10 Things New Yorkers Can Learn From Londoners

The card was publicly launched on June 30 2003, transforming the way travellers paid to get around the capital. Around 60 million cards have been issued since then and more than 85% of all rail and bus travel in London is paid for using an Oyster card. (Dominic Lipinski/Press Association via AP Images)

Around 60 million cards have been issued since the Oyster card was publicly launched in 2003. (Dominic Lipinski/Press Association via AP Images)

The Big Apple and its residents get a lot of stuff right. But that’s not to say they can’t learn a few thing things from those fog-drenched, bowler hat wearing folk in that other great global city.

Let pregnant people sit down

Subway users in NYC like children more than their London Underground counterparts. But they resolutely shun pregnant women. You could be lugging around a bump the size of Texas and your co-passengers, rather than catch your eye and kindly offer you a seat, will suddenly become extremely focused on their iPad or belt buckle. Londoners, meanwhile, fight to give up their seat to any woman with a belly they suspect might contain a fetus.

Make museums free
Museum and gallery enthusiasts in New York need to throw serious money at their hobby. Most big-name establishments charge entrance fees upwards of $20 – and this usually doesn’t include access to special exhibits.  In London, you needn’t part with a penny to explore the city’s major museums.

Less ridiculous IDing laws
You could turn up to an NYC bar with white hair, liver spots and smelling faintly of wee, and you’d still get asked to prove you’re over 21. Bouncers are much more easy going in the British capital, and rarely ask to see your ID if you look older than 25.

Taxi drivers who know the city and drive non-lethally
Yes, you’ll pay through the nose—and every other orifice—for even a short ride in a black cab. But you will get taken to you desired destination, fast. New York’s yellow cab drivers speed and swerve like lunatics, often with no particular route in mind. That’s why New Yorkers in taxis feel the need to bark directions.

More outdoor cats
New York felines live in their owners’ apartments.  It’s a miserable situation – both for the cats and the relocated Londoners used to seeing city tabbies, tortoise shells and tubby gingers frolicking contentedly in the great urban outdoors. We’re just baffled as to why anyone would confine a feral animal (at least one that isn’t ill or extremely old) to a poky flat. If you don’t have kitty-friendly access to the street or a garden, here’s an idea: maybe don’t get a cat.

Better flea markets
New York has a booming second-hand and vintage scene. The shops, reasonably priced compared to London’s rip-off selection, sell everything from Bakelite telephones to flapper dresses. But flea markets here are a different story. Bedazzled hipsters and enamored tourists roam these trash-filled emporiums fighting over who gets to pay $40 for a broken crate or $10 for a rusty key. London has better markets and, more importantly for bargain-seekers, massive weekly car boot sales, which still yield actual bargains despite the hipsters moving in.

Affordable theater
The cheapest available ticket for a Broadway show will set you back roughly the same as a mid-range Ikea sofa. Seeing a production on the West End costs around half that, even for the good seats, which means less well off Londoners aren’t excluded.

Stand on the right, walk on the left
New Yorkers still haven’t yet figured out how to use an escalator correctly. Many treat the moving stairs in stations and department stores like a ride. The step they happened to mount is their personal territory until they’ve finished their turn, so they sprawl and refuse to move should someone want to get by. This is insanely frustrating for any “walkers” who just want to get off the escalator and on with their day. Londoners, meanwhile, have a system: stand on the right; walk on the left, allowing those who do not wish to linger an exit. Anyone seen not following these rules will be summarily tutted at.

Oyster cards
These plastic replacements to the traditional paper travel card have seen their share of controversy. But now Londoners quite like their Oysters. You can top ‘em up online and they’re easily replaced if they get lost or stolen. New York’s subway still uses flimsy travel cards, which you have to swipe at a particular speed and with just the right amount of heft to make them work. And try getting a season ticket replaced if you break or lose it. It’s an agonizing process that involves sending off actual paper letters. Metrocards do, however, make great toothpicks.

Drive better
Londoners are basically good drivers. Most realize theirs isn’t the only vehicle on the road and they rarely use their horns. New Yorkers are the exact opposite. You’d be forgiven for thinking these people learned to drive in dodgems under machine gun fire. They’re habitually furious, honking like geese in heat, and they rarely stop for pedestrians.

Have you already learned something new from Londoners?

Join @MindtheGap_BBCA and guest co-host @BBC_Travel Wednesday, January 29 at 2 pm ET on Twitter for a #MindTheChat on London vs. NY (and LA). Which city is the greatest? Tweet your thoughts using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win a full season download Neil Gaiman’s TV miniseries Neverwhere on iTunes. Follow @MindtheGap_BBCA on Twitter.

See More:
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8 All-American Pastimes Brits Could Learn to Love
What the U.S. Can Learn From British-Style Parenting 

Ruth Margolis

Ruth Margolis

Ruth is a British freelance journalist who recently swapped east London for Brooklyn. She writes about TV for Radio Times and is working on her first novel.

See more posts by Ruth Margolis