EDITORS NOTE: This is the first of several guest posts, written by all the awesome people who donated more than $100 to Thomas' fundraiser a few weeks back. Today's post is written by longtime friend of the blog Heisenbergkamp, and is presented in two parts - part one is here, and talked about getting to London and getting tickets; part two talks about matchday itself.
Do: Get to the stadium early. There's actually quite a few things to do at the stadium other than the match itself. You can spend a fortune at The Armoury, which has more Arsenal products than you can imagine. The statues of club legends Tony Adams, Herbert Chapman, Dennis Bergkamp, and Thierry Henry are scattered around the outside of the stadium, you can take your picture doing inappropriate things to/with them. The Arsenal Museum has a great collection of artifacts from the club's past, and is worth a visit. And if you can make it to the stadium on a non-match day, you can take a tour of the stadium led by a former player, which I recommend - you can see the locker room, sit in Arsene Wenger's chair, see the media room, etc.
Don't: Come to the stadium hungry. Concessions are much less of a thing in England than they are here. There's less variety - it's basically hot dogs, crisps, and cups of "bovril," which Wikipedia describes as "a thick, salty meat extract." Yum! Just like Mom used to make! (EDITOR'S NOTE: Bovril is basically beef broth with a thickener in it, drank like coffee. It's gross)
And they only serve Carlsberg beer at the Emirates (and no beer at all served at Champions League fixtures). Also, you're not allowed to bring beer to your seat, so you can only drink on the concourse before the match and at half-time. Everything is relatively cheap, though. Honestly, to an American used to teams offering me a huge variety of overpriced, unhealthy things to shove in my fat, gaping maw before, during, and after a game, it's an absolute travesty.
Do: Hang out at one of the many nearby pubs before or after the match. Especially if, as a fan from far away, you want that communal experience with your fellow Gooners, start drinking and talking to people. In my experience, London-based fans are very friendly and kind when they find out you've traveled so far to see the Arsenal.
Don't: Forget to write down or memorize exactly where your seats are. Maybe I missed something, but when you enter the Emirates, if you bought your ticket on a Membership, you just swipe your card and . . . that's it. You don't have a paper ticket or any proof as to where your seats are, or anything else to jog your memory. So make sure you have it handy somewhere so you're not wandering around forever or sitting in someone else's seat.
Do: Soak up the atmosphere, sing with the rest of your section, celebrate Arsenal goals as if there were no repercussions. This is what you're here for! Enjoy it! It really is an unforgettable experience.
Don't: Stand up the whole time at a home match, unless the people around you are doing the same. I know some people won't like this, but the reality is that the atmosphere at the Emirates for home matches is not all that different from American sports venues. As American fans, I think one of the things that drew many of us to English soccer in general, and Arsenal in particular, is the fan passion. But, at least in the upper level seats, fans generally don't sing continuously throughout the entire match (though songs do break out pretty frequently), and stay seated except at particularly tense or exciting moments.
If you're standing up and shouting for 90 minutes, two things will happen: (1) you will annoy the bejesus out of everyone around you; and (2) you will be violating the terms of your ticket, and you may get asked to sit down by stewards, and if you're on someone else's membership or season ticket, they could get a warning or even, in very extreme cases, lose their ticket.
If you're lucky enough to get to go to an away match, it's an entirely different story. If you want that experience of standing and shouting for 90 minutes, this is what you're looking for. I was lucky enough to see the 1-1 match at Old Trafford last season, and it was honestly one of the best experiences I've ever had a sporting event. It's night and day - if you go to an away match and you're sitting down and not singing, you may get some dirty looks, it is what is expected. Unfortunately, away tickets are so in demand and limited in number that they are very difficult to find, you basically have to know someone who has enough points in the away scheme to get a ticket, or go through a tout.
Other Travel Tips
Do: Act like a visitor to someone else's home. More tourists visit London than any other city in the world, so people who live there can get a little tired of dealing with visitors non-stop. Add to that the fact that American tourists in particular have a reputation for being brash and entitled, and understand that Londoners may not go out of their way to be super-friendly to you all the time. However, my experience in several trips to London is that people are very hospitable as long as you're friendly and respectful. It should be common sense, but the bottom line is: don't be an entitled jerk.
Don't: Go around asking for the "We saved your asses in World War II" discount. You won't get a discount, and it will turn into a whole big thing.
Do: Call your credit card companies and tell them you'll be traveling abroad. It's worth taking 15-20 minutes before your trip to do this to avoid a fraud alert and having your card rejected at an inopportune moment on your trip.
Don't: Call your credit card companies to tell them the truth about Chemtrails. They'll act like they don't understand what you're talking about, and, between you and me, it wouldn't surprise me if they're behind the whole thing.
Do: Enjoy London! It's one of the greatest cities in the world. London has some of the world's best art and history museums - see the Tower of London, where they kept their dissidents and political prisoners prior to their state-sanctioned murders! See the British Museum, where they proudly display all the stuff they stole from indigenous countries they brutally colonized and won't give back! Many of the museums are cheap, if not free, so for as expensive as London is, there are plenty of great things to do.
London also has world-class theater that is at least the equal of any city in the world. And even with the exchange rate, it's generally cheaper than Broadway theater, and can be surprisingly low-key and affordable. No matter how much you love Arsenal, do other things, too. If nothing else, just go walking for a few hours - every neighborhood in London has a unique character and sights, and there are landmarks and parks worth seeing basically everywhere.
Don't: Believe the stereotype about English food being bad. Well, some of it kind of is (they seriously just up and eat a whole tomato at breakfast), but one of the many benefits of being a former colonial power with relatively liberal immigration policies is that there is an incredible amount of great ethnic food. The Indian food, in particular, is great, and can be found relatively cheaply.
Don't: Take anything in this guide too seriously. I'm not a travel expert, I'm just an idiot with a keyboard and a South Carolina public school education.
Do: Have a great time. It's the kind of trip most of us will be lucky to do even once in our lives, enjoy every moment of it.
Thanks again to Heisenberkgamp for donating, and for doing this!