How to blend in around Cambridge

Being from around Cambridge and spending most of my working days in the centre of Cambridge, I think I am in a position to spot a tourist a mile off and, more importantly, how to look like a local.  Sure, tourism makes up a chunk of the economy in Cambridge but it doesn’t mean you want to actually look like one.  Follow these tips on how to fit in like a local.

  1. Don’t stand in front of the Corpus clock taking photos.  Not only does it mean that you’ll probably get run over by a car but it also means that you will have locals swearing at you under their breath as they try to walk past.  Yes, it’s a beautiful clock if that’s what floats your boat but  if you want a holiday snap of that famous insect clock, stand on the other side of Bennett Street or King’s Parade and use a good lens.  Actually, this kind of rule applies to most camera-happy sights around Cambridge….
  2. Don’t buy a University of Cambridge hoodie.  No local would be seen dead in a University hoodie and neither would a student, so you wouldn’t look like a student either.  If students wear College hoodies, chances are they will be hoodies not available to the public so you won’t be able to get one anyway.
  3. Know how to deal with the punting touts.  Except for the die hard few (the all year round tan man in shorts frequenting the area outside Great St Mary’s), most touts are doing this as a temporary job to get some cash and the perk of getting a reasonably good tan (or as good as you’ll get in the lukewarm East Anglian sun).  They will hound you if you look like a tourist, and mid-season, you’ll get stopped approximately 3000 times a day.  The general rule is if you react, they will see a weakness and before you know it, you will be sitting just above the water being pushed along in a punt on a miserable rainy day.  Your best bet is to give them a disdainful scowl in a how-dare-they-think-you’re-a-tourist manner and mutter “No” – don’t worry, they’re used to it.  Saying this, punting is almost definitely a must-do when you’re in Cambridge so when YOU decide you’re going to go (as opposed to being charmed by a very, very charming tout), try and opt for one of the smaller companies if you can.  Believe it or not, there have been punting wars around town, and it’s always good to support the small-timers. You’ll probably get a much more personalised tour and someone who is really enjoying doing what they do and want to make sure you have a good time!

I’m sure there are many other things that would help tourists blend in a bit more….if you have ideas then send them to me and I’ll add them to the list!

Source of featured image:  © Copyright Hugh Venables and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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