Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

What to write about pubs?

September 21, 2010 · No Comments

Perhaps I should begin by writing about how different they are from what I expected. First of all, London is supposed to be this big hoppin’ city with a fantastic nightlife. Wrong. Almost every pub we tried the first two weeks we were here closes at eleven o’clock – weekends included. When the first bartender told us, I didn’t believe it was true. I thought they were just trying to get rid of the annoying American kids that don’t know how to order a pint. But then I started to realize that everyone in the pub was leaving and it was the same for each of the pubs we visited after that, so it couldn’t be simply a conspiracy against obnoxious students. My next reaction was annoyance and frustration. What kind of city closes at eleven?

I also expected that the music selection would be a little bit different. My assumption was that a British establishment would play British or at least European music. Wrong again. As Mel’s post pointed out, pubs here play mostly American music. During the course of an evening one may hear Justin Timberlake, R. Kelly, Journey, Lady Gaga….and the occasional Beatles song (but let’s face it, we have Americanized the Beatles to the point where we have adopted them as our own). I am really disappointed that I haven’t heard any new songs yet. Has American pop music become a British norm? Hopefully once we get up to Norwich and out of such a touristy area we will encounter a more diverse and authentic British sound.

One of the things we learned from Kate Fox is that pubs are one of those bizarre exception places where British people are allowed to be friendly if they want to. This is perhaps the only one where my expectations have held true. I assumed both from reading Kate Fox and from my own social instincts that although no one would approach me, if I instigated a conversation people would generally respond warmly. My first experiment: the bartenders. Almost every one of them has been friendly. No one has made fun of my accent, or my inability to sort through the ridiculous multitude of coins which any British child of five could handle. My next victims were the actual pub goers, and it seems that the same rules apply. One night at The Court, a couple of us wanted to play pool but we weren’t sure what the etiquette was for queuing or why table seemed to have different dimensions than the ones we are used to back home. The group of British kids that were already playing were happy enough to explain to us that the table is smaller because it wasn’t actually meant for billiards but a different type of game. While we waited for our turn a few of them continued to talk to us providing us with little helpful tips and tidbits of information.

All in all, I’d say that the pubs have been a mixed experience. I think that after I get over the initial shock of early closings, I could really learn to enjoy them.

Categories: 2010 Sarah
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