Tube Etiquette: How to Survive the London Underground

We have all been there: 8 am or 5 pm on any given day in London is not a pleasant time to be travelling. The dreaded rush hour. I often think, “wouldn’t it be better if the whole world operated on a staggered time system so that not every working Londoner was travelling into central simultaneously?”, but, alas, that is neither feasible, nor practical. How does one keep their sanity? Well, I’m hoping to deliver this to you, through a simple how-to guide: How to muddle through the bleary eyes of early morning and arrive at your destination without severe rage…


How to survive a journey on the London Underground:


DO have a sense of personal hygiene. No one wants to spend 45 minutes under a sweaty armpit permeating fumes. For the love of god, a bit of deodorant never hurt anyone (especially in summer).

DON’T emit bodily fluids, if possible. Sneezing in close proximity. A nice chesty cough right in your ear. These never result in a pleasant start to your day. One particularly disastrous commute to London Bridge rendered my sardine-packed train stationary for 25 minutes. In a hideously claustrophobic environment, one business man on my left passed out, another business woman on my right vomited on the train floor. I was trapped in a carriage of doom.


DO have the courage to shout the dreaded words: “Can you move down inside the carriage please!” People have no sense of spacial awareness, and sometimes, just sometimes, being the gobby one pays dividends (plus arriving at work on time, which is a bonus).

However, DON’T then be that person that is so determined to get on the tube, that your foot/rucksack/coat is preventing the doors from shutting, so now none of us can depart. Let’s not hold up a whole ten coach train. You’ve got eyes: sometimes there just simply isn’t room, and no, not even for a little one.


DO the amazing run, Indiana Jones style, to make the closing doors on time. The absolute euphoria of sliding through the closing, beeping doors, just in the nick of time and slowly sauntering for a seat means respect from your fellow commuters and a smug cheeriness that will stay with you all day.


DO walk at a London pace. There is nothing worse than being stuck behind the slowest person ever. And, even worse, there’s no way to get round them because they’re sauntering all around the joint. Head down, stride it out and let’s get moving.


DO use your commute to scout for the love of your life and to fantasise about your potential wedding. This is, I am aware, extraordinarily creepy. However, it really does pass the time…

DON’T eat really pungent food. Especially during evening rush hour. I’m talking to you Mr. “I-have-a-delicious-pasty” from last week. Purely selfish but, my god, after an 8 and a half hour day, I’m starving. And your pasty is making me dribble (unattractive), my stomach gurgle (very unattractive) and making me want to launch myself at you and commit a petty theft (illegal mugging and possible GBH too).


DO be careful with your morning coffee. We all understand the need for a caffeine fix, but carry with caution. I witnessed a large proportion of one woman’s latte land all over some poor unsuspecting school girl just last week.


DO try and have a vague concept of personal space. This is, I know, difficult when there’s no room to breathe, but there’s no need to reach across a person’s face to hold onto a pole. Now all this poor soul can see is your elbow and they probably have a constant fear of getting elbowed in the face.

Therefore, DON’T be adamant about reading your Metro, Evening Standard, latest best-selling novel or Kindle device when there is clearly no room to open it. If there is barely enough room for passengers, I don’t really think there’s room for a perusal of a double page spread of celebrity gossip. And I don’t particularly want a book cover in my face, thank you very much.

Also, DON’T inappropriately touch a member of the opposite sex. Accidents occur frequently but Mr. Bum-Toucher from Thursday, I know you touched my derriere a solid five times, at least. Once, I forgive you. Twice, a coincidence. But FIVE? You are pushing your luck darling.


DO develop a centre of gravity that rivals a jedi master. There is nothing worse than having to grab a random stranger for balance.


So, there you have it. A simple set of rules that I promise will aid to keep your sanity, make your day instantly perkier and help any new comers to London’s busiest tubes to simply survive. Good luck!

Click to comment
To Top