British Pub Etiquette: What You Need to Know Before Visiting Pubs in England

English Pub

By Jocelyn Brown

Drinking is a big part of the British culture. Pubs are everywhere, filled with people no matter what time of the day it is. The pubs are the best places to socialize, relax, have a drink, and even meet new people.

If you’re planning to visit England soon, dropping by several pubs should be on your list. It is a great way to get to know the culture, the people, and the environment. However, like every responsible tourist, there are traditions and behaviors you must observe to make sure you’re not disrespecting a person or a culture.

Public House
The word pub is short for “public house.” The term means that somebody’s house has been opened to the public where members of the community or the neighborhood can have a drink. The concept was introduced more than 2000 years ago. This is the premise upon which the oldest pubs in England are built which is why you’ll notice that some pubs have an old school look and feel.

Ordering Your Drinks
Table service is not a thing in English pubs. Just go to the bar and be ready to pay for what you ordered right away. Also remember that most local pubs in England don’t accept credit cards, so always have cash to hand.

If you’re looking for heavy meals, don’t expect that every pub serves them. While some pubs do serve sandwiches and other light food, it is rare for them to have a full-blown menu.

Giving tips to the service crew is a big no in British pubs. It is okay to give tips at English restaurants but that doesn’t apply when you’re at a pub. If you’re particularly impressed with a barman or a barmaid’s service, you may offer to buy them a drink. Simply say “May I get you a drink?” or add “and one for yourself?” after you’ve ordered.

What to Order
Since the pub tradition is built upon the idea of a neighborhood party, it is not mandatory to order alcoholic drinks. You can have an alcohol-free margarita or a daiquiri.

For those who want alcoholic drinks, you’re down to two choices. Choice No. 1 includes distilled spirits such as whiskey, gin, vodka, and rum; while choice No. 2 is the classic beer. There are different kinds of beers you can choose from: ale (dark beer), lager (light beer), bitter (light ale), or stout (very dark beer).

These are just some of the basic pub etiquette you must know before going on that pub-hopping trip. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself and take your time to get immersed in the culture.