8th April 2024

A Guide to British Pub Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

Welcome to the ultimate British experience – the pub! Whether you’re a tourist exploring the UK or a newcomer looking to blend in, understanding pub etiquette is essential. This guide will navigate you through the dos and don’ts of British pub culture, ensuring you enjoy your pint just like a local.

Ordering at the Bar

In most British pubs, table service is a rarity. Head to the bar to place your order. Remember, patience is key. Queueing is an unwritten rule; jumping the queue is a serious faux pas. However, queueing up at a bar is very different from queueing in a supermarket; there’s no line, but everyone knows who’s next. If someone was there before you and the bartender tries to serve you next, it’s impolite to not state that they were there first and direct the bartender towards them. Bartenders usually have the order of people that were there first in their heads, but when they’re busy, they can often get mixed up with the order, so sometimes it’s on you to notice who was already there when you walked up. There’s nothing worse than jumping a queue in Britain, so wait your turn. If you’re in a group, it’s common practice for one person to order for everyone, known as a ’round’, so you don’t crowd the bar area. If anyone is ordering Guinness, make sure you order that first, as stouts pour very slowly.

To catch the attention of a bartender, don’t snap your fingers, call out to the bar staff, or wave; basically, avoid all speech and obvious gestures. Instead, eye contact, a smile, and maybe a raise of the eyebrows to the bartender are enough to let them know that you’re waiting to be served. Alternatively, you can hold cash or your empty glass to further let the bartender know you’re waiting to be served. Do not wave the cash or the empty glass; just hold it on the bar. Acting impatient by sighing, scowling, or making obvious gestures is a fast track to royally annoying the bartender as well as the other customers around you.

Many pubs also offer food, and the procedure for ordering food can be different from ordering drinks; some pubs offer table service, you can order via a QR code for others, or you have to go up to the bar for food as well as drinks. It’s best to just ask the staff when you’re ordering your drinks at the bar what the procedure for food is if they do serve it. Many pubs only offer drinks; however, you can find a range of snacks behind the bar, like crisps and nuts.

Understanding the Round System

The round system is a cornerstone of British pub culture. If you’re in a group, it’s expected that everyone takes turns buying a round of drinks. If you think you can get away with skipping your round of drinks because you’re in a large group of people, trust us, you can’t. Brits will silently keep track of who’s bought a round, and it’s considered impolite to leave before you’ve bought a round.

Choosing Your Drink

Whilst beer, particularly ale, is a pub staple, there’s no wrong choice. However, don’t go up to the bar and order “one beer, please,” as there are many different types of beers available. That’s like going into Starbucks and ordering “one coffee please” without specifying if you want a latte, iced, mocha, americano, expresso, etc. Either do some research on which beer you’d fancy before you visit a pub, ask any of your British friends, or, if you’re a risk-taker, simply go in blind and choose one of the beers labelled on the taps. Bartenders are trying to serve people as quickly as possible, so if you come up to the bar without knowing what you or your friends want, they won’t be too happy. Instead of umming and erring whilst shouting over to your friends to ask what they want, make sure you’ve got your order in your head before you get to the bar.

If you’re ordering a beer, you can order a pint or half on draught; alternatively, there are usually also bottled beers available. When you’ve chosen what type of beer you’d like, the correct way of ordering is to ask for “one pint of x, please” or “a half of x, please.”. Politeness is a staple of British culture, and pubs are no exception, so make sure you’re remembering to say “please” and “thank you.”

Pub Behaviour

The ambience in British pubs ranges from lively to laid-back. The key is to match the tone. Loud, boisterous behaviour in a quiet, traditional pub is frowned upon. Similarly, pubs showing sports might be noisier. Adapt to your surroundings for the best experience.

Paying for Your Drinks

Most British pubs don’t run tabs. You’ll need to pay for each round as you order. Cash and cards are widely accepted. Tipping isn’t customary in pubs; in fact, it’s quite unusual, but it’s appreciated for exceptional service or large orders. When tipping, most Brits usually use the phrase “and one for yourself.” After ordering, the bartender will then add the price of a drink to the bill as a tip; alternatively, you can use “keep the change” if you’ve rounded it up, e.g., if your bill comes to £17 and you pay with a £20 note.

Respect the Closing Time

Pub closing times are usually strictly adhered to. Last orders are called about 20 minutes before closing. It’s a signal to place your final order and start wrapping up your evening.

Smoking Etiquette

If you smoke, do so in designated smoking areas, usually outside the pub. It’s illegal to smoke indoors in public places in the UK. Dispose of cigarette butts responsibly.


British pubs are more than just places to drink; they’re cultural institutions brimming with history and local charm. By following these simple etiquette guidelines, you’ll not only enjoy your pub experience but also earn the respect of the locals. So, grab a pint, find a cosy corner, and soak in the unique atmosphere of a British pub.

Once you find yourself well acquainted with British pub etiquette and you’re loving pubs just as much as we Brits do, you could be dreaming of running your very own pub. We know it’s a bit of a jump from first learning pub etiquette to managing your very own pub, however, if you find yourself getting immersed into the British pub culture, then it might be a great fit for you! Here at Trust Inns, we have a range of pubs to let across the country, we’ll provide the bricks and mortar but it’s you that becomes the face of the pub.  With the support, guidance, training, and expertise of Trust Inns guiding you through this business venture, you’ll have all the tools necessary to succeed.

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