London Local Customs

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Best Rated Local Customs in London

  • Elena_007's Profile Photo

    More Differences Across The Pond {Chapter 6}

    by Elena_007 Updated Dec 2, 2004

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    git: usually an insult with a hint of jealousy, as in, "You cheeky git, you outsmarted me at chess, and you said you've never played before!

    (There is also a cheap wine in England called, "Old Git." Don't even bother!)

    Gordon Bennett! : an exclamation similar to saying "Jesus Christ!" or "My goodness!

    jammy: lucky. As an example,one might say, " You jammy git, picking the winning horse, AND betting substantially!"

    kip: sleep. Someone in need of some kip is usually really tired, and perhaps could use a nap.

    ladybird: an insect known as a lady bug in the US.

    lay-by: A parking area on the side of the motorway, known as a rest area in America.

    lemonade: In the UK, it is a carbonated drink similar to a Sprite or 7 Up in the US. In the US, it is a drink consisting of actual lemons, mixed with sugar and water, known in the UK as traditional lemonade.

    lift: elevator. In the UK, the ground floor is the 1st floor, and the 1st floor would be known as the 2nd, etc. In America, the ground floor is often the underground parking garage.

    lorry: a large truck, according to English sizes, but not on the other side of the pond. We would call a lorry a "Bob truck." (No idea why!) They are nearly half the size of our 18 wheelers, but the reality of smaller streets equates generally smaller versions for delivery purposes, or street maintenance.

    manky: not pleasant, almost gross or disgusting, even. Freshly picked strawberries could be considered manky, if a fungus was growing on them, for example.

    nappy: a diaper in the UK. In America, nappy is a slang word meaning unkempt.

    narked: a person is upset, annoyed, or grouchy in the UK. If someone narked, in the US, it would be to snitch or tell authorities of some illegal action of a criminal, usually to do with drugs.

    nick:(1) steal. Your belongings can be nicked, or a person who's been nicked has been arrested, or a person in the nick is in prison.

    nick:(2) The condition of something material usually, as in a car being in good nick, known as in good shape in the US.

    Cruisin' past Big Ben
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    More Differences Across The Pond {Chapter 7}

    by Elena_007 Updated Dec 2, 2004

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    nosey parker: someone who is always concerned about others business, particularly nosey. Known as a busy body or town gossip in the US.

    nought: pronounced, "nawt" The digit (numeral) zero (0), sometimes referred to as aught in the US.

    noughts and crosses: The game of tic-tac-toe in America.

    nutter: could be either insane or reckless. A person who sees pink elephants that require sacrificing a life, or someone attempting to climb Big Ben, for instance. (Not all there, not playing with a full deck, etc). Big Ben is the BELL, You nutter!

    pants: In the UK, pants are known as underpants, or underwear in the US. What Americans call pants, are known as trousers in the UK.

    (You can imagine the hilarity when Americans refer to putting their pants on, or worse, yet, the expression of being caught with your pants down!)

    Patience: the card game known in America as Solitaire. Solitaire is a different game, entirely in the UK, played on a board, and no cards are involved.

    Pelican crossing: A designated area for Pedestrian crossing with alternating signs lit signifying whether or not it is safe to cross the street.

    petrol: petroleum. Americans mostly refer to this fuel as gas or gasoline, and in the UK, petrol is priced by the litre, where as in the US, gasoline is priced per gallon. I found that on average, the equivalent litres nearly cost $5 per gallon!

    phone box: a telephone booth in the US.

    po-faced: long faced, appearing sad, or down and out.

    poxy: low-class, 3rd rate, etc, not good quality.

    quid: A common slang word for a British pound, similar to a buck meaning a dollar in America.

    Randy: A slang word meaning, um, wanting, or having a desire for someone of the opposite sex.

    razz: to vomit or throw up, perhaps from drinking too much alcohol.

    registration: a (licence) license plate in the US.

    return ticket: round-trip ticket

    reverse charges: to call collect

    ring: to phone or call someone on the telephone would be considered ringing them in the UK.

    London Time
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    Yeomen Warders

    by Bwana_Brown Updated Mar 4, 2006

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    The 36 Yeomen Warders of the Tower of London are ceremonial guards whose duty is to look after any prisoners in the cells and to make sure that the Crown Jewels are safely locked away. However, in practise, since there have not been any prisoners here since the 1950s, they mostly act as tour guides and are themselves a tourist attraction. It is not known for certain how they came to be referred to as 'Beefeaters', but it is believed to have been either a derivation of the French term 'buffetier' for the 'king's guard' or from the fact that the Grand Duke of Tuscany observed in 1669 that they received a very large portion of beef as part of their daily rations!

    All members of the Yeoman Warders must be ex-soldiers of the British military with at least 22 years of honourable service to the Crown.

