What should you not do in a British pub?

The British pub, often considered the heart and soul of British social life, is a unique institution that holds a special place in the hearts of the nation. A visit to a British pub can be a delightful experience, filled with camaraderie, laughter, and good cheer. However, as a newcomer or even a regular patron, it’s essential to be aware of the unspoken rules and etiquettes that govern the atmosphere of these beloved establishments. In this article, we’ll explore some of the things you should avoid doing in a British pub to ensure you have a pleasant and respectful time.

Don’t Skip the Queue

Queuing, or waiting in line, is a quintessential part of British culture. It’s a show of respect for others and a way to maintain order. In a busy pub, especially at the bar, you’ll often find a line of people waiting their turn to order drinks. Cutting in front of someone is considered rude and can lead to disapproving looks or even confrontations. So, always join the queue and wait your turn.

Don’t Forget to Mind Your P’s and Q’s

Politeness and civility are highly valued in British culture. Saying “please” and “thank you” goes a long way in ensuring a pleasant pub experience. When ordering your drink, make sure to use these courteous words. It’s a small gesture that reflects well on you and helps maintain a friendly atmosphere.

Don’t Talk Loudly

British pubs are known for their cozy, intimate settings where people come to enjoy conversation with friends and acquaintances. Speaking loudly or shouting can disrupt the ambiance and annoy fellow patrons. So, keep your voice at a moderate level and be mindful of the volume of your conversation, especially in smaller, quieter pubs.

Don’t Assume You Can Pay with Card Everywhere

While many British pubs now accept card payments, especially in urban areas, some traditional or rural establishments may still prefer cash. It’s always a good idea to carry some cash with you, just in case. Before ordering, check with the bar staff about their payment preferences to avoid any awkward moments.

Don’t Hog the Bar

During busy times, the bar area can get crowded, with people vying for the bartender’s attention. It’s important to order efficiently and step aside once you’ve been served, allowing others to place their orders. Lingering at the bar, especially during peak hours, is generally frowned upon.

Don’t Play the Jukebox Too Loud

Many British pubs have a jukebox or background music playing, creating a pleasant atmosphere. If you decide to choose some tunes, be mindful of the volume. Playing music excessively loud can be disruptive and may lead to complaints from other patrons. Ensure your choice of songs enhances the pub experience for everyone.

Don’t Reserve Tables Without Ordering

In some pubs, especially those with limited seating, it’s common for patrons to reserve tables by placing their coats or bags on them. This is generally accepted, but it comes with a condition: you should order drinks or food within a reasonable time. Hogging a table without making any purchases is seen as inconsiderate, especially when the pub is busy.

Don’t Forget to Tip

Tipping is customary in British pubs, though it may not be as generous as in some other countries. Generally, rounding up to the nearest pound or leaving small change as a tip for the bartender is appreciated. If you receive table service, a 10% tip is considered generous. However, tipping is entirely optional, and the level of service should guide your decision.

Don’t Touch Other People’s Drinks

Respecting personal space is essential in any social setting, and this includes respecting the space around someone’s drink. Avoid touching or reaching for someone else’s glass, even if it seems like a harmless gesture. If you need to get past someone’s drink, politely ask them to move it for you.

Don’t Complain About Warm Beer

British beer, especially ales and bitters, are often served at cellar temperature, which is slightly warmer than the fridge-cold temperatures common in some other countries. Complaining about the temperature of your beer can be seen as an indication of your lack of understanding of local customs. Embrace the warmth and savor the rich flavors of British ales.

Don’t Ignore the Pub Dog

Many traditional British pubs are home to friendly pub dogs. These furry companions are a cherished part of the pub culture and are usually well-behaved. If you encounter a pub dog, be sure to ask the owner for permission before petting or feeding it. Ignoring the pub dog or mistreating it is considered disrespectful.

Don’t Talk Football (Soccer) Too Aggressively

Football (soccer) is a passionate topic of discussion in British pubs. However, it’s essential to tread lightly and not become overly aggressive in your support for a particular team, especially when your opinions differ from those around you. Heated debates are part of the fun, but respect for others’ opinions is key to maintaining a friendly atmosphere.


The British pub is a cultural institution that welcomes people from all walks of life. By adhering to the unspoken rules of etiquette and respecting the traditions that govern these establishments, you can have a truly enjoyable and authentic experience. Remember to queue patiently, use your manners, keep the noise down, and embrace the local customs, and you’ll find yourself welcomed with open arms into the warm and inviting world of British pub culture. So, when you next find yourself in a British pub, raise your glass, make a toast, and enjoy the camaraderie of this unique social hub, all while respecting the established norms of this cherished British institution.