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Top 11 Myths Americans Generally Believe about London and Londoners

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Editor’s Note: Before anyone gets too offended by this post – it’s all meant in good humor!

One of our most popular posts on out parent site Anglotopia is a post called the Top 16 Myths Americans Believe About Britain. It’s generates a lot of great discussion so for the launch of Londontopia – we thought we’d come up with a similar post about London.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

London is Small

Many travelers to Britain underestimate the size of the country and also how large London actually is. It’s easy to think that London is a small city compared to cities in China, India or America – but London is HUGE. Spread over 600 square miles with 8 million or so people crammed in between – London is a massive place. One of the hardest things to conceptualize is how large it is.

However, don’t be put off by this. The actual touristy areas of London – in central London – that area is quite small and manageable. That’s the area we think of as London – not the sprawling commuter belt spreading in all directions. That said, it will take longer than you think to take a cab from Notting Hill to Covent Garden. It’s a long way.

You Have to Take the Tube Everywhere

The Tube is by far the easiest way to get around London and it will heavily influence your spatial understanding of London. But you don’t have to take the Tube everywhere. Many of the hot tourists sites in Central London are actually pretty close together and unless you want the high of riding the tube over and over, you can usually walk between most places rather quickly (and much cheaply).

London is Expensive

London CAN BE expensive. However, it depends on how you approach it. Getting around London is pretty cheap – either by Tube or Foot. Hotels can be cheap – but that depends on your standards (see below). Many museums and major sites don’t cost anything to see but some have admissions fees. Food will be your most expensive costs after lodging and if you are savvy – you can do it cheaply too. London is geared towards fleecing tourists with expensiveness – but you can be smarter than that.

All London Hotels Are Crap

You will find many tolerable cheap tourist hotels in London. Some more tolerable than others. But even those may not be up to the standard of your local Motel 6. Brits have different standards that we do. However, many hotels have been upgraded in recent years and things are improving. You’ll still find some crap hotels in London – but TripAdvisor should be able to steer you away from those. We’ve stayed in budget London hotels and posh London hotels, really the hotel doesn’t matter because you shoulnd’t be in your room – you should be out in London experiencing every moment you can spare. Your room is for sleeping (and… well depends on how lucky you are at the pub, don’t it?).

The Food Sucks

The food CAN suck. But if you limit your diet to fast food, especially American ones and tourist gastropubs, you will be disappointed in the food. That said – look for nicer restaurants and look for the places the locals wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen in. We always like to splurge on one really fancy restaurant with eye watering prices. Last trip it was Gordon Ramsey’s Maze Grill. Most expensive meal ever, but so worth it.

Londoners are Rude

Londoners, in general, are not a rude lot. What gives people this idea is because there are no many non-Brits in London, people mistake foreignness for rudeness. Look at it this way – how do you feel on your local transportation system when you encounter a clueless tourist on your morning commute? That’s how Londoners feel about it too. They have lives to live and rushing around ignoring you is not rudeness – it’s an entire city living their life as if you didn’t even exist.

It Rains All the Time

This is the biggest myth about London. It does not rain all the time. However, it COULD rain at any time – so be prepared and carry an umbrella if it’s in the forecast. I’ve had many pleasant London days where the sun was shining and then five minutes later it was raining buckets and then five minutes later the sun was shining again. It happens, deal with it. It forces you to stand still under an awning and appreciate London for a few minutes.

And nothing smells better than the air in London after a quick burst of rain. Call is London Fresh.

Everyone has a Cockney accent

The entire London metropolitan area does not speak like the folks from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking barrels. While you may come across a lot of people with a ‘cockney’ accent – it will not be nearly as many as you think. London is a conglomeration of Brits from all over the UK so you’ll find corresponding variety amongst the accents spoken. It’s beautiful. I would not recommend walking around speaking cockney rhyming slang to people. They’ll just look at you like you’re an idiot.

Harrod’s is everyone’s Local Shop

When most tourists think of shopping in London, they think of Harrod’s. Most Brits don’t, however. Harrod’s can be kindly described as an expensive tourist trap. While some rich people in the area may use if as their local shop – it’s not uncommon for most Londoners to never have been to Harrod’s. It’s a very expensive place filled with Tourists. That doesn’t make it not enjoyable, but may make it unenjoyable for locals.