    Yeomen Warders inside the Tower Walls
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  • The Year of the Monkey (2004)

    by Mariajoy Written Jul 12, 2004

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    Any cultural guidance?? Hahahahahaha!!! Go to Soho in January for the Chinese New Year celebrations.... you will be packed so tightly with several million strangers in a few tiny streets, that their physical features will be permanently etched on your brain.... But remember... this is London so no matter how close you are (and your face may be just inches from theirs)... don't make eye contact!!! AND under no circumstances speak to them!! This would just be considered weird :)))

    If you do go to the New Year festivities - be warned - it's not for the claustraphobic - and if you think you are gonna get a table in a Chinese restaurant without making a booking - forget it!!!!! (and attempting to say "Gung hay fat choi" to waiters won't get you a table either!!) There is a noodle bar just off Leicester Square - you will pay at least four quid for a box of "Vegetarian" noodles (1lb of noodles - 2 mange tout and a baby sweetcorn if you are lucky) Then take it somewhere you can sit - like in Trafalgar Square - but of course its January so they will have gone cold before you get there!

    Any request for assistance or directions from police will be ignored - they too will not make eye contact, let alone offer friendly helpful advice!! They might just tell you to "Move along" in a more ummm... colloquial manner!!!

    Friendly local bobbies
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    How to become a cockney

    by scottishvisitor Written Feb 28, 2006

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    It is said in London that to be a true Cockney you have to be born within the sound of the Bow Bells - so where are the Bow Bells? Well the bell is part of the Church of St. Mary le bow. The Church was extensively damaged during the second world war & the bell stopped ringing, so technically speaking no Cockneys were born in London from 11th. May 1941 till 21st. December 1961 after 20 years of rebuilding work.

    Bow Bells
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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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    Kindness of the Londoners

    by deecat Updated May 11, 2005

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    When my daughter Jill left home to live in London, Allan and I were quite worried. She was only 19 or 20 years old and by herself. I was so relieved when she became friends with a married couple (Bob and Gay Scruton) who took her "under wing" and watched out for her.

    When I came to visit, Jill and I went to visit them. They were such a wonderful couple. They did not have children of their own, unless you count the darling little white Scottie dog that they had!

    They served us dinner, and it was the only time in London that I ate my food with "glee" because it was so delicious.

    This couple, and all the other Londoners whom I came in contact with while there for a week,
    went out of their way to be kind, helpful, and courteous. I was so impressed.

    (I took this photo while visiting the couple who "kept an eye" on Jill while she was in London. This is Gay, and this is their lovely home.)

    Jill & her
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  • scottishvisitor's Profile Photo

    Great Trees

    by scottishvisitor Updated Feb 25, 2006

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    London can be surprisingly green, with it's lovely parks. I loved the trees, called London Pride, but probably have a different name.
    They line streets everywhere & any living thing which can survive & flourish in the fumes of London deserves admiration - you might even notice small saplings clinging to the roof of buildings.

    London Pride
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  • gilabrand's Profile Photo

    Lost (and Found) in Translation

    by gilabrand Updated Sep 26, 2005

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    My daughter, like so many other kids these days, is a huge Harry Potter fan. When the sixth book, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” came out this summer, there was a mad dash to the bookshops. I went to several to find a copy for my little darling (the Hebrew translation will only be out in December and I figured that getting her to read 607 pages in English wasn’t a bad thing at all this summer). Finally I found a shop that had a few copies left and quickly snatched one up.

    At home it turned out I had purchased a copy of the BRITISH edition. My daughter was disappointed. Her friends had the U.S. edition, which had a more attractive dust jacket. Besides that, she said, I don’t understand anything…

    Inspired by that comment, I wrote the following paragraph in American and translated it into British (thank you, VT member Ian-in-Bangkok, for the helpful input):

    AMERICAN: I was all tired out, ready for a nice cup of coffee, when this guy comes in shouting into his cell phone like a maniac. Was I pissed off? You bet your booties I was. “My god, what’s taking you so long, ” he shouted. “And don’t forget to turn on the TV. I was standing next to a cop when a TV crew pulled up and shoved a camera in my face. Cool, huh? Okay, honey. That’s enough outta you. Don’t get smart with me. Just do it, for God’s sake.”

    BRITISH: I was knackered. Ready for a coffee. And this bloke comes in shouting his head off into his mobile like a bloody madman. I'm telling you, was I pissed off? Too bloody right. "Get on with it you daft cow / silly bint, and don't forget to turn on the tele. I was standing next to a copper when a camera crew came round and got me on celluloid. I was well chuffed. Alright, alright, alright woman. That's enough, and don't give me any of your cheek / lip. Just get on with it for crying out loud / Christ's sake."

