The 12 days of tube etiquette

The 12 days of tube etiquette

Phew, thats another year of tube journeys almost over. Living in the countryside most of your life means there’s a lot to learn when you move to the city, and deciphering the codes of tube etiquette is one of the pretty major ones. It’s a dog-eat-dog world down in those tunnels.

Since it’s the festive season (and knowing I won’t have to brave a rush hour journey for the next week or so), I’ve compiled a little 12 Days of Christmas themed post for what we go through on a typical tube journey. It starts a little like this: on the first day of my travel card, TfL gave to me…

One person stopping on the escalator
Picture the scene – you’ve got on the escalator and it’s pretty crowded. People are shoving to get past and there’s some guy behind you who seems to be breathing on your neck *shivers*. There’s always that one person who thinks it’s a good idea to get to the top and then not move anywhere, just looking around. If punching in the back of the head wouldn’t get me into trouble, I’d be doing it on a daily basis!

Two people shrieking loudly on their phones
This only really works if you ever get a tube that’s overground, for obvious reasons. Anyway, it’s mostly teenagers that do this (listen to me, I’m such a grandma), but I swear “Ya get meh” is going to end up in my vocabulary without me even wanting it to. Only a couple of weeks ago did the whole carriage have to endure a screeching Aussie woman yell at ‘Scott’ on the phone, telling him she was “fucking tired of your bullshit”. Yes lady, we are too.

Three announcements of a “good service” when we all know the line is suspended
The worst of this is when you’ve been staring at the notice board of doom for 10 minutes, watching each upcoming tube slowly get replaced with a blank space where the minutes should be, and you hear from a very chirpy man in the control room that “all London underground lines are operating a good service to all destinations” – you know that hell hasn’t frozen over. They’re just lying.

Four different fast food junkies in one carriage
The tube can smell pretty bad very quickly, so add lots of junk food in the mix and you’ve got yourself one very gippy journey back home. People don’t even care whether they’re flooding the space with the stench of KFC, or even if they grab onto the bars and eat at the same time (don’t get me started on the cleanliness of tubes, it’s horrifying). The worst is being surrounded by them – McDonalds on one side, KFC on the other, Burger King to the front and a Subway behind.

Five badly functioning earphones
This has to be a major pet hate for me. If I wanted to listen to your crappy techno remixes I’d have downloaded it myself, so turn the damn volume down! There was a guy last week who genuinely was listening to a single track of some guy shouting. No music, just shouting. Weird.

Six smelly armpits
’nuff said.

Seven door jumpers
Never have I seen so many people in one city who don’t understand the meaning of “mind the doors”. People will get limbs trapped just to get on, and then look at you like you’re the weird one when you watch them struggle! Usually the next tube is only 2 minutes away, but they definitely most positively and absolutely have to get on this one – no other will do, even if it means riding along with a leg off.

Eight defective barriers
You’ve battled your way off a tube full of nattering tourists, stomped up the escalator like a thing possessed, then there’s only two barriers in the whole concourse that work. Hello queues with plenty of elbows!

Nine groin pressers
Yup. Never had one? You’re lucky. I must have had more groins pressed against my hips than Courtney Love’s had botox injections (I’m guessing that’s a lot).

Ten minutes waiting for an available train
Sometimes the rush hour can be unbearable, especially when you have to let a couple of tubes go by simply because if you try and push yourself on you’ll be stuck between a stumbler/boob-grabber and someone who hasn’t brushed their teeth, or you’ll never walk again. It can be really annoying when you’re in a rush (isn’t that why the hour is called so?), leading to a lot of sighing and foot tapping.

Eleven seek assistance messages
I know I have money on my oyster, I know I’m in the right zone, I’m standing really far back – let me through! Just breathe, ignore the tutting from behind you and wham your way through those barriers like nothing can stop you.

Twelve people standing in a group in front of the exit
This is where I tut like my mother taught me. There’s just no excuse! Maybe cattle prods should be legal here…

So those are the worst offenders that will probably always be a part of tube journeys for years to come. Are there any that really get on your nerves too? Share them in the comments :)

please note: some header images are from


  1. 24th December 2010 / 7:11 am

    Ha agree with every point! The tube is one of the reasons I refuse to move to London, I’d spend all day tutting. Also, makes me sad how often I see a mother struggling with a pram and no one helps her.

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  3. 22nd January 2011 / 11:36 am

    I totally missed this post! Again proof that we spend too much time together, we both love and hate the same things ;)

    I wonder what would win in Most Annoying Transport – trains or tubes?

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