British Pub Culture and Vocabulary

Posted on December 7, 2018


By Emily Stallard, Owner at Orchid English


Time for a cultural post about the UK – British pub culture and vocabulary was a request from Vlad who is a learner of English on Google Plus. Thanks Vlad!


Did you know that the word “pub” is short for “public house”? In the winter, you can’t beat going to a London pub that has a log fire and sitting in front of it. My favourite winter pub drinks are mulled wine and mulled cider.  A “mulled” drink is something hot with sugar and spices such as cinamon, cloves and nutmeg.


What is the minimum age that you can visit a pub?

In order to buy an alcoholic drink in a pub you must be 18 or older. Some pubs ask anyone who they think looks under 25 for ID. If this happens to me I am delighted! Some pubs, especially in the countryside have a children’s play area outside. So you can bring the whole family as long as the children drink soft drinks.


Who often visits pubs, men or women?

Both men and women often visit pubs. Historically, some pubs didn’t allow women because the only women in pubs were prostitutes. Interestingly, in the nineteenth century there was a high propotion of female pub landladies despite the fact that they didn’t serve women.


Can I bring alcoholic drinks bought in another place to a pub?

No! It’s illegal and the staff would be annoyed that you weren’t paying for anything.


What alcoholic drinks can I buy in a pub?

It depends on the pub, you have to go in and see. If you’re new in London you should try ale, which is a traditional drink similar to beer but often with a stronger taste, uncarbonated and served at room temperature.


Can I smoke in a pub?

Not since 2007; smokers have to go outside now.


Should I leave a tip in a pub?

You can if you like, but you shouldn’t feel obliged. When buying a round of drinks at the bar you can say “and whatever you’re having”, and the bartender will charge you for a drink for themselves too.<


If it’s a gastropub, which is a pub that serves good quality meals, you can give the staff an extra 10-12% when you pay for your meal at the end. However, be sure to check on your receipt that the staff haven’t already factored in a service charge, because this is really the same as a tip.


Thanks for reading, and I hope that this introduction to British pub culture and vocabulary helps you to take advantage of the great British pub this winter.

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