Londoners Hate All Tourists

No, they just hate rude and clueless tourists. Travel smart, be friendly and don’t expect too much and you won’t have any troubles at all.

They all Have Lives Like in Love, Actually and Notting Hill or Bridget Jones

I’ve got news for my fellow Americans who love movies set in London: many Londoners hate them. A few years ago we did a list of our favorite movies in London and the Londoners that commented highly disagreed with our choices and many came up with completely differnet lists. While we like to curl up and enjoy Bridget Jones or Notting Hilll or Love, Actually (to name a few) they aren’t representative of life in London at all and are at the bottom of many Londoners favorite London movie lists. In the end, they’re movies and don’t represent reality much. For example – Notting Hill has turned into an enclave for rich people (thanks to the movie partly) and is overrun with tourists on the weekend.

Shared your own myth about London in the comments!

Author: jonathan

Jonathan is a consummate Anglophile who launched Anglotopia.net in 2007 to channel his passion for Britain. Londontopia is its sister publication dedicated to everything London.

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  1. I disagree with a large percentage of this list, my biggest grievance is with Londoners aren’t rude, they are indeed, living in London has turned me into a horribly rude person, the east is worst than the west, but everyone in London is rude and has been for as long as I’ve lived here.

    • Thing is, H, in my experience people are as rude as you find them. I’ve noticed that in Paris everyone seems smiling and flirty. Could that possibly be because I’m usually smiling and flirty when I’m in Paris? How about you manage a smile in London every now and again and see what happens, eh?

    • I actually agree. I live in London and I hate that people here are so rude! They are ridiculously rude! It does make me appreciate when I leave London though because non-Londoner Brits are so friendly! Whenever I’m in Caridff (where I spend most of my time outside of London), I actually have culture shock from people being polite. Of all the many, many, many, many cities I’ve been to, London is one of the rudest. Paris is definitely worse though. Typical Brit I am, I hate the bloody French! (not really, but really)

  2. How dare you say “Londoners are rude” !!!! We were the clueless tourist on the morning commute! We travel from Bexlyheath in to the city. 95+% of all we encountered were very pleasent and helpful from the transit people to the commuters. We had a good chuckle or laugh about going downtown no we call it the city. London is a small town surrounded by other small towns that have grown together over centuries, Connected by ribbons of steel and tubes we Amerians call mass transit. London and Great Britain once of the tour bus is like anyother city. Like any American city almost like home only one difference in London you do speak a forign language. Loved London and UK. Can not wait to go back.

  3. It’s not that we’re all rude, it’s just that London is a very VERY fast paced 24 hour World City. Everything is done quickly as we have things to do and places to be! 🙂

    • I was just passing through London to Heathrow a couple of weeks ago, and I had the misfortune of being at St Pancras Station at morning rush hour. I was amazed at the waterfall of people coming down the escalators to the Tube. On my 3 trips to London, I can say I have never met a rude Londoner, just busy, focused people who have a job to do to pay the bills. I agree with you completely.

  4. My favourite city, came here as a very young foreigner in 1964, now a true Londoner, experienced racism met wonderful people, nothing to even compare with my London…. I have travelled extensively but will always live here..

  5. Nope. I have been Rude un London, happy in London-In Love Outta Love.

    This is a Location.

    I am Not That old I remember Visiting NYC in the 70’s 1970’s. I recall the popular perception
    Then I stayed there in the 80’s right before I arrived in London in 1988-

    Oh My My USA Mates were horrified with Myths concearning London. My Uk mates well they visited
    most major calls of Port in the USA—-Now Post 9/11 NYC is Myth Ridden-Romantisized-Spelling sorry-
    & England is really trying to cope with a weak American Tourist $$Bill—–Be safe Travel and Have Fun
    Happiness is 98% perspective Mates–Pete

  6. After many trips I have had only 2 really bad experiences with rudeness in London. No more than i would expect anywhere else. I realize that most Londoners are walking with blinders on. They are all on a mission to get to their destinations. But when sitting in a pub or riding in a cab or asking for information….i have found Londoners to be delightful & more than helpful. Pete is right. It is all perspective.

