London Local Customs

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  • Local Customs
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  • Trafalgar Square (Westminster)
    Trafalgar Square (Westminster)
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Most Recent Local Customs in London

  • Galaxy31's Profile Photo

    May pole Dancing

    by Galaxy31 Written Oct 11, 2014

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    When Leadanhall building the new skyscraper has finished in the City of London they have erected
    at the left hand side of the building a may pole which it’s a reproduction from the 16th century.
    The maypole it’s erected next to a statue with the inscription Navigation on it which the site the building it’s built on it used to be owned by P& O Ferry Company.
    In the 16th century near the site on first of May they used to put up a maypole at the corner of St Mary Axe and its shaft when its upright position overtopped the church nearby which it got its name of St Andrew Undershaft today.
    The festivities were very popular with the local children with flower garlands on their heads who would dance around the pole holding the ribbons until the entire pole it was covered neatly in this colourful way.
    They were celebrated on the first of May until 1517 when a scuffle broke out between the locals and foreigners’ living in the same parish and that day it’s remembered as Evil May – Day.
    The maypole when not in use they used to store it nearby court on the hooks beneath the eaves in the alley and which its known as the Shaft Court which it doesn't exist today.

    Maypole @ Leadenhall Maypole @ Leadenhall Maypole @ Leadenhall Maypole @ Leadenhall Leadenhall building
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    Street Musicians

    by pieter_jan_v Written Sep 22, 2014

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    Street musicians are common in London. Don't be surprised when you hear live music in a pedestrian tunnel of the underground transportation system as the London Underground provides permits for making music.

    Street performers must have a licence and an insurance to perform on London's streets. In Covent Garden they need to pass an audition first.

    Don't forget to tip the performers.

    Bagpipe player at Trafalgar square
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    Cabmens Shelter

    by Galaxy31 Updated Sep 11, 2014

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    ‘Offsales are for all but only those with “The Knowledge” get a seat inside.’
    Cabmen’s shelters were built in Victorian times to discourage the cabmen going into pub and have a drink and also there weren’t allowed to leave their cabs parked at the stand so it was difficult for them to get a decent meal while at work.
    At the shelters cabmen could get decent refreshments at moderate prices, shelter from the weather and a good rest.
    The shelters look like a garden shed and they were provided by Cabmen’s Shelters Fund in 1874 by the Earl of Shaftesbury and had to be the length of a horse and cart.
    They are Grade II listed and a typical listing description reads as follows:
    Cabmen's shelter 1888. Timber framed, tongue and groove timber panels; felt clad timber roof. 7 bays by 3 bays. Entrance to centre of north side. Windows to upper wall in second, fourth and sixth bays. Stump of fleche to roof. Decorative rafter ends to eaves. The decorative woodwork panels include the initials CSF for 'Cabmen's Shelter Fund'.
    Between 1875 and1914 there were 61 shelters have been erected at the cost of £200 each but now there are only 13 remaining in London and they can be found here.
    Chelsea Embankment - near the Albert Bridge
    Embankment Place (pictured above)
    Grosvenor Gardens - west side of north garden
    Hanover Square - north of central garden TQ288/SE
    Kensington Park Road - outside numbers 8-10 TQ2580NW
    Kensington Road - north side TQ2679NW
    Pont Street
    Russell Square - west corner (previously in Leicester Square)
    St George's Square, Pimlico - north side TQ2978
    Temple Place TQ3180NW
    Thurloe Place, Kensington - opposite the Victoria & Albert Museum TQ2779SW
    Warwick Avenue - Clifton Gardens TQ2682SW
    Wellington Place, St John's Wood

    Cabmens shelter Cabmens shelter Cabmens shelter
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    by Galaxy31 Written Sep 10, 2014

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    Henry Croft was the founder of the Pearly Kings and Queens born in 1862 in a Victoria workhouse orphanage in St Pancras London. At the age of thirteen he has left the orphanage and he has become a road sweeper and a rat catcher.
    Henry got the idea when he saw the clothes of the Costers decorated with pearl buttons but he went one step further and decorated a whole top hat and tails. Everywhere he went people commented on his outfit and he became a great attraction and at the same time he started collecting pennies and halfpennies for the orphanage he was raised in. Henry has become so famous that hospitals and other organisations were asking him to raise money for different causes and that’s how the charity has begun.
    The clothes of the pearly Kings and Queens are decorated with rows upon rows of pearl buttons the size of a penny and most of them are hand sewn.
    They do attend a lot of ceremonies and fundraising for different charities.
    Henry Croft statue it’s in the crypt of St Martin’s in the Fields.

