I love to travel. And with travelling comes meeting lots of different people from across the globe.
When I meet new friends abroad and tell them I’m from London, some stereotypes naturally emerge. Is it always raining? Is the food really that bad? Have you met the Queen?
But are these stereotypes really true? Is it all red buses and telephone boxes?
Sometimes stereotypes are based on some sort of fact, and sometimes they’re not. Mostly, it’s probably best to take them with a pinch of salt and not assume they’re true.
But, in this article, I’ll give you the lowdown on some common London stereotypes and let you know how true they really are.
Stereotypes about London
1. It’s always raining
When lots of people think about London, they may think of its reputation for awful weather. It’s true that during the winter months of December, January and February, the weather can be very grim. Expect days with lots of cloud, rain and cold. Effectively, lots of grey!
But, the British summer is normally very nice, and London will often have the best weather in the country. You can easily see highs of 30 degrees during the summer. The further north you go, generally the colder it will get, and so London benefits from some great weather in the South.
In this case, the stereotype of rain and awful weather is true for some periods of the year, but not for others. If you like the sun, be sure to visit between May and September.
2. London’s efficient
Abroad, London and the UK have a reputation for being efficient, tidy and clean. In the case of London, this can be both true and false.
90% of the time, the London tube (as we call our underground train system) will be on time and take you long distances in no time at all. It’s rated among the best in the world. Despite some traffic issues, the bus network is also good, and cycling is very easy.
Other things may not be so efficient, such as paperwork. Though London’s bureaucracy may not be as bad as Paris or Rome, for example, you might still find yourself waiting a while for official documents or forms. The efficiency stereotype isn’t always correct.
3. London’s expensive
The common stereotype about London from people who live elsewhere in England is that it’ll cost you an arm and a leg. In other words, it’s really expensive. I’m not going to deny this one, it really annoys me how much it’s true.
In London, the average pint of beer is apparently £5.33, compared to the national average of £3.86. Some places will charge up to £7 or £8, which is why London pubs are often not my favourite destinations to meet friends.
That said, it is possible to see some of London’s amazing sights for free. Lots of the most famous galleries and museums are free, and of course you don’t need to spend any money in London’s wonderful parks or to admire its stunning architecture.
4. The food is bad
The UK has a reputation for bad food, and I’m not going to deny it. British food is really not my favourite, though some Brits do like it.
But one of London’s most redeemable features is its great food scene, due to its huge melting pot culture.
People who have moved to London from around the world have brought a huge diversity of food and tastes, leading to some great food in the UK’s capital. Whether you fancy a jalfrezi, a chow mein, or a fajita, you’ll find some great places to eat.
So, if you’re talking about traditional British food, the stereotype of tasteless food may be right. But, if you’re talking about the food available in the British capital, this stereotype couldn’t be more wrong.
Stereotypes about Londoners
5. Londoners are polite
The International stereotype of Londoners is that they are polite, often too polite. Films depicting famous British actors like Hugh Grant or Colin Firth often show a very particular image. They say please and thank you too much, they apologise a lot, and they’re a bit awkward in social interactions.
It is true that London and the UK do have a culture of politeness. Queues are well-loved among Londoners. If you skip an already formed queue, you are sure to ruffle some feathers.
But, it is not completely true that all Londoners are polite. Though it may seem this way for people from more “outgoing” cultures, British people can be just as rude as anyone. In fact, people from the UK will accuse Londoners of being rude, as is the stereotype in many capital cities.
And, annoyance is often shown in other ways than simply raising your voice, such as through passive-aggressive criticism or sarcasm. This stereotype probably has its value, but don’t assume it’s correct 100% of the time.
6. Londoners are workaholics
London is one of the most important economic cities in the world. It is one of only two Alpha++ cities (along with New York), and is estimated to have the fourth biggest economy of all global cities. With this comes the stereotype that Londoners care too much about work and are workaholics.
From experience, this stereotype isn’t too incorrect. Though the UK has a limit of 48 hour working weeks, this is often not followed in practice. It is not uncommon to see workers in the City of London leaving their office into the late hours of the night.
