Public transport etiquette

How do Brits behave using public transport?

Brits on a train


When you use public transport in the United Kingdom, whether it is a bus, train or tube, you will find the same scene: Brits avoiding eye-contact, perhaps lost in their thoughts, reading newspapers or listening to music with earphones.


This may seem unfriendly, but research shows that they regard privacy of utmost importance and they tend to protect it as much as they can. This can bring about exagerated behaviour.


For instance, they do not talk, even if they sit with the same people in the same train every morning.


Five tips for commuting with Brits


Avoid eye-contact


A few lingering seconds of eye-contact could bring the Brits to believe one of two things: you want to get aggressive, or you want to jump their bones.


Don’t speak loudly on the phone


There’s nothing more annoying for a Brit to listen in on what you cooked yesterday or the argument with your boyfriend/girlfriend. And people shouting on the phone are the worst of all.


Always be polite


Brits love politeness and they are really sensitive about it. Say sorry if you bump into someone. Move to let people get in and out. Ask before opening a window.


Respect the rules


If you are not allowed to eat, don’t eat. If you cannot smoke, don’t smoke. Don’t put your feet or bags on the seats. Simply, respect the rules, they’re written everywhere.


You’ll be warned in the event of a delay


British politeness hits again. Everytime a mean of transportation is delayed for more than 10 seconds, you will hear a voice from the loudspeaker telling you the cause and apologising for the delay.


Famous examples of Brits using public transport


Sliding Doors


The American-British commedy is well-known all around the world. It all begins in the undergound. Taking the train will bring a life. Not taking it will bring a completely different life.




The famous scene in this 1996 movie shows the characters going from Edinburgh to London to sell drugs. They are in a public bus, in silence, drinking, smoking and waiting for the time to pass.


Understanding non-verbal signs


Don’t panic, there is an easy way to recognise if you are bothering a Brit. How? By understanding hand-gestures and other body language. For instance, you can tell if they disapprove of your behaviour if they raise their eyebrows, wag fingers, or mumble under their breath.



Header image: Flickr/Michael Summers; Section image: Flickr/PaoloMargari


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