    The Pearlies Pearlies The young pearlies A Pearly armchair A Pearly Taxi
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    Eating in pubs...

    by MartinK35 Updated Aug 18, 2014

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    I'm often asked by international visitors to London and the UK where are the best places for affordable "British" cuisine. I know as a nation we are not famous for our home grown gastronomic delights and finding a "British" restaurant among the plethora of truly international establishments isn't easy.

    Pubs however, are a great place to eat traditional British offerings. One thing to remember if you choose to dine in one is that it is a pub, Not all pubs serve food although most do but that does not make it a restaurant and even if it says they have a restaurant it is still a pub.

    The main difference between eating in a restaurant and eating in a pub is the service. Table service is very rare in British pubs so usually you must go up to the bar counter to order your meal and drinks. If you just find a table, sit down, wait for someone to come along and ask you what you want to order, you will have a very long wait indeed and probably die of starvation. It's not that the staff are ignoring you, they will just think you wandered in to shelter from the rain.

    Once you've ordered your food at the bar counter, it will normally be brought to your table for you although you might have to get up again because it may or may not come with cutlery or condiments which are sometimes found lurking in a "help yourself" cabinet in an obscure corner of the bar area..

    Don't let the lack of service put you off. Some of Britain's finest gourmet experiences can be found in our humble "boozers" and they keep the cost down by not paying someone to run around after you. It's really easy, if you want something, get up and go to the bar counter and ask for it yourself. Don't just sit down and then get frustrated because nobody rushes to serve you. Generally that's not how things work in pubs although there are some exceptions.


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    Phone Boxes

    by pieter_jan_v Written Aug 17, 2014

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    The red telephone boxes are still on the London streets. They were designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scot and painted in "currant red" (British Standard, BS 381C-539)

    6 types of boxes (or kiosks) were made; the K1 model was the first in 1920. The last model, the K6 was introduced in 1936.

    Who needs the box when there is cell phone?
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    River Thames Blessing

    by Galaxy31 Written Aug 16, 2014

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    The river blessing takes place annually on the first Sunday after Epiphany in January in the middle of London Bridge. The parishes of Southwark Cathedral from the South bank and St Magnus the Martyr from the North bank meet in the middle of London Bridge downstream to perform the blessing. The ceremony involves throwing a cross in the river.
    The custom has only been established but it goes back to the ancient ceremony in the Orthodox church of throwing a cross into the waters on the Sunday after Epiphany.
    This year it was an extra reading for the victims of the floods

    The Blessing Southwark Cathedral procession St Magnus the Martyr procession River Blessing River blessing
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    Zebra Crossings

    by MartinK35 Updated Jul 30, 2014

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    Many visitors to London and the UK in general are completely stumped and flummoxed by our zebra crossings and look utterly bewildered when they encounter one so I'll attempt to explain the rules of how to cross the street safely.

    Firstly they are called "zebra crossings" not because they are crossings for zebras (we don't have zebras in the UK apart from in zoos) but because of the black and white stripes painted in the road. They are crosswalks for pedestrians without any stop and go, walk and don't walk signs.

    1... Pedestrians always have the right of way and priority.Traffic WILL stop to allow you to cross,
    2... Look both ways
    3... Make sure any oncoming vehicles actually have time to stop before stepping in to the road.
    4... If vehicles have time to stop or have already stopped, proceed to cross the street.
    5... Cross the street in a swift and purposeful manner.
    6... Do not stop half way across the street to take photographs. That will just really annoy already frustrated drivers.
    7.. Avoid stopping for a chat on the sidewalk at a zebra crossing because you'll needlessly stop drivers who will think you want to cross the street.
    8... Don't cycle over a zebra crossing they are for pedestrians not cyclists. If you have a bicycle, dismount and walk across like everyone else.
    9...On narrow streets, one crossing will get you all the way across safely. On wider streets like the one pictured near Westminster abbey, there may be a safety "island" in the middle. Drivers will treat this as 2 separate crossings. When you reach the safety "island" repeat rules 1 to 8 again.

    Happy crossings.

    Oh, one final note, remember we drive on the left so look right first. Look left too because I can't guarantee that an idiot on a bicycle won't be going the wrong way.


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    American English PART 1

    by Elena_007 Updated Jul 26, 2014

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    Theses are a few English to American translations.

    Yes, there IS a difference. I was amazed at our differences in general conversations, and often had to admit that I was an American, and didn't understand. (much to their amusement). Although the opposite was true as well, because after I would explain the American equivalent, my friends in the UK had never heard of such, either.

