A Tourist’s Guide to Umbrella Etiquette in London

Okay, let’s get this out of the way early: it rains in London. A lot. In some ways the UK gets a bad press for its weather – it’s not as if we’re cursed by extremes of desert-like heat or arctic cold, and even the rain doesn’t exactly reach monsoon proportions. But what the British rain does promise is a combination of frequency and unpredictability: if you’re in London for a few days, you can be pretty sure that it will rain at some point, but good luck trying to guess when. For that reason, packing an umbrella is a good idea for your trip to London. Brollies come with their own set of rules, though; read on for some top tips on umbrella etiquette.

tips on umbrella etiquette

The first thing to think about is when it’s appropriate to use an umbrella. If you come from a very dry part of the world, or have a feline aversion to rain, you might be tempted to open your brolly at the merest hint of drizzle; while this is fine if you’re walking through a spacious park, if you’re on a packed street it’s not the most considerate thing to do. Once you’ve established that it is appropriate to open your brolly, there are a few things to consider. Firstly and most importantly of all, maintain a level of awareness of the people around you. If you’re anywhere within a roughly average height range yourself, chances are there will be several people near you whose eyeline roughly equates with the spikes of your umbrella as you’re walking along. You obviously can’t spend the whole time maintaining a 360 degree awareness of those around you, but try to be considerate. This is particularly important when opening your umbrella. If it stops raining and you close your brolly, there are still a couple of things to consider. It’s important to shake your brolly dry before entering a building or public transport, but you won’t be thanked for soaking everyone in the vicinity; again, be considerate. Many buildings and hotels have brolly wrapping stations to help dry your umbrella. If you’re looking for a hotel for your trip to London, Marble Arch by Montcalm is a luxurious property with an unrivalled city location.

If you’re someone who likes to walk down the street while staring zombie-like at your phone, then stop it immediately – it’s annoying for everyone else and potentially dangerous for yourself. This is even more true when you’re carrying an umbrella, which is essentially a big, sharp, awkwardly shaped extension of yourself. Another of the awkward minutia of city life which is made even more so by the carrying of an umbrella is the ‘two people walking towards each other in an enclosed space’ scenario. This harmless situation, which happens to everyone several times a day, is disproportionately feared by Londoners, who are horrified by the prospect of having to interact, however lightly, with strangers (see also: the Tube). Umbrellas add another level of danger to this social landmine. A good technique is the ‘lift & lower’: if two people holding umbrellas are walking towards each other, the taller person should lift theirs slightly and the shorter person lower theirs slightly.

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