What is a UK pub like?

I’ve been to many bars in the United States. They’re all fairly similar. I can order a beer, either in a bottle or on draft if the bar offers it. I can order a mixed drink, usually either by a name or the contents of the drink. Most bars will allow you to run a tab, usually by leaving a credit card unless I"m know there. The usual tip is about a dollar per drink

How does the differ from pubs in the UK (or other parts of the world?) What is common to order? How does the tipping work?What other local customs should I be familiar with?

Well there are many different kinds of pub in the UK. This is slightly tongue in cheek but there is much truth here.

There’s no such thing as a typical pub. Cosy countryside hostelries with wood fires and thatched roofs do exist. As do cramped smoke-filled boozers in nondescript towns and cities. It’s also possible to find very friendly and cosy places in cities. And town centres have a proliferation of bland chains of pubs and bars which aren’t really worth describing, and operate with a pack-them-in, sell-it-cheap approach.

Drinks: everywhere has crap lager and cider, plus Guinness, on tap, served in pints (20 fl oz, thank you!) or halves. Decent places have cask-conditioned ale & bitter. Everywhere has a standard lineup of spirits and bottled drinks (lagers, and Smirnoff Ice-type mixes), and wine. Some places will have a fairly good variety of wines.

If just drinking, you’ll mostly pay as you go, and buy rounds for the group you’re with. Some places will be happy to run a tab (particularly for locals). If it’s somewhere that serves food, with a semi-restaurant service, they’ll sometimes happily run a tab for you, in other cases you’ll pay when you order. (With the introduction of chip-and-pin cards, it’s become useless for them to request a card in advance.)

Tipping: ‘…and one for yourself’ means ‘take a couple of quid from the change, and have a drink yourself later’. But this is the exception, not the norm, and unless you make any such gesture you will just get the full change with nobody thinking any less of you. If you’ve had a sit-down meal with table service then it’s similar to in a restaurant, leaving cash for the server.
There’s an absurdly-detailed description og British pubs here, which I’d agree most of (see the end of the last chapter for the caveat…)
And with that, I’m off to the pub (seriously :slight_smile: )

…and on preview, Struan beat me to that link. Shame most Scottish pubs are, well, Scottish…

I meant to add:

A good pub really is a public house. A good landlord and good staff are very important in fostering this. I think a sure sign of a good pub is that if you need your roof fixed, or some pipes unblocked, or you need a lift to the airport at an ungodly hour, the regulars will be able to help, or at least point you in the right direction.

Damn your quick fingers, GorillaMan! I too am off to the pub, round two for the day…

Agreed - more than once, I’ve given directions to a bemused driver who decided that the best bet was to try the locals in the pub. I do live in a village with some confusing addresses, though, which even sat-nav seems to have a problem with.

Yep, right, I’m going too…now I’ve found some shoes…

Some more differences, based on what I’ve seen of American bars (which, I grant you, isn’t much):

  • Some British pubs might be shabbier and dirtier than what you are used to. Gents’ toilets in pubs can be hellish places.
  • There is sometimes etiquette about who goes next on e.g. the pool table. Mind you, any faux pas is likely to be excused once they realise you’re a tourist.
  • Tipping is not required, and is mostly confined to posher places.
  • Many pubs have gardens with children running about and people drinking at any time of day.
  • Most pubs double as sports bars, at least when it comes to soccer. If you happen to visit a pub when a big soccer match is taking place it will be packed and deafeningly noisy. In fact, British pubs tend to be generally louder and livelier than American bars, from what I’ve seen.

I can’t be bothered to check the link from earlier (because I’m pissed), but I’m pretty sure that it describes the ‘invisible queue’, by which the bar itself functions. Pool tables work in a similar way.

This really does depend on your choice of pub. There’s plenty which have nothing to do with football (apart from the conversation). It comes down to whether or not the landlord has decided to fork out for a set of big TVs.

That was a very quick visit to the pub!

It is only a two minute walk :slight_smile:

(And I need to function tomorrow, which isn’t always the case!)

I remember in Dickens’ Bleak House, the places where legal procedings took place were, in effect, pubs. This really baffled me, until I realized that lawyers in the States have to take the bar exam in order to practice.

I’ve never known a pub not to use the unwritten rules of the pool table: put your money on the side. The money closest to the slot is the next to play.

They can get quite violent, too. The village club back home invariably has a riot if England loses.

'ckin northerners.

I think I’m right in saying that this use of ‘bar…’ words (which isn’t exclusively American) is not connected to any alcohol-serving establishment.

Damn, I’m always trying to quash the stereotype Americans have about “soccer hooligans”. He doesn’t literally mean that there is an actual riot when England lose, guys (does he?).

I would have thought that there would be a considerable amount of swearing, possibly directed towards Peter Crouch, but little in the way of public unrest.

What’s this mean? I’ve never heard of chip-and-pin cards.

I would gues he means [micro]chip and Personal Identification Number cards. I have never heard that before but it just means they don’t need the physical card to charge you with things.

Chip is the computer chip that is built in to the card, PIN is the four-digit authentication code. Chip & PIN is a recent fraud-prevention initiative by credit card and debit card issuers, now almost universal in Britain, whereby everybody is issued with a chip-embedded card and you have to authenticate yourself at the point of purchase by entering your four-digit PIN on a portable keypad.

The first time I attended the premises I finished the evening hiding in a cupboard with my friend until the Police arrived.

I have a Scottish mate who was right into the violent, drunken hooliganism when he was much younger. He tells me stories about matches between arch-rivals Rangers and Celtic, and they make my hair stand on end. Stories like a police spokesman saying, “This year was a success. There were only 700 arrests.” He said it deadpan.

One day my mate (a Rangers supporter wearing colours) went into a pub with some mates, and ordered beers. The barman just looked right through them, and didn’t move. They asked again. Same thing. The asked a third time. Somebody behind them snapped, “YER IN THE WRONG FEKKIN’ PUB, MATE!” Next thing, they found themselve crouched under the pool table as bottles, glasses, and pool cues rained down on it. A week later, they got reinforcements, a minibus, and went back to that pub for revenge, and the place got trashed. My friend’s conclusion about these stories? “I hate Celtic. I still do. I hate their supporters. But I respect them, and they’re 'ard!”. He says he really enjoyed that sort of stuff.