Did you think that looking lost and carrying a gigantic camera is enough to convince everybody you’re a tourist? Well it helps, I’m not gonna lie, but in London, there’s one thing that works even better and will give you away in a second.
Stop and wait for the green lights at a road crossing. That’s it.
The things is, London is full of artsy people dragging around their fancy cameras to take the best shot of London Eye with Big Ben blurred in the distance at sunset while a flock of seagulls shape a perfect heart against the crimson sky (who, me? Oh no, I don’t own a fancy camera. I take pictures like these on my phone. Unnoticeably.).
So no, having a big ass camera doesn’t help. Oh, what about the looking lost part?
Pumpkin, have you ever seen the size of London on a map? Everybody gets lost at some point. It happens to the best of us. The only difference between a person living in London and a tourist is that a Londoner would use maps in their phone and pretend to be texting while finding their way.
Do you know what they wouldn’t do? STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NARROWEST, BUSIEST STREET TO STARE INTO A METR x METR BIG PAPER MAP. Seriously, people, Londoners have zero time for your struggles, move out of the way. (But they’re also friendly enough so don’t be afraid to ask for directions. You would most likely be asking a foreigner anyway. I’m being asked all the time and feel super smug when I happen to know the answer.)
So yeah, enormous paper maps and hopeless expression might make you suspicious. Add some telephone box/double decker/post box photographing (again, not me, I’ve never taken a photo of a post box) and you’re almost exposed. But it’s still not enough evidence for other people to know that you’ve just arrived.
But once you stop or even hesitate at a road crossing, you’re out. Now everybody knows you’re a tourist. You can have your cameras hidden as much as you want, only use digital maps, look extremely self-assured, blah blah blah, whatever, it doesn’t matter anymore. London knows.
It took me about a week to change my Prague always-wait-for-the-green-walking-man mentality into I-ain’t-got-time-for-this mode. I was usually the only person waiting at a crossing but I just couldn’t help but feel that it’s somewhat, you know, wrong and illegal. Then I started to carefully follow the crowd always looking around for policemen and then, after I saw policemen ignoring the lights too, I dived in.
Now I importantly pass all those people waiting for a green light thinking how incredibly touristy they look, poor souls, while deep in my mind I’m dreading the day when I return home and forget I’m not in London anymore. Because London drivers, even though crazy and aggressive, expect people to jump under their cars. Prague drivers don’t.
I’d probably just get fined though.