Olympic Etiquette | Manners & Etiquette

Today is the opening day of the London 2012 Olympics. Crowds are expected and everyone in Great Britain is certainly excited to host this, their third Olympics. The first two London Olympics were held in 1908 and 1948.

With the crush of crowds from all around the world, Miss Meredith Sweetpea wondered if there are any particular etiquette rules for Olympic attendees, and lo and behold, she found some! Here they are in no particular order.

On the Street

Traditionally, Britons greet each other with, “How do you do?” It is proper to respond with, “How do you do?”

Drive on the left, line up on the right. The British call lines “queues.”

Look both ways before you cross the street. You may not be used to vehicles driving on the left.

On the Underground, walk on the left, stand on the right.

Avoid eye contract on the street. Sometimes you’ll be on a bus, train or subway though will a boisterous crowd, in this case, camaraderie is encouraged.

Hold your arm up to hail a taxicab in England

To flag a taxi, look for one with its light on and simply lean out and raise your arm. Do not shout “Taxi” to get the driver’s attention. Give your driver your directions through the front window before you get into the back. Upon arrival, pay the driver through the front window. Tip about 10%.

Britons may not openly give their opinions, don’t take it personally.


Don’t use the A-OK sign. It is not OK in Europe and other countries.

The “thumbs up” sign can be translated as foul language in other countries. Winking can also be offensive in certain cultures.

Regard the personal space of people from different cultures. Others may feel more comfortable standing farther apart than Americans do.


When visiting a pub, it is polite to buy a round for your group.

Recognize that the meal sizes are smaller than in America and don’t gripe about it.

If a Brit asks you to enjoy a “cuppa,” it means to have a cup of tea. If the server places the teapot on the table, the person nearest the teapot should pour for all. Tea is poured first and milk and sugar added afterwards. (Don’t hold your pinky finger in the air!)


Tipping is normally 10-15 percent of the bill. If you order your food and pay at the bar, no tip is necessary.

–excerpted from Bloomberg Business News, Walk on the left, Olympic etiquette tips, 26 July 2012; British Pathe, London Olympics Etiquette Guide

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