    Two editions for speakers of the
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  • HackneyBird's Profile Photo

    Would You 'Adam 'n' Eve It?

    by HackneyBird Written Mar 13, 2014

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    If you are visiting London you may very well hear a few phrases of Cockney Rhyming Slang being spoken.

    There are many theories about the origins of rhyming slang. The most popular is that it began in the mid nineteenth century as a secret language of the criminal classes in London to confuse the police.

    It has also been suggested that it originated during the early part of the nineteenth century during the major reconstruction of London's infrastructure, when the building of main roads, railways and the docks were taking place. The main workforce was made up of local men and Irish immigrants and to perplex their 'foreign' counterparts the Cockneys are said to have invented rhyming slang.

    Another theory is that it came from the fertile imaginations of street chanters, nomadic wanderers who would travel from market to market telling stories, singing ballads and telling the people the news of the day. There were so many of these itinerant entertainers that each had to develop their own style of patter which they embellished with colourful phrases and pieces of slang, some of which rhymed.

    Whatever its origins, rhyming slang is still in use and below are some of the more common phrases you could hear on the streets of London today.

    Adam 'n' Eve - Believe
    Almond Rocks - Socks
    Apples 'n' Pears - Stairs
    Barnet Fair - Hair
    Boat Race - Face
    Borasic Lint - Skint (penniless)
    Butcher's Hook - Look
    China Plate - Mate
    Currant Bun - Sun
    Daisy Roots - Boots
    Dickie Dirt - Shirt
    Dog 'n' Bone - Phone
    Frog 'n' Toad - Road
    Half-Inch - Pinch (to steal)
    Jack Jones - Alone
    Loaf of Bread - Head
    Mince Pie(s) - Eye(s)
    North 'n' South - Mouth
    Oily Rag - Fag (cigarette)
    Plates of Meat - Feet
    Pork Pies - Lies
    Rosie Lee - Tea
    Rub-a-dub-dub - Pub
    Ruby Murray - Curry
    Sherbet Dab - Cab (taxi)
    Skin 'n' Blister - Sister
    Sky Rocket - Pocket
    Syrup of Figs - Wig
    Tea Leaf - Thief
    Tit for Tat - Hat
    Trouble 'n' Strife - Wife
    Two 'n' Eight - State (upset)
    Whistle 'n' Flute - Suit.

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    American English PART 3 (The End)

    by Elena_007 Updated Feb 26, 2005

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    queue: an orderly line of people patiently waiting their turn. In America, as well as the UK, it is only polite to respect the order of the queue (line). Please don't be rude!

    rubbish: garbage or trash to be thrown away. (preferrably in a bin or trash receptacle)

    shattered: either very tired, (similar to knackered) or emotionally drained, in a hopeless or helpless, depressed state of mind.

    tea: UK- the evening meal or a cup of hot tea.
    tea: USA- a cup of hot tea or a glass of iced tea.

    underlay: the carpet padding underneath the carpet.

    vest: UK- What Americans call an undershirt, T-shirt.
    vest: USA- What Brits call a waistcoat.

    wally: A friendly, joking way of calling someone silly, or daft.

    yonks: a long time, either minutes, hours, or years, depending on use. (waiting for yonks)

    zed: UK- the last letter of the alphabet, pronounced, "zed".
    (Z): USA- same as above, only pronounced, "zee".

    I once said, "Nice Z car!" but in the UK, it is a "Zed."

    A bonus for some, an effort for others:

    willie: UK- (Well, if you live in the UK, Surely, you know this one!)
    willie: USA- A nickname for William or the dolphin in the film, "Free Willie."

    If you are an American, and don't know, you will need to look it up in the dictionary provided below. (A treasury of little known differences in our "English" language(s), and humourous / humorous definitions throughout). I highly recommend this site for American English translations and a good laugh.

    Another funny story, Someone from the UK told me once they had to go cook their tea. As an American, I asked,"Don't you just add water?"

    In America, it is thought that tea is the kind you drink, not eat. I was then told I needed to learn how to cook properly!

    Tea, as you now know is the evening meal,and preferably not instant. (just add water) I hope you have enjoyed this bit of information, Perhaps you've heard or will hear some of these sayings in the future.

    More "TransAtlantic translations" listed alphabetically after the American Observations and Pubs tips.

    American in London
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    More Differences Across The Pond {Chapter 4}

    by Elena_007 Updated Dec 2, 2004

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    butty: most commonly referred to as a "chip butty" which consists of "chips" (fries) on a "butty" (similar to a hoagie roll) dripping with butter, malt vinegar, ketchup, and added salt, perhaps. A popular food item at a "chippie" shop in England, not America.

