-repressed inner child is attracted to the bright lights and colours like a moth to a flame. The whole shop is a candy oasis in a desert of packed theatres, dated cinemas and neon steak houses. So if you have some time to kill or it’s raining, why not wait out the the drizzle surrounded by sweets and happy tourists? They sometimes give out free samples if that swings it for you…
3. Taking the tube short distances
Leicester Square to Covent Garden, anyone?
Why it’s okay: London is incredibly walkable, but when you don’t have wifi and your main point of reference is a printed tube map, you can see why visitors feel the need to jump on a tube to get where they need to go, even if walking is quicker.
4. Being confused by the tube
Think the coloured-coded lines, the phrase ‘way out’ and an arrow system should be easy enough to follow? You’d be wrong.
Why it’s okay: When you’re flooding out of a packed tube with zero bearings, it’s easy to get swept away with the crowd.
Or panic, and end up jumping on the right line but going in the wrong direction.
Also, weekend engineering works.
ALSO, the two northern lines. Those poor tourists don’t stand a chance.
5. Slow walkers
Londoners walk pretty fast. In fact, I would consider myself a freakishly fast walker, and even I regularly get overtaken when in ‘full steam ahead’ mode (AKA late-for-work mode). This doesn’t bode well for tourists who are often from countries whose default walking pace is ‘leisurely amble’, and who, on top of that, are potentially lost.
Why it’s okay: Yes, it’s annoying to get stuck behind a bunch of slow walkers, and you may want to yell: “DO YOU NOT REALISE YOUR TIME ON EARTH IS FINITE” and storm past in a whirl of trenchcoat and disdain, but remember, they’re on holiday. Yes, you have to get to work/brunch/home. But they’re probably only going to the M&M store, and they’re gunna get there in their own sweet time.