A guide to British pub etiquette

Date:May 10, 2004 / year-entry #182
Orig Link:https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/oldnewthing/20040510-00/?p=39423
Comments:    25
Summary:Social researchers dissect the interactions and unveil the unwritten rules that govern British pub etiquette.

Social researchers dissect the interactions and unveil the unwritten rules that govern British pub etiquette.

Comments (25)
  1. Anon says:

    It’s surprisingly accurate. I bet doing that research was a real chore ;)

  2. SimonT says:

    For those who may be tempted to visit a british pub there are some points the guide misses or glosses over.

    Pubs are the natives refuge from work and home and strangers can sometimes be unwelcome. You should be particulary wary of pubs which display the "union flag" or the George Cross (english as oppsed to British flag), some might being patriotic due to a soccer match or rubgy, but others and believe me there are one or two in every town, are the habititat of xenophobic nazi scum.

    Stick to the lounge on your first visit and family pubs, the best of these found in villages if you want that traditional feel.

    Take Care, whilst we don’t haev guns over here (well most of us) I have seen many a face glassed for a funny glance (I soon walked out of pubs like that).

  3. Moi says:

    And some of the "rules" are not strictly observed for regulars (haven’t read it all yet, maybe it mentions this). For example we always got served before we should have in our local, the barman would know pretty much what we would have and if he noticed we were nearing the end of our drink pour one when he got another order for that drink (since we all mostly drank Guiness this was good policy), and just plonk it in front of us.

    SimonT is absolutely right though, there are some pubs that are very much best avoided. See http://www.chatarea.com/BirminghamItsNotShit.m1213510 for examples of a few stories/reminiscencies.

  4. Do not try to order fancy cocktails or un-

    > British drinks such as iced tea, as local

    > pubs are not familiar with these drinks,

    > even though they may have all the necessary

    > ingredients.


    I moved to the US when I was 23. After I ended up in Seattle, I started (under the tutelege of experts) dabbling in drinking cocktails.

    It was simple stuff at first. Froufrou drinks… Panty Droppers… Chocolate Cakes…

    But I quickly moved onto the hard stuff. Bourbon. Makers’ Mark to be precise. Served in the Old Fashioned style.

    I headed back to England a couple of years later to visit friends and family, and quickly discovered that things were Not The Same.

    It went something like this:

    Me: I’d like a Makers’ Mark with Soda and a Twist.

    Barkeep: What’s Maker’s Mark?

    Me: Erm… it’s bourbon… you know… sour rye mash, distilled… kind of like whisky.

    Barkeep: Oh, you mean like Jack Daniels.

    Me: Yes… well… kind of.

    Barkeep: Well, I might be able to fix you up. How do you want it?

    Me: Well, if it’s going to be Jack, let’s have an Old Fashioned.

    Barkeep: Old Fashioned? Well I might have a bottle that’s been sitting in the cellar for a while.

    … at which point I gave up and bought a pint.

  5. SteveM says:

    Hmm. I got 3 chapters in before I realised they were being serious!

    OK – so it’s all true, but was someone really paid money to do this? Maybe I’m in the wrong business after all :-)

  6. Splendid document. Pub etiquette is difficult, cocktails are almost always a dead loss, unless you’re in a bar.

    Current recommendations for cocktails are as follows:

    Oxo tower, Christophers near covent garden (at least the french guy there was prepared to go off list), Bank restaurant, and for those who visit the MS london office the Philip Starck Sanderson hotel is nearby. Note these are all fairly heavy $$$ places, but then if we’re out for cocktails, cost is generally secondary.

    This reminds me that I must go to Vertigo (http://www.vertigo42.co.uk) in Tower 42 in the city to see what the views are like.

  7. MilesArcher says:

    A pint of bitter, please. Works for me.

  8. Duncan Jones says:

    IMHO – Don’t drink anything at all south of Stratford. Not the ‘beer’, not the water, nothing.

    Try Edinburgh, Newcastle or Nottingham instead.

  9. These days each city in britain tends to have a website of all the best pubs to visit. Although few are as good as the world famous ‘Cambridge Pub Guide’ (http://www.cambridge-pubs.co.uk/)

  10. "Do not try to order fancy cocktails or un-British drinks such as iced tea, as local pubs are not familiar with these drinks, even though they may have all the necessary ingredients. Stick to beer," from Passport to the Pub…

  11. Roger Bagel says:

    Before visiting a new area I always check out the Eat and Drink on http://www.angle.uk.com . It often has reviews of the pubs, and gives you a quick incite into which should be avoided.

  12. (6) says:

    Wow, very accurate. Especially that of ‘acceptable’ drinks.

  13. Chris says:

    http://www.beerintheevening.com/ is a godsend for anyone drinking in the British isles (and selected locations outside of the British isles too)

  14. Anonymous Coward says:

    The one thing they neglected to mention is the copious cloud of smoke in British pubs. Your clothes and whole being are permeated in it.

    It was one reason this Brit left for the US, and loves California for the lack of smoke in public buildings and places.

  15. Marc Wallace says:

    I love these sorts of things. The more the social contract can be analyzed and put into a document I can read, the better things work for me.

  16. James says:

    The comments are full of anglicans agreeing what an accurate treatment of the pub environment this is, but I’m more interested in how useful it seems to those foreigners who have never had the pleasure… :)

  17. Take Outs for 10 May 2004

  18. Take Outs for 5 May 2004

  19. hulver says:

    Then there is the "Guide to Drinking like an Englishman in an English pub"


  20. Ben Hutchings says:

    James: You mean Englishmen, not Anglicans. An Anglican is a member (or adherent) of the Church of England.

  21. Dim St Thomas says:

    I agree it is an accurate guide, but as SimonT said they ignore the darker side of some pubs. Maybe they could have added a couple of extra "Tourist mistakes", especially as they suggest trying out "Estate pubs", e.g.

    3 Making Contact

    …But if you are male, avoid approaching lone females (and vice-versa), as this may be misinterpreted.

    Tourist Mistake

    A French student went into an Estate Pub and spotted a young woman alone at a table. He went over to speak to her only to have his head kicked in by her boyfriend when he came back from the toilet.

    …The British quite frankly do not want to know your name, or shake your hand – or at least not until a proper degree of mutual interest has been well established

    Regional Tourist Mistake

    An American tourist went into a rural pub on the Irish border and asked the regulars about their lives and took their photos. He was never seen again.

    There is a passing reference to the "Local Stare Factor" which is measured by how many people turn to look at you/ stop talking when you enter a pub. Pubs with a high LSF are normally best avoided, though it’s possible foreign (except maybe French) tourists will be given more leeway than native non-locals. I once read an interview with Robbie Coltrane in which he claimed on a trip to America on his first night he went for a walk and without knowing it ended up in a rough neighborhood and walked into a "blacks only" bar. As he had a weird accent (Scottish) and was full of witty repartie he was accepted and spent every night of his stay there.

    Probably the easiest way to avoid the dodgy pubs is to get a copy of the Good Pub Guide, which lists over 5,000 pubs that are not all tourist pubs (it’s used by natives too).

  22. The increasingly incorrectly-named centerpiece of Portsmouth’s Millennium Project.

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