London Local Customs

  • Trafalgar Square (Westminster)
    Trafalgar Square (Westminster)
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Best Rated Local Customs in London

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    More Differences Across The Pond {Chapter 2}

    by Elena_007 Updated Dec 2, 2004

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    The English do not refer to their "yard" as we do in America. Any sign of greenery in an area outside one's home or cottage is known as an English garden. Most are very fond of their gardens, which can be quite elaborate and stunningly beautiful, and would probably consider it an insult if you were to say they had a lovely back yard.

    In England, they tend to refer to some foods as being, "Gorgeous!" For instance, Cream Tea or Stilton cheese is "just Gorgeous"

    In America, we tend to refer only to scenery or the opposite sex as "Gorgeous." I never would imagine a meal being such, until now.

    Cream tea would actually be, "Gorgeous" if served on a beautiful serving tray, with a lovely tea set, perhaps hand-painted with dainty roses on the tea cups and saucers, with a matching tea pot, made of the finest bone China in England.

    Normally, though, unless in a "posh" environment, it is served on everyday dinner ware, and although delicious, I wouldn't go as far as saying "Gorgeous."

    It is not just simply cream in your tea. Besides, the English use milk in their tea, and perhaps cream in their coffee. They use double cream or custard on various desserts. Mmm!

    Cream tea consists of tea, of course, and scones with strawberry jam served with clotted cream. (Don't let the name frighten you, it is nothing like "clotted milk, or buttermilk") It is actually quite scrumptious, and "gorgeous" if enjoyed in a lovely Beer Garden.

    No, they don't grow beer in a garden. It is the outside garden area in which to enjoy your beer, or cream tea, even. Either, a pleasant experience, I can assure you.

    In America, a garden is considered a small crop of fruits or vegetables, mainly, but a botanical garden is filled with flowering treasures to behold, and not eat.

    Most likely, an English meal or snack could be summed up as either, "Not Bad" (meaning good), "Gorgeous", or "Not Brilliant!"

    For a "Gorgeous" presentation of English Cream Tea ...
    Click here

    An English Beer Garden
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    More Differences Across The Pond {Chapter 3}

    by Elena_007 Updated Dec 2, 2004

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    arse: Yes, you guessed it, only difference in usage would be someone in the UK saying, "I can't be arsed", meaning "I can't be bothered."

    bangers: sausage. Most commonly used when referring to bangers and mash, which is a very English dish consisting of sausages and mash potatoes.

    bitter: a proper English beer, not to be confused with lager, which is weak by comparison.

    blag: to convince someone of giving or doing something for nothing, as in blag a ride to work. In US, they would bum a ride, but since bum means something entirely different in England, you would NEVER hear that expression.

    bloke: a man, fellow, guy, or male. You would not refer to a male friend as a bloke, it is more reserved for some bloke you don't know. (A Joe Public in England or sometimes referred to as a "Joe Blow" in America). Please, don't go around saying, "Hi blokes! How are you?"

    blow off: The act of breaking wind, also known as chuffing. To blow someone off in America could best be described as ignoring them, not farting on them. To complicate things further, someone in the UK who is chuffed, is very happy, meaning something very different than chuffing.

    Bob's your Uncle!: Ta Da! There you have it! Similar to an American expression, "That's how the cookie crumbles!"

    bog: another slang name for toilet, although the loo is used more frequently. A loo roll, or a bog roll, is a roll of toilet tissue in the US.

    bonnet: the hood of a vehicle.
    boot: the trunk of a vehicle.
    hood: in the UK, a hood is a convertible top.

    boozer: a pub. Fancy a pint?

    bottle: nerve. To lose someone's bottle is like losing one's nerve.

    braces: suspenders in the UK.
    braces: metal grid-like covering teeth for straightening purposes in the US. (in UK-brace)

    bugger: multi purpose Brit word. An inoffensive insult. You little bugger, you!

    bum: what you are sitting on as you read this. The body part that makes contact with the chair, your derriere, or rear end. (among other less polite words). What Americans call bums, in the UK, they are called tramps.

    A Different View of English Swans
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    More Differences Across The Pond {Chapter 5}

    by Elena_007 Updated Dec 2, 2004

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    cinema: movie theater. In England, they go to the cinema to view a film. In America, it is to the movie theater to watch a movie. (Not to be confused with "The Theatre" which is another act entirely. Also, in England, they rent films, not movies, at Blockbuster. Therefore, returning a film could have nothing to do with a camera.

    cobblers: nonsense or rubbish, very informal between mates (friends) An example might be, someone saying, " I can outdrink anyone here!" and the reply was, "Yeah, right, cobblers."

    cooker: oven or stovetop unit.

    cot: baby crib. A US cot is an extra bed that folds up for storage, and is large enough for an adult.

    council house: similar to public housing in America, sometimes referred to as "The Projects."

    court shoes: ladies pumps. Not running shoes you might wear on a basketball court or tennis court in America, but suitable for going to Civil Court, I suppose.

    dear: As well as meaning endearment, it is also used to describe something as expensive. Harrod's is rather dear, considering my budget.

    dodgy: a shady character, possibly on the verge of being criminal. A dodgy bloke might sell an unsuspecting tourist stolen merchandise.

    daft: silly, crazy, or perhaps absent-minded, depending on use.

    dole: Someone in the UK who is on the dole is similar to an American on welfare.

    dosh: money. Most of us, need more dosh.

    dozy: slow to grasp something, such as an idea, or not very quick to catch on.

    draughts: a board game recognized in the US as checkers.

    drawing pin: a thumb tack.

    dustman: equivalent to a American garbageman, although they prefer sanitation worker.

    duvet: A part of a bed ensemble that is referred to as a comforter in the US.

    fringe: Someone's hair that is cut across the forehead. In America, they are known as bangs.

    full stop: period(.) In England, sentences might end with a full stop. In America, they would end in a period. Question marks, and exclamation points, I believe, are international, or TransAtlantical.

    Her Majesty's Theatre
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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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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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