  7. We vacation in England 2 weeks at a time every other year and lived there for 3 years back in the 80’s. We’ve had a variety of experiences through out the country and with few exceptions, everyone was very friendly, helpful and nice. Even in London, the only rudeness we’ve ever experienced there was from some young French tourists that were quickly reined in by employees at the site we were touring that day. We’ve met some of the loveliest people there! For us, it’s home away from home. Everyone has been great, from bus drivers, hotel clerks, pub patrons, bar maids, waiters, taxi drivers, officers in the tube and just average Londoners going about their day. We have absolutely no complaints and happily encourage everyone to go and enjoy London and greater England. Just remember the golden rule, treat others as you’d like to be treated, and you’ll be fine.

  8. Well said, Sarah! And Christina Wheeler also. Smile, be friendly but not loud or pushy and you will be fine. I have never had anyone be deliberately rude to me. They probably sense that I am delighted to be there and yes, most Londoners are moving fast because it is their daily life and they have places they have to be. They are not all unpaid ambassadors for London. I love getting into the middle of it all as on Remembrance Sunday, piling into a pub to drink a hot whiskey and warm up after standing by the Cenotaph for hours, freezing but loving every second of the camraderie & enjoying the great chats with people who have come to honor their country’s heroes. So, smile and don’t be judgemental.

  9. I visited London last June for the first time. The people were very friendly and did not seem to mind giving directions and offering advice. It’s like anywhere you go, there are some jerks and then there are truly nice people. I smile a lot naturally, and so I think this makes people more willing to help me when I’m visiting a new place. I absolutely loved London and the UK! Will go back for sure!

  10. London, the real London, is a big, ugly mess and getting bigger and uglier day by day. You cannot drive in it – it is far too congested to make this a realistic means of getting about – if you do manage to get anywhere in central London there will be a congestion charge to pay, and the most expensive parking meters will cost you £1.00 for twenty minutes of parking time. So, you could cycle. I do, but I take my life in my hands each day and await being mown down on Hyde Park Corner roundabout. The tube is the most expensive rail system in the world, so forget that, and it takes hours to get anywhere by bus, which, in the summer months become little more than sweaty, mobile greenhouses. So you can’t get anywhere easily. And it’s true, there is an awful lot of rudeness in London. This is because of overcrowding. You put a lot of dogs in a box and ship it somewhere over two or three days, and at the end of the journey you will probably find there has been a fight, one or two may have been trampled to death and then partially eaten. This is what happens in London. Not literally, of course, you simply get a lot of frustrated, angry, sometimes even scared people, trying to exist in a city that most of them can’t stand. Most of us are only here for the jobs, the rest of it is a living hell. I’m off back to the countryside where I grew up as soon as I retire. So, it’s dirty, expensive, noisy and congested. Probably time to think about abandoning it, because it certainly isn’t working any more…

    • Lord Fairhead,

      I think you need to leave right now. If there’s nothing you like and you truly feel they way you say you do about London, then the rest of us would appreciate the break – it’s not pleasant dealing with such grumpy and blinkered people.

      I was born in this city and have lived here for 40 years. Yes, there are things that could be better, but nowhere is perfect. If London was as truly appalling as you suggest then it would be a shrinking non-entity. It’s not. It is one of the most vibrant cities in the world, attracting tourists and residents from every part of the globe.

      Despite the doom laden predictions of disaster from naysayers – I have a feeling you may well have led the charge on this – the 2012 Olympic Games was widely heralded as a massive success and a landmark games. Londoners embraced it and the rest of the world came and said they enjoyed it. Hardly the kind of result you’d get from a city that is a ‘big, ugly mess’ where ‘you can’t get anywhere easily’ and ‘people can’t stand it’.

      Admit it, you are a country person who wants a city salary. Unfortunately you’re not earning the type of salary that allows you a penthouse, a chauffeur and a helicopter so you’re pissed off and venting.

  11. Nick, your answer to poor Lord Fairhead is spot on. He is a country lad and probably would be happier there. I know London is fast paced, crowded expensive, and hugely busy but it is vibrant, historic, fabulous and my favorite city in the whole world (sorry, Paris. I love you too, just not as much)

  12. Thank you for your darling comments. I feel very happy to be British but I say beware of chavs, they are the most horrid and rude people. Well if you want to visit us across the pond, have fun and do not be judgmental and you will have a wonderful time.

