Why It's OK To Eat On Public Transport

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 33 months ago
Why It's OK To Eat On Public Transport
Photo from the Underground Supper Club

Before we present our argument for this case, let's be clear and clarify that we don't think it's acceptable to eat smelly food on public transport and we always advocate people take their litter with them. Nobody wants to sit in an Underground carriage that reeks of doner kebab or take a seat on the bus only to find a pile of chicken bones at our feet — it's happened to us... on more than one occasion.

But what if we're eating a humble sandwich or a piece of fruit, is there something wrong with that? Many people would still object but here's why we think the stigma needs to go.

London is one of the world's busiest cities and most Londoners have learnt to optimise their commute time, whether it be reading a book, working on laptops, playing games, listening to music or watching some catch-up television. Considering that it's now pretty much accepted that women, and the occasional man, often do their make-up on the way to work, surely grabbing a quick bite is not a stretch. When we've been munching a sarnie it's often because we're grabbing some sustenance as we rush between meetings or are on our way to an evening event where there won't be any food. Yet we've had fellow commuters staring daggers at us.

One common aversion we all share is that nobody wants to watch someone else eat, and sitting opposite someone means we're forced to watch them masticating away. But we commuters have spent years perfecting the best way to avoid eye contact with each other and have plenty of digital devices or a book to avert our gazes to. We don't really see this as major issue.

Now some of you may be thinking: why don't you just eat where you bought the sandwich, it only takes 10 minutes and surely your life isn't that hectic. This is a fair point, but supermarkets don't have anywhere to sit and most of London's sandwich shops have all their seats taken as well. London is replete with public benches and green spaces, but this is only workable in the summer — sitting outside in the rain and wind of November isn't really practicable.

The times we've been eating on public transport haven't been because we want to, it's because our hand has been forced by the chaotic nature of our day. So next time you see a fellow commuter munching away on a Sainsbury's sarnie, rather than staring at them angrily have a bit of sympathy and recognise they don't want to be in this situation either. But if they're eating smelly food feel free to give them plenty of evils — but don't speak up, that wouldn't be very British.

For other articles on what's socially acceptable, see our guide to umbrella etiquette.

Last Updated 12 August 2015

Geoff Marshall

My rules ...

- If it's a piece of fruit, or chocolate/sweets snack, you can eat that whilst sitting next to someone that's ok.

- If it's a bit more complicated (like a sandwich, danger of filling spillage) you must NOT be sat next to someone for that

- Hot food must almost NEVER be eaten with other passengers, or if you do they've got to be in another part of the carriage to you.

Piccadilly Line, last Wednesday - some idiot got on, busy train, started eating his Burger King right next to me, and dropped little pieces of lettuce on him, me, and the floor. I got up and stood a couple of metres away instead, and gave him totally deserved evils.


I'd rather watch someone eat something like a sandwich than see / hear them chew gum.


Can we add a few more rules to this:
1. Chew with your mouth closed.
2. If it crunches when you chew just don't even think about it.
3. Smelly food includes citrus (especially in summer - the smell of Orange mixed with that other guys sweaty pits will get you vomit almost instantly).
4. Be aware that some public transport users won't get to eat today because they can't afford to, be considerate when you're eating in front of people that those "daggers" might be because you're making their situation worse.

Whovian Marvel Tube Life

Might as well rebuild S Stock & Remodel NtfL/ Crossrail Class 345 to make them have Dinner Carriages. A good Idea, I have.


Are we saying Tuna sandwiches are ok? God, this is a minefield.

Botak Boy

So long as the food is not smelly, then I can tolerate. If they're eating chicken tikka masala or a Big Mac or KFC, I'll move elsewhere.


It's not OK to eat on the tube. No no no no no. It's dirty and smelly and rank. For god's sake, the longest possible tube journey is about what - an hour? Can you really not hold off stuffing your face for 60 minutes until other people are no longer trapped in a confined space with you?