Back to knowledge base


The expat’s survival guide to “pub etiquette” in London

Pubs are a central aspect of the UK’s culture. The word “pub” originates from the term “public house” meaning a person’s house that has been opened to the public.

The etiquette followed in British pubs is very different from in American or European bars so if you are visiting or living in London, it is important to know the basics:

∙ The casual environment of a pub means that there is generally no specific dress code that needs to be followed

∙ Children and dogs are allowed in most pubs. Under 18s are normally allowed to stay until around 9pm

∙ The minimum age for purchasing alcohol in the UK is 18, however many pubs follow a Challenge 21/25 scheme, requiring bartenders to ask for the proof of ID of any customer who looks under the age of 21/25

∙ Most pubs serve alcoholic drinks, soft drinks and coffee

∙ Lager and bitter are served in pints (20 ounces), unless a customer specifically asks for a half pint

∙ Spirits such as vodka, gin and whiskey are served either in 25ml (single) or 50ml (double) measures

∙ Glasses of wine are usually served either in 125ml, 175ml or 250ml measures

∙ Drink prices vary depending on the establishment and the area of the UK. Prices in London are typically higher than elsewhere

∙ Snacks available at the bar usually include peanuts, crisps and pork scratchings

∙ Some pubs will offer food or “pub grub”, which often includes British cuisine such as fish and chips or roast dinners

∙ Pubs in London do not provide table service: orders and payments are made at the bar.

∙ This goes for food too, if available. Bartenders will then bring your order to your table

∙ It is common practice, but not obligatory, for groups of friends to take it in turns to buy rounds of drinks for everyone at the table

∙ One un-British aspect of pub etiquette is the lack of queuing. On an average Friday night in London, the bar will be swarmed with punters waiting to be served by a bartender who must take notice of who is waiting and who should be served next

∙ Tipping is not expected in English pubs, unlike restaurants. However, if a customer is pleased with the service provided by a bartender, they may offer to buy them a drink

∙ When engaging with strangers at the pub, it is rude to talk to them if they are seated. However, if they are at the bar, you may start a conversation by talking about the beer or the weather etc.

∙ Darts boards and pool tables provide entertainment in many UK pubs, as well as televisions which often show sporting events such as football matches

∙ Shortly before closing time, a bartender will ring a bell to indicate “last call”, allowing customers to order their last round of drinks. The bell will then be rung a second time to indicate that the bar is closed.


Back to knowledge base