Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

London Pubs and Pub Culture

September 18th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Being that I was a part of the group responsible for doing the Pubs walking tour, I got to see a lot of pubs while in London. Some of them were big some of them small, some new and some old. However, all of them had a large and often loyal clientele. One of the things that I feel makes the pub culture so strong in the U.K., in comparison to the U.S. and many other countries is the fact that EVERYTHING except the pubs close before 8 pm (6 pm in Norwich). Nightclubs are also open past 8 pm, however since coming here I have learned that most Brits cannot dance. What does one do after 8 pm if they are bored and wanting to socialize with friends? The only thing there is to do: go to the local pub. If one is craving a bite to eat past 8 pm, pubs are some of the few places still left open. From a visitor’s perspective I often find myself wondering why things cannot be open later. Yet, I can see why this might be nice from a resident’s perspective. If I lived in London I would be very happy to never have to work the late shift at work, and to be able to leave work by 8 and head off to meet my friends at the local pub so I could grab a meal and unwind after a day at work. The real truth is that Americans work too much, are too uptight, and need to live their lives more like the Brits or the Europeans. This maybe far fetched, but I believe that drinking in bars and pubs is looked down upon in the states partially because it is associated with laziness and carelessness. No matter how much it annoys me that nothing in Great Britain is open late I realize that it is better for the welfare of the people. In fact, many of the pubs I visited were filled with people who had just left work and walked to the nearest pubs with their coworkers and friends. The Viaduct Tavern, on Viaduct Holburn, was always filled to the brim with the bankers and lawyers that worked in the area, so that when you approach the pub after 5 pm all you can see is a huge crowd of people all wearing suits. Another thing I found interesting was how the selection of drinks and how the selection was displayed varied from pub to pub depending on their clientele. Pubs that were in tourist areas tended to have more mixed drinks like with names like “Sex on the Beach” and “The Slow Kiss”. These pubs also had the lists of their drinks in a menu or written on the wall. The tourist’s pub also has music, a jukebox, pool tables, and/or electronic games. The more traditional pub and those that severed the locals more than tourists had ales, lagers, ciders, and liqueur but no drink menu and no mixed drinks. In pubs like these the price of the drink you are buying is always a surprise until they ring you up. Also, some of the older traditional pubs have no music, no pool tables, and no games. These differences show how tourism has influenced the London pub culture. I hope to explore the more authentic British Pub more while I am in Norwich.

Tags: Rebecca