How to behave in a London pub

Anglorama nr 4/2005 (32)

How to behave in a London pub

As a tourist in London it’s probable that you won’t know some of the unspoken rules of pub culture. As the result of this, you might find yourself being singled out or feeling confused when trying to do the simplest of things. Here is a brief guide of what to do and what not to do in a London pub.


Firstly, England is a very receptive place. If you’re nice to people they’ll do anything they can to help you but if you’re mean or rude you will be treated with as much contempt as is humanly possible. When standing at the bar waiting to order, don’t shout for attention. The bar staff are aware you are waiting and if you shout or raise your hand they will just make you wait even longer. After all nobody likes a loudmouth! If you stand quietly with a smile on your face they will rush over to you because they know that you’ll be a nice customer.    Remember that they may only just be just working in a pub but they control how quickly you get served! Manners play a huge part in pub culture and a simple “please” or “thank you” go a long way. Never tip in a pub. It’s just not the done thing. By all means tip in a restaurant but not in a pub. London pubs are not the place to tip generally but it can be done in special circumstances. For instance, if the service has been particularly good you can leave a tip or if you really want to be nice to the bar staff you can offer to buy them a drink. This will generally make them even nicer and quicker with your service but don’t offer it every time you order a drink.


In London there are certain expectations of drinkers. People are what they drink in a pub so you might find yourself getting funny looks if you order something complicated or flowery. The general drink of choice is beer. Lagers (like Fosters or Carling) are for the working men who come into a pub after a hard days work and just want a quiet sit down with a newspaper. It is also the ‘real man’s’ drink. Bitter is for the older generation. It is also a beer but a stout one that is darker and more flat than lager. Men in their fifties sip at bitter while reminiscing about their childhood. Alcopops (bottles of spirits with a flavoured mixer like WKD or Bacardi Breezer) are generally for women and a man ordering one might get the odd questioning glance but bottled beer is okay for guys. To avoid embarrassment forget about cocktails.


People won’t think you’re rude if you don’t introduce yourself. You’re never going to see the bar staff again apart from when you order a second drink and they won’t remember you anyway because they deal with hundreds of customers a night. If you do feel the urge maybe just say “Hi” but if you follow it with “My name is...” they’ll think you’re trying to sell them something. The strange thing is that it’s perfectly acceptable to just drift in and out of conversation with the bar staff but not to introduce yourself. You can stand with your pint and make general comments like, “It’s so cold today” or “you look cheerful today”, but that’s about it.


This is is a great English tradition. If you plan to stay a while you should buy a round of drinks. But it’s not just you that does it, everyone does. Don’t think that no-one will notice if you try to avoid it! Anyone who doesn’t buy a round will be called a ‘cheap skate’ if not something worse! It’s truly a very non-British kind of behavior.

Hynam Kendall

to be singled out – być wykluczonym
contempt – pogarda
loudmouth – gaduła
flowery – kwiecisty
questioning glance – pytające spojrzenia
drift in – włączać się (w rozmowę)

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