Pub culture is an integral part of British life, especially student life. Pubs are a place to go to socialise, relax and have a drink. It is something you should experience if you want to learn about Brits and our culture, even if you don’t drink alcohol.
Going to pubs is fun. However, having said that there are some social rules attached to visiting the pub and knowing them will make your experience more enjoyable.
What do pubs serve?
If you’re not a drinker or you’re the designated driver, then you can easily order a soft drink! If you’re a drinker, then the usual order at a pub consists of lager, ale, bitter and spirits. A request for lager, ale or bitter will usually get you a whole pint unless you specify you want half!
It is unlikely pubs will be able to serve you fancy cocktails. This is something that you would normally get in a bar.
How do you order drinks?
In almost all pubs you need to order your drink at the bar, so don’t wait around for someone to take your order from your table. The only exception to this is when you go to a “gastro pub”, aka a posh pub, for a meal. Then you will get table service.
Pubs are busy at peak times such as after work and the weekends. It’s advisable to edge your way to the front of the queue but strictly NO pushing in. You will not be popular. Once at the front, get the attention of the bar staff by having your money ready. They will most likely say “what will it be” or “what are you having” and you give them your order.
In some pubs they will ask if you want to start a tab, which means do you want to leave your debit or credit card behind the bar. In exchange they will give you a card with a number. Each time you place an order the staff will ask for that number and at the end they will present the bill to you.
Do you leave a tip?
You don’t normally tip bar staff in the UK. If you want to show your thanks, then offer to buy them a drink. They can then choose to accept the drink or take the value of the drink in the form of a tip.
Which pub is the right one for you?
You will find that many pubs are the hub for their local community, which means they are a great way to meet people. Some are also known for a certain thing, such as a venue for a certain genre of music or their quiz night. There are pubs that are known for being a place where people gather to watch a certain sport or support a certain football team. It’s best to check out the vibe because it can be an uncomfortable experience if you support one team and everyone else is supporting the opposition.
You will also find certain pubs are known as a hangout for certain nationalities, such as “Aussies (Australians) and “Kiwis” (New Zealanders).
Is it normal to start a conversation with a stranger?
One of the great things about the pub culture in the UK is that you can strike up a conversation with a stranger and even make new friends. It might be a passing comment about the weather or the football scores. It could also be something weightier, such as something in the news or about politics. Whatever the topic is, join in! It’s fun! You may even get a drink bought for you, but remember to return the gesture.