    Anyroad, (American meaning, Anyway) I have a funny little story to tell ...

    I was speaking with someone from England on the telephone, and he really needed to go to the restroom. AKA: "loo." I said to him, "We can speak later, go, to the loo." Then I burst into laughter because I thought of the American saying, "Toodle loo!", meaning, "Goodbye." He couldn't understand WHY I was laughing at him for needing to go to the loo, and thought I must be daft.

    I have put together a little "Dictionary" for your entertainment, of words that I actually heard whilst in England, some of which I wondered, "What?!?"

    afters (sometimes called pudding): dessert eaten after a meal, hence the name.

    bin (actually dustbin shortened): trash can, a container in which to properly dispose of litter or rubbish.

    car park: a parking lot, an area designed as a place to park your vehicle.

    dressing gown: equivelant to an American robe worn around the house before getting properly dressed.

    elastoplast (or sometimes referred to as plaster): American band-aid for covering minor cuts (wounds) to stop the bleeding, and keep out germs.

    fag: cigarette (See the following web-site for a hilarious explanation)

    Want a fag?

    An English-American Connection :-)
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  • arturowan's Profile Photo

    Iconic London Transport Graphics...

    by arturowan Updated Jul 9, 2014

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    No visitor with eyes to see, can possibly take even the shortage trip into London, without seeing the London Transport logo - THE iconic symbol of the city...
    The red circle bordering the white centre, was designed by 'the father of modern calligraphy', Scotsman, Edward Johnson...
    He designed the logo in 1931 - to this day it remains essentially the same, (though London Transport did update his design of the 'petit sans-serif' typeface in the 1980's...)
    Around the same time, English technical draughtsman, Harry Beck designed the London Underground route map, which was first made available for public use in 1933
    If ever there was a classic of graphic design, then this is it - a design that like so many of the best concepts, is deceptively simple...
    Harry Beck, in an inspired moment that represents the true essence of genius, sketched the design in his spare time, while working in the London Underground Signals 0ffice...
    However, he had not been commissioned to revise the existing line map, so when he presented it to head office, they were skeptical that the minimalist design would impress the public...
    Beck had been inspired by electrical wiring diagrams, & his Modernist design appeared over-simplified, but this is in fact the absolute genius of the design, because a flustered, luggage-bearing traveller, does not want to be confronted with a geographically-accurate, illustrative map...
    By only representing the most basic information, in a colour-coded design that even a child can comprehend, Beck achieved the definitve design for routemaps, that are foolproof to any commuter or foreign tourist...
    Beck's design was an instant success with the public, & the proof of the brilliance of his definitve design is that it is not only in use today, in revised form to show the later tube lines, but has been blatantly copied by metro mapmakers all over the world...
    Indeed, Beck's original design remains superior to the updated version, because though he ignored geographical placement of stations on the layout, he kept the City Branch of the Northern Line, west of Mornington Crescent on the West End Branch of the line, but revised editions run it to the east...
    London Underground accepted Beck's updates to his own map, which he submitted on his own volition to head office, until official publicity officer, Harold Hutchison, added the Victoria Line in 1960
    Beck did not approve of the redesign & this resulted in a legal battle with his employer to recognise his right to legal copyright, but this proved costly to his pocket & his wife's health, so he had to drop the case in 1965
    London Underground employed Paul Garbutt to further revise the design, though he used the style of Beck's original, in which he incorporated the Circle Line, but the originator of the design continued to submit his own revisions, albeit ignored by the company...
    A sad story considering that Beck created 1 of the greatest pieces of graphic design in the history of mankind...
    London Transport graphics - there is more to them than what you see at first sight - remember that, next time you use the city's excellent system of public carriage...

    These graphics are ICONIC = London... Yes, it is an all time great design!
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    'S good chat, innit?

    by mkarpinski Updated Jun 23, 2014

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    Brits are known for their inventive use of slang. Here's a short list of some gems I've encountered on my travels to help get you started:

    Richard the III = a girl
    blood = informal term of affection, akin to 'dude' or 'mate'
    You alright?/ Alright? = How are you?
    Half ten = ten thirty
    Fit = good looking
    Geezer (Geez) = Familiar: friendly play on old English, term for a man
    Good chat = it's good/ a good idea/ we've had a good talk
    It's just chat = it's nothing, just talk
    Good shout = good idea
    'innit = don't you think? Isn't it?
    Mint = great, top quality
    Minted = Really wealthy
    Well = Very, as in, "He is very tall": "He is well tall"
    Half = Half a pint, for Australians: a pot
    Courgette = Zucchini
    Pepper = Capsicum
    Aubergine = Eggplant
    Are you having a laugh? = Are you serious? (indignant) "Did you really just say that!?"

