It took me about a month to localize myself in London and feel less like a visitor/tourist. I picked up on what the locals do versus how the tourists act really fast and I'd like to share some tips with you! This way, when you are visiting London (even if for the first time or millionth time) you don't stick out like a sore thumb - you blend in with the locals!
1. Stand on the RIGHT side of the Tube, Walk on the LEFT
If you're from New York, this won't come as a huge shock to you - but if you have never been to either city KNOW this and KNOW it well. Stand on the RIGHT side, walk on the LEFT. I am so serious. You will get all kinds of dirty looks if you decide to stand on the left side instead of the right. You will be surprised how many people walk down the escalators in the tube stations. I figured everyone just rode down them like normal but nope. They walk/run down them to get to where they are going. That's part of London being super fast-paced. You will get used to it after a while, I know I did. About a week after being there, I was walking on the left side because the right just took entirely to long. It's up to you what you decide to do, just figure it out and stay there!
2. Use cash or a contactless credit/debit card
This is something I quickly caught onto and was super irritated my bank didn't allow me to get a contactless card (for whatever reason). London is very progressive and up with the times in terms of technology. I paid with my Apple Pay more times than I can count and even more I saw people using their contactless debit/credit cards. HOWEVER, if you are a visitor there, make sure that your card has a CHIP if it's not contactless. Swiping is a thing of the past in London and they probably won't take your card if you don't have what I mentioned previously.
3. Don't talk loudly (if at all) on the tube
Depending on what time you ride the tube/overground train - be sure and keep the talking to a minimum. If you ride during early hours when people are commuting to work - most of the time everyone keeps to themselves and reads the newspaper or sleeps a bit. Same for the afternoon - people are reading the paper and taking an afternoon nap. The middle time is the time that I found people would communicate with one another or chit-chat. It was unusual to find someone talking loudly on their phone (except for the rare occasion) or talking rather loudly. Just do yourself a favor and speak with your indoor voice and don't chat on the phone the entire train ride.
4. Go ahead and cross the street (or just walk if there's no light)
5. If you aren't up on fashion trends, wear black.
I get told all the time that I look like I'm going to a funeral and while that might be true - it certainly isn't the case when I lived in London. I'm not one for wearing too much color, so I opt for wearing black majority of the time. There's an awkward in-between when you are in London: you have the fashionistas who are on top of the latest trends, the workers who wear suits/dress suits and then the people who wear black. It's just a form fitting color and looks good on everyone, I think.
6. Hit the pubs around 4 or 5pm for an early drink
Often, you will see the pubs start to get busy around this time (or earlier) because people are getting off of work and having an "after work" drink. If you want to look like a local - get there early and have a few pints. Most tourist believe that pubbing is a nighttime thing but in London pubbing is an all day event if you want it to be.
7. Don't walk super slow or stop randomly
Pick up the pace in London, honestly. People often slow jog to where they are going (or so it feels) because everyone has somewhere to be all of the time. If you slow walk, you'll often get run over, passed, bumped into and more. And please, do not stop randomly on the street or even WORSE in the tube. People are so frantic and rushing around that if you don't get on their level and walk at their speed - you're at a disadvantage. So, in order to look like a local - pick up the pace!
8. Try the local coffee shops instead of Starbucks
Let's be honest, I'm guilty of going to the local Starbucks and ordering an iced coffee, however; as the months passed in London - I grew to love the local coffee shops and their atmospheres. Starbucks is Starbucks but the local coffee shops have a local feel and a more localized menu. I spent my summer working with local coffee shops for my dissertation and each one that I went into made me love the London Coffee scene that much more. It truly is a saturated market when it comes to coffee - but there are quite a few that do it and do it well so be sure and stop by once and a while.
9. Grab the London Evening Standard if you're using public transportation at rush hour
One thing that will make you look like a local over all else is picking up a copy of the Evening Standard if you are using public transportation at rush hour. Everyone, almost, will be reading a copy on their commute home and if you want to truly fit in in London - read one too! There was actually some really useful information in them as I began to read them as well as hilarious stories! They are at all the tube/train stations around 4/5PM so be sure and grab your copy!
10. Grab an Oyster Card for only £5 & top it up
My last tip, for this post, is to use an Oyster Card! I can't express this enough. Even if you are visiting for two days - go ahead and grab one. First, it's an amazing souvenir that is actually useful. Second, it's actually cheaper than a "day pass". Buy an oyster card for £5 and top it up for whatever amount you think you will need. The machines will tell you how much you have left and it's so easy to top them up at any train station. This will ENSURE that you look like a local. However, there are a few rare cases of locals who commute from outside towns/cities for the day and use a one time ticket but, if it was me, I would just invest in the Oyster card and top it up whenever I went into the city. The card works on Zones 1-6, if you live outside of these zones or are visiting outside of these zones then you will need to buy the ticket I previously mentioned.
I hope that this post has been helpful for those who are looking to "fit in" to the London scene. It took me about a week or two to truly feel immersed in the culture of London and the fast paced environment. There are a few other tips that I will put together in a separate post but I thought that this was a good start for you to start blending in little by little!