Now that I have had a couple days to acclimate myself into life in the United States again I think it is important to reflect on a few things I have learned. The following six tips are the unofficial rules of riding the Tube in London.
1. Do NOT make eye contact with anyone — ever!
Being in close proximity to a number of strangers is awkward. The best way to avoid having to acknowledge others is to avoid eye contact at all costs. There are many ways to avoid eye contact with your fellow passengers.
– Read – a book, a newspaper, a brochure, the back of a wrapper. Anything can occupy you for a long ride
– play with your phone or tablet – since you are likely underground you won’t have strive or wifi, but there are plenty of things to occupy yourself
– study your shoes – they are very interesting…
– listen to music with your headphones and stare off into space above everyone’s head
– study the tube map – conveniently located above other people’s head
– close your eyes and feign sleeping – this can be done string up or sitting down. But (this is really important) do NOT fatal asleep. You could accidentally miss your stop or worse yet, lean over and touch someone (violating rule #2)
2. Do NOT touch others unless absolutely necessary. This including touching their bags or parcels. Try to keep a 6 inch bubble around you. If you accidentally brush against someone, say “sorry” but for goodness sake don’t make it worse by violating rule #1 when you say it. On crowded trains you will need to touch other passengers. Dont acknowledge them. When space opens up quickly return to maintaining the 6 inch bubble.
3. Do NOT speak to fellow passengers. They don’t want to interact with you. They wish they were alone on the train. Talking to them only reminds them that you exist. Attempting conversation also tends to violate rule #1. It you have a companion on the train speak only when necessary and use a hushed tones.
4. Hold on to the handrail. Be sure not to accidentally touch someone else’s hand on the rail. Yes, it is awkward to reach your arm in front of someone’s face. But it is much more awkward if your don’t. The train will lurch at some point, you could go flying and that could cause your to break bother rules # 1, 2, 3.
5. Do NOT eat on the tube. This applies to all food and drink with the exception of water. Don’t try to sneak it. Others can see and will be silently judging you.
6. Mind the gap when departing the train. You will be reminded of this many times, but it is very important.