Part of the traditional British charm available in London is the pub culture, and if you want to be a part of that properly, you have to know the etiquette expected of you. Don’t worry too much – this isn’t the kind of etiquette that is required at a session of afternoon tea at Montcalm properties like Royal London House. But while there are no floral dress requirements, or special ways to eat your cream and jam scones, there are still a fair few rules that will make sure you have the quintessentially British experience.
In order to know why there is a need to act with a certain degree of etiquette from within them, you probably want to know a bit more about what they are and why they are held in such high esteem in the city. The word “pub” originates from “public house”, which was what these kinds of institutions were called way back in the day when drinking in public houses first started. They functioned as beacons of community and unity within small villages across the country – and believe it or not, back then, each part of London was considered a village in the same way as small countryside villages are in the present. So, the etiquette functions as a way of maintaining the jovial, unity-focused atmosphere that all pubs are trying to emulate. They are in place to keep things happy and civil, even in an often alcohol-fuelled environment. Follow the rules and you can expect to have a grand old British time.
Don’t push to the front
Busy pubs are a given – especially if you are going to the good ones. In fact, if you find yourself into a completely empty bar, it may be worth checking there isn’t a slightly better one down the road where everyone is… This, unfortunately, doesn’t bode well for impatient or thirsty people. It can be very tempted to use your elbows, bow your head and bully your way to the front of the bar to get your drink order in. This is disrespectful and a total no-go for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it offends the people around you. It makes them feel squashed, and it implies you think your order is more important than theirs. Secondly, the bartenders clock it. As subtle as you think you are, if you are obnoxious and pushing your way forward, bartenders will see and they won’t serve you as readily as they might have if you had waited for your turn. Try keeping in mind that everyone is there for the same reason – to enjoy a drink with friends and to have a jolly good time. Don’t be the person that ruins that.
Take reservations seriously
It happens all the time, yet nobody would dare admit to being a culprit: despite reservation labels on tables, people insist on sitting on them even if it is not reserved for them. Things like “I’ll move when they arrive” or “Well where are they then?” are the kinds of statements that get thrown about, and even if said with intent to move, it puts everyone (especially the staff) in a difficult position. Try to picture yourself in a position where you have booked a table, only to arrive to a bunch of strangers sitting at it, who quickly clear out leaving all their spilt lager and cigarette butts on your table. It isn’t cool – respect reservations.
No moaning about kids
This can be the most alarming etiquette feature for people who come from countries where children being present in drinking establishments is totally unacceptable. Well, this is where you need to remember the origin of pubs. They are, traditionally, a community affair. So, unless you see a child necking a Guiness (in which case, shock or moaning is encouraged), then don’t complain about the presence of children. These aren’t bars, they are pubs, and if the children are behaving themselves and staying with their families, there is no reason to get agitated. If you want a child-free zone, you might be better off heading to a bar.
The atmosphere in pubs can sometimes slip from jovial, merry and free-flowing with drinks into a bit of a brawl. This is unacceptable, no matter where you are. If you find the tensions rising with you and another pub-goer – perhaps they pushed to the front of the bar, or made rude comments about your child – see if you can diffuse the situation and if not, remove yourself from the situation. No matter whose fault it is, the bouncers and pub-owners won’t care – both of you are out, as you are disrupting what is meant to be a merry community of patrons.
It doesn’t seem like too unreasonable a request to ask pub-goers not to steal anything – and yet pubs lose thousands of pounds yearly on glasses that go missing. It has become a bit of a running joke or challenge to take pint glasses from pubs, but it is incredibly inconsiderate and not to mention, illegal. You wouldn’t think it would be a necessary etiquette requirement, but the statistics say differently: do not steal from pubs.
Tipping in different countries have different rules. In America, for instance, you wouldn’t dare not tip your waitress, waiter or bartender. In the UK, it is less compulsory and more of an option. So this is not a rule per se, but rather an etiquette recommendation: service staff work long hours and provide an excellent service, and yet because people tend to order in rounds rather than a final bill, forgetting to leave a tip is common. Obviously, use your discretion and base it around what you are comfortable giving. But keep in mind that it is polite to tip the bar staff, especially when they are up until the early hours making sure you have a wonderful night out.
Visiting a pub in London falls into all sorts of categories of tourism – from food and drink, to nightlife and culture. Especially when so many of them are in historically significant buildings in the city, famous for their architecture and for the people who once lived in them. It is an experience everyone should schedule into their trip, alongside other must-do London activities like visiting a theatre production on the West End, or booking Montcalm Hotel Spa Deals.