I love talking to people. I love when a conversation goes from “I like your boots” to “where are you from” to “have a great day.” Conversations like these, by British standards, are very rude when attempted on public transportation. Everyone (I mean everyone) rides the Tube, and it seems that they have all secretly agreed to treat their commute as meditation time. People might chat with a friend, but I often see couples and groups of friends sitting together not talking at all! Once, a man passed out on the train late at night and, aside from a drunk nineteen-year-old who claimed to have medical training (and let’s hope she did, because she administered CPR) and a security guard reporting into his walkie-talkie, the entire car stayed silent. I thought sipping pinky-up was polite, but these are manners like I’ve never seen. After one too many eye-rolls and curt responses, I now make sure I always bring a book on the train. Otherwise, it gets too tempting to bug people.
Above ground, London is an incredibly welcoming city. Baristas will tell you about their favorite museum and the best time to visit, police officers gladly offer directions, and chatting at a bar is practically expected. But as for the Tube, Queen Mum’s the word.