    Added note: It is acceptable to eat these with your hands, but to avoid strange looks, do use a fork when eating "chips" with a meal. In America, it is not uncommon to eat "fries" without using any utensils, but considered rather "Barbaric" in England. They even give you cute little forks with bags of take away (to go) chips! It could be because they drown their chips in malt vinegar and ketchup and would not want their fingers smelling of vinegar. I prefer to dip my fries in ketchup, one by one. I did though, manage to use a fork.

    Further note: In England, you will be asked, "Is that for dine in, or take away?" In America, you will be asked, "Is that for here, or to go?" (or carry-out)

    For amusement purposes, you could ask at a posh Chinese restaurant, for a doggie bag, although you would probably be the only one laughing.

    candy floss: cotton candy sold at festivals in the park.

    central reservation: median. Nothing to do with reserving anything particular, simply the area in the middle of the motorway.

    chemist: a pharmacy or drug store. (also a person experimenting with chemicals on both sides of the pond).

    cheeky: the act of being bold, nearly rude, but in a humorous (humourous) sort of way. A sort of tongue in cheek, or perhaps a joke that is "almost" not funny. Being cheeky is not considered a bad thing. It could be considered a compliment, even, in England.

    chippie: a place that sells English chips, usually a Fish and Chips shop.

    chocolate drops: chocolate chips in the US. You can see where this would sound particularly undesirable in England, as the thought of chocolate fries would not appeal to anyone.

    An English Black Swan
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    Separated by the Same Language

    by gilabrand Updated Dec 26, 2004

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    As Bernard Shaw liked to say, “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.”

    I still have memories of walking around London in the drizzling rain looking for some bed & breakfast establishment with a “crib” for my baby – and wherever I went, I got these blank stares. Little did I know, back then, that it was called a “cot.” In America, of course, a cot is a folding bed – the kind pulled out for guests.

    Even after living with English roommates and working for a British boss, there are endless surprises. Like the time I met my boss for breakfast at a cafe, and as he ate, he kept mumbling “Oh my God. This is disgusting!” What he meant, of course, was that the food was delicious, but that was not at all obvious to me, as a speaker of American English.

    Working for an English-language newspaper in a foreign country – a kind of magnet for English-speakers from every corner of the earth - I have seen serious mix-ups caused by the fact that certain expressions can mean just the opposite, depending on where the person comes from. Take the political term “table a motion.” For Brits, this means to consider a piece of legislation; in the U.S., it means the reverse – to toss it out.

    Every day my list gets longer. Here are a few more:

    chemist – pharmacy, drug store
    ironmonger – hardware store
    barmy, mad – crazy
    dummy – pacifier
    torch – flashlight
    bangers – sausage
    fag – cigarette
    pinafore – apron/ jumper
    naughts & crosses - tic tac toe
    petrol – gas
    bloke, chap – guy, dude
    lemonade – Sprite or 7Up (lemon-flavored soda)
    bobby – police officer
    crisps – potato chips
    bog roll – toilet paper
    rubber – eraser
    football – soccer
    gum – glue
    plaster – bandaid
    flannel – washcloth
    Hoover – vacuum cleaner
    pram - baby carriage
    dinner jacket/tuxedo
    jersey, pullover or jumper/sweater
    cooker/range or stove
    bonnet/hood (of car)
    boot/trunk (of car)

    Dialogue of the Deaf
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    Phones in London

    by deecat Updated May 11, 2005

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    When I was in London, they were just beginning to replace the old, lovely red phoneboxes with the new, modern ones. It saddened me.

    The Phoneboxes (In America, we call them Phonebooths), are abundant in London. They are usually on most street corners. As I said, there are two kinds: the old red ones and the new silver ones.

    Most of the phoneboxes take coins and cards, but read carefully to make sure.

    You are able to purchase the phonecard (British Telecom Phonecard) at newsstands and post offices.

    Emergency: dial 999 or 112

    For help, call the operator at 100.

    Oh, yes, you usually are able to use your credit card to charge phone calls also.

    Jill using phone in London
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  • Opercula of London

    by Mariajoy Updated Jul 1, 2006

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    On the pavements around Pimlico, Bloomsbury Paddington and Kensington are some really good examples of "Coal hole covers" (Opercula). In the 19th Century the coal men would deliver to the grand houses in these areas but to avoid getting filthy black coal dust everywhere, they would open up the coal hole outside the house, and tip it straight down. The opercula are decorated with the trademark of the ironmonger who made it and these photos show a series taken in Thurlow Square, opposite the V&A in Kensington.

    As a child I remember being terrified of the loud rumblings of the coal falling through the hole into the bunker in my aunts house!

    With the continual need for new pavements to be laid (quite necessarily of course) I really hope it's possible for these examples of historic street furniture to be preserved for future generations.

    Coal Hole Cover Coal Hole Cover Coal Hole Cover Coal Hole Cover Coal Hole Cover
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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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