How to navigate your first time in a British pub

Published On April 4, 2015 | By whistler | England, Uncategorized


If you’ve ever visited any part of Britain for any length of time, it won’t have escaped your notice that the pub is THE place to be. If you want gossip, head to the pub; if you want to meet someone new, head to the pub; if you want to catch up with old faces, head to the pub … do you get the general jist?

Pub culture is big business in Britain, and most cities, towns, and even villages have at least one. Every single person who lives in that city, town, or village will have their favourites, and it’s quite likely that there will be a circle of regulars who know exactly what is going on in that particular city, town, or village, and any gossip or insider knowledge will also be easily picked up from entering said establishment.

If however you’re visiting for the first time, entering the inner sanctum of the pub can be a rather daunting experience. It’s not the same thing as walking into a Wild West type swinging door bar, but a few turned heads might greet you if you’re clearly ‘not from these parts’.

To help you navigate your first time in the Great British Pub, follow this advice.

Do …

Go to the bar to order your drinks. Forget table service, you head to the bar, order what you want, pay for it, wait for it, and take it to your seat. Don’t sit around waiting for someone to come to you, you will end up very thirsty indeed.

Pay with cash. Whilst some fancier city-type bars will accept card via the old chip and pin process, most pubs are cash-only. Don’t make yourself look stupid by flashing your gold MasterCard at the landlord when he is expecting a five pounds’ note, you’ll only get labelled ‘flash’, and believe me, you don’t want that.

Be generous. Pub etiquette deems that you buy a ‘round’ of drinks, rather than just buying your own. This means that if you’re there with a group of four people, you buy four drinks, and the next time someone else buys the four drinks, so in essence, you buy once every four drinks. Make sense?

Be sociable. If a regular speaks to you, always be nice and reply in a friendly, polite way. If you’re in a rural area in particular, people are curious to newcomers, and you don’t want to be on the wrong side of the regulars!

Don’t …

Sit in someone’s seat. If someone gets up to go to the toilet and leaves their drink or even simply gets up, don’t immediately jump in their vacated seat. A lot of the time this is their seat, and although you don’t know it, everyone else who is regular to that pub does, short of a sign saying ‘Fred’s seat’. Loiter near the bar instead.

Don’t speak unless you’re spoken to. We mentioned on the ‘do’ list about speaking if you’re spoken to, but don’t go the other way and introduce yourself. Us Brits aren’t used to overly confident people wandering into our pub and being loud. Whilst you don’t think you’re being loud, believe me, the regulars will think you’re being loud.

Ask for stronger drinks. There are laws in place on how strong spirit measures can be, so you’re given what you’re allowed basically – like it or lump it!

A visit to the local pub is a must do, it’s a huge part of British day to day life, so follow this advice, and get involved!

Image by Matthew Black under Creative Commons license.

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