A definitive guide to spotting a uni fresher in London

You’re supposed to stand on the RIGHT

You’ve joined every uni and accommodation group chats possible and added everyone you met on Snapchat. You’ve been to every club night and deem yourself a London nightlife expert. And you’ve been to the Freshers’ Fair and nabbed a tote and hoodie to wear proudly on your first day of term.

You think you’ve got this London thing down.

But now the first term has started, you’re about to leave the freshers’ bubble and enter university life. You’ve got more on your plate than who last took the bins out, and the fact you’ve already spent your maintenance loan on three-for-£10 jaegerbombs. But you’re a London pro, right?

Sorry to bring it to you, but whether on public transport or on your uni campus, you unknowingly give away freshers’ vibes that every sharp-eyed London student can catch. If you really want to seem like a bonafide Londoner, avoid acting cringe and see if you’re making any of these rookie mistakes.

Getting lost

You can spot a fresher if they look lost. Lost on the way to their first lecture, lost trying to figure out the tube system, lost in life.

The app, Citymapper, will be your best friend when navigating London as a newbie. It includes directions for walking and all modes of public transport. Just don’t have it out all the time. At least try to keep up the charade that you know where you’re going.

Bad tube etiquette

Nothing will get you more eye rolls than not adhering to the unspoken rules of the London Underground.

It’s common sense: stand on the right of the escalators and walk on the left. Let others get off the tube before you get on. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t just stop where you are to look at your phone. Stand to one side. (Unless you like getting bowled over by a hoard of angry commuters.)

Getting to know these rules also earn you the permission to tut and roll your eyes at other oblivious people on the tube. A good incentive, I’d say.

Saying ‘thank you’ when getting off the bus

Back home, it may have been a faux pas not to say “thank you” when you get off the bus. But for some reason, that courtesy does not extend to the city. 

Maybe it’s because Londoners are too busy for basic respect, or they are just too keen to hop off and get to their destination as soon as possible in case another TfL strike gets announced in the next few seconds. Either way, leave it out, and you won’t give yourself away.

Wearing what everyone else is wearing

Many want to reinvent themselves when going to uni: to be a cooler, trendier version of themselves. While you’ll certainly fit in with flares, a puffer, and a claw clip – you’ll get lost in the crowd.

Use your time in uni to discover what you really like. And it’s much easier to find close friends with common interests when you’re unapologetically yourself. London is a fashion capital of the world, so I promise no outfit is too weird for this city.

Wearing lanyards

I know you’re super excited you got accepted into your firm choice, or maybe you’re just excited you managed to get into any uni at all. But doing this is like wearing a sign saying “I’m a first year.”

Your lecturers don’t care whether you wear them all the time. And unless you’re a UAL student and have your lanyard permanently attached to your neck, you really don’t need to have it out after the mean-looking security by the entrance acknowledged it with a glare.

Only visiting Central London

Soho is cool and all. But you’re missing out on many lesser-known, hidden gems across the rest of London if the only nightclubs you’ve heard of are Ministry of Sound, XOYO and Fabric. 

Do your research, and find bars, clubs, coffee shops, and pubs you may have never stumbled upon otherwise. Then you can recommend your favourite hole in the wall to your visiting friend and act like you know all the best places in the city.

Talking to people who corner you on the street

You may feel sorry for the old lady peddling roses while you’re in the queue for the club or the charity worker with a clipboard on Oxford Street. But this is where you need to learn some street smarts to save money, time, and the possibility of being pickpocketed.

But all in all, seeing first years radiating fresher vibes is quite charming. And you’re only a fresher once, so you might as well own it. 

Take what you want from our excellent guide, and you can enjoy London and look slightly less clueless doing it.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• Here are 10 things you need to know before moving to London as a fresher

Here’s your entire first year as a London student told in Taylor Swift lyrics

• We asked London’s international students about their biggest culture shocks