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The Five Rules of Pub Etiquette in England

I’ve always wanted to explore the backcountry of the UK—as we do on our England: The Cotswolds Self-Guided Walking trip. I’m not sure why this particular region has held so much appeal: maybe it’s the pull of my family’s heritage; maybe I just watched too many BBC shows on PBS growing up. Either way, I’ve always felt the appeal of walking hedge-lined roads, stopping in local pubs, eating lunch beside local crofters’ cottages, and exploring ruined castles.

But, of course, I’ve always wanted to do it right. No one wants to be a tourist—being a true traveler (in the know about local traditions and customs) is far more appealing. That’s why I found it so interesting to chat with CW’s former Trip Manager (and friend of the company) Sally Thompson. As a native Brit, she was able to set me straight about one or two of the finer points of English culture. Chief among those? Here are 5 essential rules of pub etiquette to follow while you’re ambling through the UK.

1. Skip the Tip. It’s not customary to tip the bartender in most pubs in the UK. Instead, buy the barkeep a drink. By saying, “…and one for yourself,” when you go to pay, you allow them to put extra money equal to the cost of an average drink into a jar to save.

2. The Eyes Have It. To get served in a busy pub, don’t bother yelling, waving wildly, or ringing the bell on the counter—that’s a recipe for being ignored! Instead, simply make eye contact with the bartender; he’ll come over to serve you the next chance he gets.

3. Be Specific. Asking for “a beer” at a pub is a lot like walking into a diner and placing an order for “a lunch.” You’ll need to be a bit more precise than that. Instead, specify exactly what you want: stout, lager, cask ale, porter, bitter, etc. Not sure what to ask for? Lager is a safe, middle-of-the-road choice.

4. Round It Out. Don’t just order for yourself! By buying a round, you’re sure to make some friends in the average neighborhood pub. Be careful, though—sometimes you’ve got to be pretty quick on the draw to beat your new mates to paying.

5. Don’t Bar the Bar. Is there a large group of you? Don’t block the bar! Nominate one person from your group to go buy the round and let everyone else relax at the table. The regulars will thank you for it.

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