Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

The Perfect Pub and Its Lessons

September 19, 2010 · No Comments

As we have all noticed, pubs are an integral part of English life. They also make for a good laugh when walking down the street and you realize a particularly bizarre pub name. My experiences in pubs thus far have been varied and I’ve learned a few things.

#1: You can’t care if people are looking at you funny because you’re loud. A couple of times, I’ve been with a group of people and we have been rather loud, not surprisingly. Of course it attracts attention, especially if has been in the earlier part of the day. For example, after the walking tours were finished, my group went to a pub (The Globe) outside of Covent Garden to have a celebratory drink.  An older couple was sitting near us and I’d notice that they sent us side glances every once in awhile.  (In our defense, we did try to sit in a back corner so that we wouldn’t- hopefully- be too disturbing.) While we were being loud, I have noticed on my other pub visits that loud isn’t always a problem. It’s a space where people can be more relaxed and English reserve is often lessened. So, I was left wondering whether the side-glances were a result of the fact we were loud Americans (typical!), 20-somethings, or a combination of both.

#2: The Irish are more outgoing, supposedly. A couple of weeks ago, I was in a pub when an Irish guy (James) started to talk to us (and constantly complained about how the English are a lot more stand-offish, as well as about how I don’t have a strong accent). At this point, I had this idea of pubs as solely a place for mates to get together to catch up or after work to wind down. Instead of being the ones who attempted to start a conversation, we were engaged, which caught me off guard. Afterwards, I was hoping that maybe some of the other experiences that I had at pubs would be more open. Nope. They reinforced the idea that this was an exception to the rule.

#3: Offering a pint is polite, but so is refusing. When I’ve been in groups and we’ve offered to a drink to the bartender, they’ve either accepted and then not charged us or refused us. In the later example, I think she was so caught off guard that we offered. The last time we were in this particular pub, we had been in a hurry and unable to “play by the pub rules.” This and her surprise at the offer because of the fact most tourists don’t know about this particular bit of pub etiquette is what, I think, played a major role in her refusal. I look forward to seeing what happens in other pubs.

#4: Don’t be in a hurry. Pubs are a place to relax and unwind with friends, not grab a quick bite between activities. They are meant to be places where time slows and happiness increases, not where stress creeps through.

#5: Orwell was right. The perfect pub doesn’t exist. I’ve enjoyed visiting different ones, but I haven’t found my ideal English pub where I want to go back and become a regular, that has my favorite cider, the best chips in the world, little rooms where no one disturbs anyone, interested workers, near a tube/bus stop, and that the worst drunks don’t visit. Yet, I think the perfect pub would lose its charm. One of the great things about the different pubs I’ve encountered so far is that they all have their charm and I would want to return for different reasons. If you take all of the traits that I’ve enjoyed the most and put them into one pub, I think I’d find it boring.

I look forward to continuing the quest for my perfect pub. I’m thinking the name will be something along the lines of the Unicorn of Albion…

Categories: 2010 Stephenie · Pubs

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