But, you could also say that Londoners like to work hard, play hard. London consistently ranks among the best cities for nightlife in the world. So don’t assume it’s all work and no play here.
7. Londoners are stingy
Related to how expensive London is, I’d say this stereotype is pretty untrue. It’s quite hard to be stingy in London because of just how much everything costs!
Then again, lots of Londoners will love a deal and many will try to spend as little as possible in such an expensive city. But I’d call that more economical than stingy.
London is home to such a variety of people, some very rich and some not so rich at all. It’s hard to say all Londoners are stingy because for some Londoners, money is no object. And for others, they don’t have much choice but to scrimp on their purchases. This stereotype is probably just a bit too general to be true.
8. Londoners only speak English
There’s a stereotype about the UK that we can only speak English, and can’t be bothered to learn foreign languages. All in all, this isn’t especially untrue, due to the lack of emphasis on foreign languages at school.
However, there are certain areas of the UK where this stereotype is definitely not true, and London is the best example. Because of the multicultural nature of the city, London is home to over 300 languages.
If you walk down bustling areas such as Oxford Street or Soho, you’re sure to hear snippets of so many different languages, from Italian to Mandarin, Punjabi to Swahili. This is what makes London so great!
This stereotype is definitely not true when it comes to London.
9. All Londoners have met the Queen
When I visited the USA, too many people asked me if I knew the Queen. To answer the question: no, I have not met the Queen. Have you met Joe Biden?
Americans assume that the UK is small and so everyone in London must know each other. In fact, London has a population of 9 million. That’s larger than New York. And the Queen would obviously not be spotted down her local pub with a pint of beer.
I think it’s fair to say that this stereotype is the most ridiculous of them all.
Stereotypes about London neighbourhoods
10. North London
North London is often stereotyped as the richer and more affluent part of London. It is associated with sophistication, art, and culture.
But, on the other hand, it is seen to be overly suburban and often just dull. People living in North London are often accused of lacking personality and being overly pretentious.
Yet, while these stereotypes may apply to some areas in North London, this is not always the case. Areas such as Tottenham and Angel are traditionally more working-class, despite threats from growing gentrification over the past decades.
North Londoners often have an unexplained dislike for south Londoners, and vice-versa. People will often ask on which side of the river you live to find out if you’re a Northerner or Southerner, and judge you accordingly. These dislikes are, as you guessed it, often based on the common stereotypes of each part.
11. East London
East London is known to be the home of cockney, as portrayed in films and TV shows such as My Fair Lady and Eastenders. But, this accent is very much a stereotype and barely anyone talks like this anymore.
East London is traditionally more working-class, and cheaper to live in than in other areas. Though, as with many parts of London, this is changing and the cost of living is quickly becoming very expensive.
The growth of East London as a “hipster” area is changing the demographic and traditional traditions and stereotypes of East London are becoming increasingly untrue. But, it still remains a lovely place to visit and witness London’s melting pot culture.
12. South London
South London is similar to East London in that it is more stereotypically working-class. Although, this is not always true. Affluent areas such as Greenwich and Bromley are found in the South. You’ve probably noticed London is very hard to generalise.
The south of London is home to a large proportion of London’s Black population. A large number of Jamaicans settled here in the 60s, and it has been a hotspot for immigration ever since.
Unfortunately, this means some of the stereotypes associated with South London are commonly racist stereotypes: that the South is poor, rough, less “British”.
In fact, the significance of Black culture on London is unmeasurably positive. South London is my favourite area of London for its friendly people, melting pot community, wonderful markets and amazing music scene.
13. West London
West London is seen as the most insignificant part of London. It is known to be wealthy, conservative, and suburban.
It might be a nice place to live, but there is not so much going on in terms of culture and things to do. I’ve personally never been to West London so the stereotypes about its insignificance are probably true.
It doesn’t feel so much like London, and my impression is that you could think you were really in any town in southern England.
So, there you go. Some stereotypes about London busted and confirmed, so that you don’t have to keep on wondering what London is really like.
But, of course, the only way to see whether these stereotypes are really true or not is to visit London yourself. See you there!