Being the tourist hating on tourists

Tourists meander around the British Museum's Great Court.
Tourists meander around the British Museum’s Great Court.


Living in London for almost three months, I’ve certainly become accustomed to the way of life here.

It wasn’t until last week, when I had an aptly-timed visit from a Marquette friend on Spring break, that I realized just how accustomed to London I’ve become.

It began innocently enough in the airport. We were standing in the middle of the international arrivals exit shrieking and hugging. Amidst my shrieking, I couldn’t help but inch a foot or so to the side so others could pass, terrified of the glares I was receiving by locals at our “obviously American” greeting.

I didn’t notice the oddness of this  until later.

The first time I noticed something was different was on the Tube ride back to my flat. “What?!” my friend kept asking me, unable to hear a word I was saying.

I’d become quiet, able to utter full sentences while barely making any noise. When did that happen?

Of course, I realized later, I’d become quiet on the Tube. No one likes loud people on the Tube. You get glared at for being foreign, unable to understand proper Tube etiquette of sitting/standing quietly, reading  your newspaper and not making overt eye contact with anyone else. Duh. 

Assuming they were limited to my astute observation of Tube and street etiquette, I didn’t think much of my small personal changes.

That was, until I got home and was watching Geordie Shore with my flatmates, discussing accents, such as the “Geordie” accent from Newcastle.

“You’ve picked up something,” my friend told me. “It might not be an accent, but you speak differently, for sure.”

What? How could I speak differently! I am still American! After listening to myself for about 30 seconds, I noticed it. I’d picked up British vocabulary, upspeak and vocal patterns without even noticing. Trying to emulate her “American” speech was an effort, requiring me to actually remember what American speech sounded like.

The rest of the week continued this way, with me making a conscious effort not to run through the slow-walkers on the sidewalk, not to don my i-Pod during rush hour, not to use too many “propers” or “unis” in one conversation and to stop saying ‘inverted commas’ when I meant “quotation marks”.

My most-notable and annoying difference wasn’t as much of a surprise as a problem.

I hate tourists.

I knew that I hated tourists in London. Every time they’re in my way, standing in the middle of the Waterloo Bridge while I’m walking to class, I glare at them and rush past. When they’re shouting on the Tube, I shake my head and exchange knowing glances with other Londoners. When they’re standing on the left side of the escalator I walk until I’m right behind them so I can clip an “excuse me” in their ears to notify them of their ignorance.

My high-volume interaction with tourists at places I don’t frequent reminded me very quickly of my animosity toward the thousands of people that visit the city every day.

“They meander,” I complained: “They take photos of ridiculous things, like office buildings and security guards! They stand in clumps – clumps! And they’re so loud!

Apart from taking photos of security guards and the loudness, I realized that was once (and sometimes still is) me. I used to meander because I was lost. I used to take pictures of houses and offices because I thought they were pretty. I used to wander around in a large clump of American students.

I’m still a tourist. And yet I was hating on tourists to the extreme.

So what happened?

In short, I’d become judgmental, passive-agressive and rude in the most polite way possible.

I’d become “English” without even realizing it.

I can’t deny that I’m still a tourist. My frequent travel highlights that fact. My American accent has not gone away, even if my speech has changed. I still don’t have a “chip-in” debit card or a National ID card. All of my forms of ID have an expiry date on them: June 22.

I still take photos of buildings, meander if I’m lost and shriek at the airport when I see my friends.

I just try not to do those things in London. I mean, that would be so touristy.