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{07/10/2012}   London Tube etiquette for getting off tubes

My boyfriend and I found ourselves on a Jubilee Line Tube at the same time as the o2 was emptying out from a Michael McIntyre show.  We were seated mid-carriage and there was fidget-room only after North Greenwich.  The Tube stopped at our stop, Canada Water, and we started the, at first, polite “excuse me”.  It then became apparent that we were not making enough progress so, being first of the two of us, I started shouting “excuse me” and having to vigorously push people.  No one got off the Tube to let us out, indeed people were trying to get on at Canada Water.  I got out, just, but Chris got wedged between people moving to clear themselves of the closing doors and his one final shove to break free from the inconsiderate mass got him quite a whack on the forehead from the closing doors.  With a desolate wave, he carried on and I waited for him on the platform, knowing there would be some choice things to say!

Chris was really annoyed, rightly so.  His argument was that the people who hadn’t moved out of our way and had largely been oblivious to other passengers beyond their mass weren’t Londoners (either in the living or commuter sense) so had no concept of Tube etiquette.  I thought this was a bit snooty against non-Londoners.  However, the next day, a Sunday, at around 8.45am, I was on the Tube to Heathrow with a backpack, handbag and small wheelie case.  Squished into the carriage with me were people heading to a mini marathon.  The Tube was as squashed as the night before.  Yet I was aware of people wanting to get off around me, as were others.  We stepped off the Tube to allow them out and only one “excuse me” was heard and it was acted upon straight away.  Without doubt everyone who wanted to get off there succeeded.

I think Chris was probably right, that Tube etiquette is something you are “taught” by using cramped London transport.  I realise that I, and most others, would almost throw themselves out of the way to enable someone to get off a crowded Tube.  I moan furiously about travelling on busy trains and the Tube, but at least people generally let you OFF the Tube.  Getting on it in an orderly fashion is a different matter though and that would be a rant rather than praise.

I find myself quite surprised to think that people not used to the London transport system are a little unaware of etiquette, but how many times have I tutted or sworn at tourists who plonk themselves in most obstructive and annoying places on tubes and trains? Well I guess visitors to London from the UK are also in unfamiliar territory. It makes sense. I am sure I have inadvertently infuriated locals when I’ve been gormlessly standing where they want to walk in their familiar public transport. It’s things like that which make visitors to London think people are rude, but it is an unfair portrayal of residents and workers of the capital.  If someone were lost or needed help, I am confident people would help them.  But while the visitor and the local/commuter have no connection with each othre, the visitoris a source of annoyance to the Londoner, likely to get in their way and be sworn at, usually under the breath.

So, visitors to the o2 who don’t ordinarily use the London transport system, be a bit more aware that transport from big venues is not personalised; not everyone is getting off at your station, which is probably a connection to a railway station so you can catch a train safely away from the jam packed tubes and rude people of London that you have had to endure.  I guarantee you also wouldn’t like not being able to get out at your station and having your head shut in the closing doors.

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