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    Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountains

    by toonsarah Written May 3, 2014

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    As you explore London look out for the often-impressive Victorian drinking fountains erected through the auspices of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association. This philanthropic organisation was established in 1859 by Samuel Gurney MP and Edward Thomas Wakefield, a barrister, to provide free drinking water for the people of London. It was originally called simply the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association but changed its name in 1867 to include cattle troughs. There had been a cholera epidemic in 1854 which exposed the contamination levels in London's water, and sparked a number of much-needed improvements of which this movement was one. Its key principle was "that no fountain be erected or promoted by the Association which shall not be so constructed as to ensure by filters, or other suitable means, the perfect purity and coldness of the water."

    The first fountain was built on Holborn Hill on the railings of the church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate; it still exists today, although it is now located on the other side of the church, on the corner of Newgate and Giltspur Streets. In the next six years 85 fountains were built around the city, and within 11 years there were 140 fountains in place, in addition to 153 cattle troughs. The fountain in my photo dates from 1867 and is near the north end of Blackfriars Bridge. The inscription reads:
    by the
    Sam Gurney - MP

    The association still exists today but as the Drinking Fountain Association, supporting the provision of drinking water overseas as well as in the UK, where it installs drinking fountains on playing fields and in schools.

    Water fountain, Blackfriars Water fountain, Blackfriars Water fountain, Blackfriars Water fountain, Blackfriars
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    Pearly Kings & Queens

    by toonsarah Updated Apr 27, 2014

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    Update April 2014: web links checked, one corrected

    The custom of decorating your clothes with small pearl buttons originates in working class parts of London and those who do so are known as Pearly Kings & Queens. It is generally thought that the original Pearly King was Henry Croft, an orphan street sweeper who collected money to support the orphanage where he had been raised. He had many friends among the "Costermongers" as London Street traders were known, and many of them supported his fundraising. At that time the costermongers used to wear a distinctive outfit, with pearl buttons along the seams of their trousers and on their pockets. Croft went one step further and sewed buttons all over his suit to create the first “pearly suit” to attract attention to himself and to his fund-raising activities. As he got more and more successful in his charity efforts, more people asked for his help, and he in turn enlisted the support of his costermonger friends. The Pearly Kings and Queens were born, with a “Royal” Pearly family for each borough, and the title handed down from one generation to the next.

    The Pearlies organised themselves into the London Pearly Kings and Queens Association. Over time this has splintered and there are now several similar groups, including a London Pearly Kings and Queens Society and a Pearly Kings and Queens Guild. Each presumably would claim to be the most authentic! See what you think by visiting their websites:
    London Pearly Kings and Queens Association:
    London Pearly Kings and Queens Society:
    Pearly Kings and Queens Guild:

    Pearly King in Trafalgar Square

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    by solopes Updated Apr 26, 2014

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    One of the attractions in the Tower of London are the Yeoman Warders, usually called Beefeaters.

    Once a guardian force to take care of prisoners and guard the crown jewels, they are, today, a sort of guide or public relations, always available to a smile or the mandatory picture.

    Tower of London
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    Tube etiquette

    by Dabs Updated Apr 23, 2014

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    I've been to London enough time that I can feel the pain of the locals who are trying to commute amidst a sea of unseasoned public transport riders. Here are a few tips to help keep you from being flattened during your time on the tube

    -If you are hopping on an escalator and don't intend to walk down or up as the case may be, be sure to get over to the right to allow those folks who do want to walk or are in a hurry to get past you. There's always someone desperately dashing for the next train.

    -do not stop at the top or bottom of the escalator to wait for friends, hug your friends goodbye, text your BFF, answer your cell phone or check your map

    -have your travelcard/Oyster out and ready to use, don't be digging around in your pockets while standing at the barriers

    -if you need to check a map, they have them on the walls of the tube station, blown up in fine detail. Don't stand in the middle of the station trying to figure it out.

    -if you can avoid rush hour, do it. If you have to ride then, do not get into the car and stand at the entrance, make your way down the aisle so people behind you can get on.

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London Local Customs

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Local customs in London?  To be honest, the visitor will never learn them all. From standing on the right on a Tube (Underground / Metro / subway) escalator to knowing that a black...

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