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A summer pint!Pub etiquette ( Public Bars )

What to do and not to do!

There is no waiter service in a British pub. You go to the bar to buy your drinks and carry them back to your table. It is customary for one or two people, not the whole group, to go up to the bar to buy drinks.

To get served, you must attract the attention of the bar staff without making any noise or resorting to the vulgarity of too-obvious gesticulation. This is much easier than it sounds.

If you wish to pay for your drinks individually, then order individually. If you order as a group, the bar staff will total the cost and expect a single payment.In most British pubs, you pay for your drinks in cash, immediately when you order them.

The Red Lion Pub, Ealing, London

Pubs often have a range of about 20 different beers behind the bar, many of them on draught ( on tap ), some in bottles and a few in cans. They range from dark stouts through mild ales and bitter to lager. In Scotland, bitter is described as heavy or 70/- ( seventy Shilling Ale ).

Don't go to the bar and ask for three beers. You may well be unfamiliar with the brands but you should make at least two decisions before ordering: do you want to drink bitter or lager and do you want pints or half-pints.

A pint of beer is 0,568 litre ( i.e. quite a big drink ). A half means a half-pint. When ordering you just say; Half a Bitter, please; or Half a Lager, please. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, it is even more important to articulate your preference as a half can also mean a small whisky.


It is not customary to tip the bar staff. Instead, if you wish and if a member of staff has been particularly helpful, the common practice is to offer them a drink. This is a genuinely personal and friendly gesture, but not considered compulsory.

The term bar can mean either the actual counter at which drinks are served, or any room in the pub which contains one of these counters. You may come across pubs with rooms marked Public Bar, Lounge Bar or Saloon Bar.

There is no such thing as a typical British Pub. There are 61.000 pubs in the UK all of them different and all of them typical. If you know where to look, and what to look for, you can find your ideal pub. Try to visit as many as possible ! Many of them are worth a visit on architectural grounds alone.

There is no single, correct way to order a pub meal or snack. Some pubs take meal order at the bar, others have a separate food counters. However, drinks must almost always be purchased at the bar.

Round-buying is the reciprocal exchange of drinks. To the natives, round-buying is sacred. Not buying your round is more than just a breach of pub etiquette.


Don't ask for an expensive drink like champagne if the person buying it is drinking cost-conscious halves of beer.

Don't expect to find exotic cocktails in pubs. All pubs serve basic mixed drinks, ( gin & tonic, rum & coke etc. ) and the choice of drinks has become more comprehensive in recent years, but only a few pubs have cocktail menus.

Unless there are signs specifically stating that children are welcome, always ask at the bar if children ( under 14 ) are allowed in the pub. Years ago most pubs would not allow children in, there has been a change of attitude in the last few years and many pubs, but not all, now cater for families. The minimum legal age at which one may buy alcohol is eighteen and young people may be asked for proof of age.

Pubs change according to the time of day. The quite, pretty town-centre pub you discovered at lunchtime may become a vibrant, crowded young people's pub at night.

Our favorite - The Churchill Arms, Notting Hill, London

Be aware of opening hours. Normal pub hours are 11am to 11pm Monday to Saturday, 12noon to 10.30pm Sundays. There are variations to this though, pubs with live music are often open past 11pm, some rural pubs close for a couple of hours during the afternoon and most pubs in the City of London ( the financial district ) are closed at the weekend. Pubs generally open until midnight in Scotland.

Keep an eye on the time. What should happen at the end of the evening is this: At 10.50pm a bell is rung and the staff announce "last order at the bar" at 11pm a further bell and the announcement " time gentlemen please". At this point no more drinks will be served; you then have twenty minutes to finish your drinks and must vacate the pub no later than 11.20pm. ( 30 minutes earlier on Sunday). Sometimes though the staff forgets the bell or the announcement, however if you try to buy drinks past time you will inevitably be disappointed. Some pubs run on their own time, if last orders are called at 10.45pm then it's a good bet that time will be called at 10.55pm, so get in early to avoid disappointment!

Toilets in the pubs are for the use of customers, not the general public.

Uxbridge Arms, Notting Hill, London

The pub, to many natives, is the second home - and some probably spend more time there than they do in their own homes.

Pub talk is the most popular activity in all pubs. There are few restrictions on what you can talk about - pub etiquette is concerned with the form of you conversation, not the content. Popular topics are the weather ( the months of April & May the wettest ever recorded ), sports ( football ( soccer ), rugby and cricket the most favourable ), politics ( be sure you know what you are talking about ).

Pub regulars will often start an argument about anything, just for the fun of it. Arguments follow a strict code of etiquette based on the First Commandment of pub law - Thou shalt not take things too seriously.

Do follow your instincts, the vast majority of pubs are friendly safe place, but if you don't like the feel of the place or the atmosphere, then turn round and walk out, there is bound to be a better one around the corner.

Plenty of Beers!Links

Some useful links in your search for the perfect pub!

Beer in the Evening
Fancy a Pint?


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