A staple in British culture is the pub, which is short for public house, but nobody will ever call it that. They’re essentially a bar that serves as a local meeting place where people can socialise and relax over a drink. A visit to the local pub is mandatory if you want to really immerse yourself, not only in British pub culture but also in the culture of the local area too. Pubs usually serve a variety of branded and local beers, as well as spirits and wine, and many serve traditional British pub food too. You’ll probably not find cocktails and an enormous range of fancy drinks with fancy names – that is the realm of a bar, not the local pub. It’s estimated that there are over 45,000 pubs in England today.
What’s in a Name?
There’s a rich tradition behind naming the classic British pub. You’ll likely notice the sign emblazoned with this name as you walk up to the entrance. The signs are a product of a ruling by King Richard II who declared that all landlords should make it clearly known that their establishment sold alcohol. The names and logos of pubs are often regal and relate to heraldry, displaying a coat of arms. The most popular pub name in England is the ‘Red Lion’, and the second is ‘The Crown’.
Overheard Down the Local
You’ll probably hear a lot of nomenclature and slang in any pub in England. Having a rudimentary understanding of some of it might help you navigate your experience. Here are some slang words that you might hear ‘down the pub’.
The first thing you should know is that it is quite customary to buy drinks in rounds. You’re not usually buying just yourself a beer if you’re with friends, but instead, you’ll take turns to buy a round of drinks – that is, one for everyone. If it’s your round or your shout, it’s your turn to buy the round. As you take a first sip of your drink, you’ll want to raise your glass and shout ‘cheers’, which is essentially wishing your friends a good evening.
Once you’ve consumed a few beers, you might start to feel hammered (drunk). The later it gets, the rowdier the pub is likely to get, and if there’s a knees-up in the pub (a celebration or party), then it’ll get even rowdier. Usually at around 11 pm, however, the barkeep will call last rounds, which means it’s your last chance to get a drink and about 20 to 30 minutes until the pub closes and you’ll need to go home.
Snacks and Food
Bar snacks are a big part of pub culture, and this has been expanded into offering hot food – usually, very traditional British pub meals like bangers and mash, which is a pork sausage served with mashed potato and gravy, or fish and chips – usually cod – which has been battered and fried and served with French fries with lashings of salt and vinegar. More recently, the emergence of the gastro pub has made dining at a pub a more upmarket affair, like the pick of Beaconsfield restaurants this gastro pub demonstrates. The Greyhound Inn is a gastro pub offering really great food and a dining experience, hosted in a 17th-century former coaching inn where you’ll find incredible food and a good pub atmosphere.
British pub culture is an institution and you need to experience it first-hand to really appreciate it. Statistics estimates there is one pub for every 1,000 people in England, and that should give you an idea of just how ingrained the pub is and the penetration of pub culture in the UK.