Don't Be A Brolly Wally In London

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 32 months ago
Don't Be A Brolly Wally In London

Wet today, isn't it? Perfect time, then, to introduce you to our guide to umbrella etiquette. At this soggy time of year, the congested pavements of London are saturated with tourists, commuters and other pedestrians, each now equipped with an extra obstacle — an umbrella. Each umbrella must be wielded appropriately — otherwise accidents, and fits of brolly rage are liable to follow.

Here's our guide on how to behave correctly while walking with an umbrella — whether it's open or closed — and when to correctly use one.

Photo by psyxjaw, in the Londonist Flickr pool.

When to use an umbrella

You use an umbrella when it's raining, and don't when it's dry. BUT there are a few finer points people still manage to get wrong, and fellow pedestrians will thank us for mentioning them:

Drizzle: When you're in a quiet area and it's drizzling, it's your own call whether you use an umbrella or not. When you're in the throng of Oxford Circus, however, an umbrella is an unnecessary luxury, and therefore should be frowned upon.

Golf umbrellas: These oversized canopies are not just an eyesore: unless there are two people under one. In the hands of a solo pedestrian, golf umbrellas are at best an annoyance, at worst a weapon designed to knock people over and take their eyes out. they have absolutely no place anywhere in zone 1 or on any busy London thoroughfare. Save it for St Andrews.

Walking with an umbrella open

We've witnessed brolly-provoked collisions aplenty, with inconsiderate walkers refusing to heed our rules below:

Using a phone: People get hit by cars or fall off piers because they were scrolling through their Facebook updates rather than paying attention to real life. Checking your phone while walking with an umbrella doubles the danger and should be avoided at all costs. We recognise that sometimes it's necessary, e.g. to check maps to see where you're going, but at least pull over on the side first.

Tilting: To avoid umbrella clash when walking towards someone, tilt the respective umbrellas away from each other so that you remain covered but don't catch the other umbrella. When tilting, make sure you look around so you don't jab the umbrella into someone else's face.

Lift & Lower: An alternative to tilting is for one person to lower their umbrella and the other to lift. It's effective where space is tight and standard procedure is for the taller person to lift. This only becomes a problem where two people of similar height are indecisive and you end up with two umbrellas moving up and down like some kind of awkward morris dance.

Cornering: Nobody likes to walk round a blind corner at pace, only to crash into someone else, and it's even worse when you get a face full of umbrella. So when possible, try to take a wider line going into any blind corners.

This chap looks like he's got good brolly manners. Photo by John Willoughby, in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Carrying a closed umbrella

Once closed, it's easy to assume that umbrellas stop becoming a nuisance. But there are still some people who don't get it:

Drying: It's often effective to shake off the water from an umbrella before closing it, but care should be taken: fellow commuters won't thank you for showering them with water. So make sure you check behind you when entering a building or a station before attempting a shake and dry.

Brolly wrap: Sometimes it's impossible to avoid a dripping umbrella, but many buildings have wrapping stations, which are simple to use, and very effective.

Horizontal carrying: Try to carry an umbrella vertically at all times, especially if you are an arm swinger — nobody likes being jabbed by a pointy umbrella held by the person in front of them, whether walking or standing on an escalator. We've witnessed and sometimes experienced being jabbed in the eye, stomach and groin. If you've ignored our rule above about golf umbrellas and are also carrying it horizontally, you are truly a menace to civilised society.

Public transport: An umbrella should be placed by your feet or held in your hand when on the train, Underground or bus. Placing it on your lap leaves a wet patch making it look like you've got a bit too excited, and placing it on the adjacent seat is a big no, because someone will eventually sit there and receive a damp derrière. Note that umbrellas are one of the most common items forgotten on public transport remember it when you leave: one tip is to position your brolly close to your feet so you knock it as you stand up, thus acting as a helpful prompt.

Fidgeters: It can't be helped — some of us are fidgety individuals who simply can't stand still when waiting for a bus or train. But please refrain from filling this time by twirling or swinging an umbrella — it's unlikely to end well as you'll probably hit someone with it. Instead, break out your phone and check out the latest news and reviews on Londonist.

These are some handy suggestions on umbrella etiquette, but if you have others, let us know in the comments and we'll add them to the list. Or feel free to comment if you don't agree with our rules.

Last Updated 31 August 2015

Duncan Geere

I'd add that whenever it's windy you should opt for a raincoat instead. Umbrellas are a liability in storms!


This is an article London has needed for a long time.


Added note - we tall folk don't appreciate being poked in the eye by the spines of less-tall carriers' umbrellas. I just bat them away now - can't bother trying to be polite to idiots. So - let me use that so-British expression - I apologise in advance for any inconvenience :-)

Lindsey Berthoud

I have experienced the gaining of a damp derriere situation from a train seat, on my way in to work as well. It is not nice. Not nice at all.

Stuart Dean

Absolutely cracking article. This sort of idiot education is SO sorely needed.


I live near Seattle, Washington, where it rains very frequently and the easiest way to identify yourself as a foreigner is to carry an umbrella at all! Why bother with an umbrella when most people have raincoats with hoods, or at least wear hats, and waterproof computer bags are readily available?

The only concession to umbrellas a true Seattlite will make is attending the annual Bumbershoot Festival every spring.

My Londoner family members carry umbrellas in the UK, but I would be embarrassed if they did so in the Greater Seattle area.


This feels like it should be part of a suite: Using Escalators (don't say your goodbyes at the bottom, exit quickly etc), Walking on Oxford Street (sometimes a necessary evil at this time of year), Eating on Public Transport and Pulling Wheeled Suit Cases (there's a special place in hell for these people).


Fantastic article, but you left out one important thing. People who use umbrellas that are falling apart and just have metal spines protruding in every direction, seemingly attempting to find other people's body parts to gore! Brollies are so cheap, and yet they refuse to buy a new one and put society's safety in jeopardy in the process. Selfishness and frugality all in one fowl swoop.


If you are going in a shop put your umbrella in a plastic bag to avoid spoiling clothing etc. some shops provide them on very rainy days e.g. Zara. Keep it in your bag fur future use.


A good rain coat will keep you much drier than an umbrella will, rain doesn't always fall straight down.

Giuseppe A. D'Angelo

One day you should write a guide for people who hold fags while walking and burn other people passing by... That's a real annoiance, much more than wet umbrellas


When furled, those who have umbrellas with a crook should either walk with it like a walking stick (if it is long enough) or hook it on your arm. If carrying it along the shaft, the tip should point forward and down to the ground so you can control it rather than it pointing backwards and potentially jabbing someone unbeknownst.


Only good umbrella is a #deadumbrella

Mark Maynard

People using Golfing umbrellas in Zone 1 need locking up in a North Korean re-education camp.

Barbara Miller

I went to Seattle, one of the world's rainiest cities and umbrellas make the locals giggle. It's like a neon "I'm a tourist!" sign. Locals wear weatherproof coats in a huge variety of colours and styles, along with wool hats. (The design of these chosen makes a personality statement on the wearer). No clash, no wet and definitely no golf umbrellas.