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September 24, 2003

And where do you drink?

And now for something completely different: The Social Issues Research Center in Oxford, UK has released an absolutely marvelous online guide to British pub etiquette. In a number of steps the guide takes your through the basics of ordering drinks and food (believe me, this is not obvious for non-brits), choosing your pub, making contact in pubs, pub-talk and other rituals, round-buying (very important when you are out drinking with the locals), sex & games and how to become a regular. (link courtesy of but she's a girl)

There are really absolute gems in this guide, some things that appear obvious:

Rule number three: 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

Rule number six: It is not customary to tip the publican or bar staff in British pubs. Instead, if you wish, the common practice is to buy them a drink

but there are also more subtle codes:

Donít ever introduce yourself. The ďHi, Iím Chuck from AlabamaĒ approach does not go down well in British pubs. Natives will cringe and squirm with embarrassment at such brashness.

And there is an enormous amount of insight given to what appears to be social mysteries, if you didn't grow up in or around a pub yourself.

Coming from a place (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) with a rather strong pub culture itself, I always have found quite a few similarities with British pubs, but there are also just as many mysteries. I wish I had read this guide 25 years ago, it would have saved me some embarrassing moments. But the differences between American bar culture and British pubs is huge, and for Americans this guide could be your essential survival guide for social life in Brittan.

Posted by Werner Vogels at September 24, 2003 05:11 PM