What to know when you're travelling up North

The commute up to the North. Sound familiar?

I bet some of you know the route like the back of your hand – weaving up from London, through Peterborough then snaking round to Leeds and on to… I’ll stop there, you could probably drive the train yourself (but don’t – our drivers are ace).

But how well do you really know the North? You might have your favorite seat in the Quiet Coach, and your usual order from the Foodbar – but when you arrive at your destination, do you fit in? Here’s a few pointers to help you understand the North - we don’t want you looking like a reet numpty, do we?!

They’re a friendly bunch

Think you’re getting chatted up? Or perhaps that someone’s a bit crazy? Don’t bat an eyelid sunshine, that’s just how it’s done.  From train to café, even just walking down the street – don’t be surprised if someone strikes up a conversation with you.  You may hop on at Kings Cross and know someone’s life story by the time you reach Leeds. 

Why is this you ask? It’s partly just a numbers game – the cities of the South are more densely populated, and to ask every Tom, Dick and Harry about their favourite pet would be exhausting.  The other reason is that Northerners just love a good natter – whether it’s cursing the weather or debating the footie (a regional past-time in its own right) – it doesn’t take much for the conversation to start flowing.

So if you fancy getting stuck in, don’t be afraid to share your opinions (maybe keep your love of The Venga Boys to yourself) or spark up a chat with the person opposite.  If you prefer to keep your head in a book or do some work, then do just that; Northerners might like a gossip, but that doesn’t mean they’re plain annoying.

Looking overdressed?

If you’re lucky enough to be staying overnight in the North then you may spot a nocturnal phenomenon.  While you may be piling on the layers, clinging onto your scarf for dear life against the brutal wind and achieving a new 100m PB sprinting back to your hotel room, the locals will be dressed in the manner of a Hawaiian Hulu party.  Well, not quite tropical – but not far off. 

Going ‘out-out’ (that’s a boozy, dressed-up-night-out to you and me) is BIG up North – and the hairstyles and eyelashes are correspondingly ginormous.  Take a stroll round the Toon (Newcastle) and you’ll soon see that looking good is so highly-prized, and such impressive efforts made; that there’s no chance a Northerner’s going to ruin their ensemble with a big frumpy coat.  Which is surprising because….

The weather really is a lot worse

In the couple of hours it takes to speed up the country, can the difference in climate be really that huge?  Oh boy, you bet it can.  It’s no surprise that Travis are from Glasgow.  Altogether now: ‘why does it always rain on me….’

How much?!

Whilst you’re up North, your wallet may be very grateful to you indeed.  If you usually talk yourself out of a nice meal or a drink with friends because of the pull of the purse-strings, then the North could be your yellow brick road of opportunity (the red slippers would probably be a bargain too). 

Pints are cheaper, you’ll save almost half on outings to the cinema, and a trip to the gym won’t cost you an arm and a leg.  Even chain-restaurant grub is yours for a snip – for example, a Greggs sausage roll is 85p more in London than it is in York; that’s a whopping 30% mark up!

Don’t miss out on the local delicacies (it’s all gravy, baby)

OK, so it might not be worth panic-buying sausage rolls for the train home, though there’s certainly enough luggage space if you really want to.  Don’t be thinking there’s no fine cuisine up in the North; there’s Michelin-stars aplenty.  Sometimes, though, only a comfort food will do – and in this regard, there’s some treats up North that you really don’t want to miss out on. 

The first is the gravy – yes, there’s gravy in the South, but not quite like this. A big tub of thick, smooth gravy is a godsend over a Northern fish and chip tea (not dinner).  A trip to the fish and chip shop is generally a must; particularly if you’re in Glasgow or Edinburgh, where you’ll be able to sample the delights of deep-fried haggis, kebab and the notorious Mars Bar.  Ambassador, you are spoiling us.

The second must-eat is a Parmo, which is mystically only available in the North East – and boy are you Southerners missing out.  It’s worth a trip to Newcastle alone for this hefty chunk of breaded chicken, covered in béchamel sauce, melted cheese and all manner of toppings.  It might be a dish that originates in Italy, but the generous tub of garlic mayo served with it places this meal firmly in the realms of Northern legend.

And finally, the weighty issue: bread

Thought you’d got the hang of ordering lunch? Think again.  Knowing your buns from your baps is essential if you’re going to cut the mustard up North. 

Doncaster, York & Leeds: If you’re heading to ‘God’s own county,’ as the locals so humbly dub it, then be an angel and order a teacake.  Or a breadcake- the jury’s out on this one.   Serving suggestion: this thick, fluffy bun lends itself well to a generous slice of roast beef.  Throw some friend onions on too, you wicked thing.

Darlington & Newcastle: If you’re around The Toon or Darlington, get a stottie down you.  Serving suggestion: a lifesaver after a heavy night, these beautifully bouncy buns were just made for bacon – not Sir Mixalot.

Glasgow: Whatever the time of day, a Morning Roll will do the job.  Found freshly-baked in every shop in town, they’re light as a pillow but with a crispier top.  Serving suggestion: buttered and fresh, with a shot of Irn Bru.

Ready to go native?

You have listened carefully, Grasshopper! You’re now armed with all the knowledge you need to make the most of your business trip.  The North/South divide’s long gone, but that’s not to say we don’t each have our own little quirks.  And a final tip? Don’t get into any arguments about the correct way to say ‘bath’…

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