  13. I love London. It has its share of varied personalities like every busy bustling city.
    Anytime I’m there I feel welcome and happy to be there. I would live in London in a heartbeat if it were possible!
    All that being said- I’m a very happy tourist! If you smile and accept things as they are (and things ARE different in different parts of the world, that’s why I travel) people realize that you are loving and appreciating their town!
    Sometimes you just get back the attitude that you are putting out! A happy smiling face goes a long way!

  14. I have visited London two times ! Absolutely love it!!! So easy to get around in the tube . People are friendly enough when I ask questions or directions .. I love a of England . The people in the other parts of England remind me of people in the South. Very friendly and helpful! There is nothing like the feeling I get walking out from the Tube and looking at Big Ben and Parliament! So awesome ! Also , I never tire of any English accent! The historical places to visit and see there is amazing!

  15. I haven’t yet been to England but have dreamed of it all my life. I live near London’s international twin, Seattle, WA, USA. I don’t understand the negativity of some, as England is a country of fantastically rich history, the land of fairytales and Shakespeare and Agatha Christie. My mother was born there on a US military base, and my grandmother would regale me with tales of streets made of brick and shopping that made one feel like a princess. Yes, I realize every place has its drawbacks, but coming to these web pages and learning anything I can about how it is there from people who are actually there just fuels my excitement over finally visiting there. I imagine my excitement will have to be contagious to those around me, and if nothing else will give the locals a bit of a giggle.

  16. I am an American who had the privelege of visiting London back in 2007. I did not meet any rude Londoners. I had a run in with a rude Italian who tried to bully her way into a line that I was standing in to buy a fallen officer memorial pin at Buckingham Palace. Other that that, I felt very welcome there and everyone I encountered, other than the rude lady at Buckingham palace, was helpful and very friendly to me. I love London. Hope to go back someday.

  17. The times that I have spent in London I have met the most kind and wonderful people. One of my favourite memories is when my wife and I were at the Tower of London in the Guards Museum. My wife collects coke bottles and the young solder had a bottle sitting on his desk. I had asked him were he got it and he advised that there was a machine in their break room. I was quite surprised when he offered to get me one for my wife, and then refused to accept any payment for it.

  18. I lived in London for a few months, and some of that I can say It’s def no true. Londoners are not rude, tourist and some turkish were quite rude, but not Londoners. The city IS HUGE, and there’s always so much to do (one of the things I loved about it!); it rains a lot, not all the time. Harrods is SO EXPENSIVE, I’d say PRIMARK is the place to be! hahaha, and maybe Topshop too. And at last, you CAN go anywhere by Tube or DLR, but you can also walk around the town, It’s so lovely and full of exciting things to see on your journey. I miss it there, London has a special place in my brazilian heart!

  19. I am a swedish woman, from 84 and further on i visited London at least twice a year. Rude londoners i have never seen. Mostly really interested and caring giving you help. Someone stated the parking fee £1 per 20 min. I left the second largest city in Sweden 10 years ago the town has around 700.000 inhabitants . The most expensive parking fee where then and now as well, £2.50 per 20 min. If you buy travelcard/Oyster card before and stays in the two most central zones it is not at all expensive and you can go as much as you like. I long to go now and have a really nice time. By the way service; i ordered two things from Marks and Spencers tuesday this week , it has today thursday arrived. 2 days fantastic.

  20. I’ve been to London, Paris and New York, some people say all three cities have rude residents. I have never encountered a rude person in any of the three cities. In fact, I found kind and considerate people in all three. If you are patient, cheerful and kind, you will be treated that way in return.

  21. Where I’m from there is no reliable public transportation, so everyone must drive their own vehicle for their commute. I love London and found people to be very friendly except on the tube. You’re right; people basically ignore everyone else, but it comes off as being less than courteous, especially for the men. While I don’t expect them to offer their seats to the ladies, their indifference to those who are struggling is a bit shocking.

  22. Truth to say the City of London is perhaps one of the smallest cities, measuring just 1.12 square miles (2.90 square kilometres, and with a population of 7,375 (or thereabouts) in 2011. On the other hand, the ceremonial county known as Greater London measures 607 square miles (1,572 square kilometres) and had a population of 8,174, 000 (or thereabouts) in 2011. Having said this, there are many parts within the outer boroughs of this ceremonial county which are positively rural.

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