Editor’s note: In honor of this week’s exclusive pub themed shirt, we’ve taken this article out of our archive over on Anglotopia to explain to British pub etiquette.
The final post in our Britannia in Brief series is a fantastic article from co-author William Mullins about how to behave in a British pub. I’m glad he decided to write about this as I’ve experienced the confusion of being a pub for the first time. Be sure to check out the rest of the posts for Britannia in Brief Week.
It should be straightforward – I mean, you’ve got bars here in the US – but I’ve always been struck by the trepidation that fills visitors to Britain the first time they have to step up to the bar at the pub and navigate the strange ritual of British pub etiquette. Quite understandably, no one wants to make a public fool of themselves in that inner sanctum of British culture, the public house.
In our book Britannia in Brief my wife Leslie, who blogged here on Anglotopia on Tuesday, and I explain the different kinds of pubs you’ll encounter, what they’ll serve in different parts of the country and how to navigate the culture. Following are a few tips which will help maximize your own pub-roving travels!
- Go to the bar to order drinks. Only very smart establishments, (i.e. not pubs,) will have table service.
- Order beer by the pint (men) or half-pint (women); never by the bottle.
- Pay for your drinks when you’re served, and expect to pay in cash.
- Offer to buy drinks for all your party rather than just slipping off to bar on the quiet. The British tend to drink in rounds – etiquette of rounds can get complicated,) so if your offer is taken up, don’t be alarmed – you’re off the hook until everyone’s had a turn. (Though if you want a glass of water or a packet of crisps, or some such, as well as a drink go get that yourself.
- Tipping will cause confusion. If you must, offer to buy the bartender drink which they may chalk up for later, but most Brits would only go to this extreme if the publican had just single-handedly rescued him and his family from a burning car.
- Don’t be afraid to bring a child to the pub during the day, especially in the country. Unlike America, this won’t have social services coming to take your child away!
- The pub is not the place to order frou-frou drinks. No self-respecting publican will serve Long Island Ice Tea, Buttery Nipple shots or Espresso Martinis. This isn’t to say there aren’t pubs that will serve these, it’s just that they’re not the sort of pubs any self-respecting tippler should frequent.
- Don’t ask for or expect the bar staff to pour you a particuarly large measure of liquor. Though prices vary between pubs, measures do not and are strictly regulated by law. For spirits the standard serving is 25ml, the EU having done away with the wonderful old measures: 1/6th of a gill in England and 1/4th of a gill in Scotland.
- Be a little more reticent about drumming up conversation than you would be at home. It’s not that people don’t want to talk to you, it’s just that they’re a little taken aback when someone they’d never laid eyes five minutes before suddenly sticks out their hand and introduces themselves as Tim from Topeka. To the Brits this sort of bumptiousness is annoying and plays to all their stereotypes of the loud American. Break the stereotype, be yourself, be patient, don’t try to hard, go with the flow and you’ll find yourself welcomed and appreciated by the natives!
There’s still a few days left to get our exclusive pub themed design: Britannia Pub.