I live in Bethnal Green, a lovely part of the world. It has a very diverse, cultural and great mix of people that consist of old cockneys, a large contingent of people from Bangladesh and an ever growing number of east Europeans. It’s the kind of area that celebrates its diversity and means that I can get a great curry, some wonderful Czech and polish beer and have a traditional east end market stall (2 in fact, one for fruit, the other for veg) out the front of my flat. All of this is great. What makes east London fantastic though is the range of pubs.
Within a 10 minute walk of my house I have 7 pubs that I enjoy going to. 7. And if I fancy going a bit further afield, central London has many excellent pubs too. I understand that this may make me sound like a bit of an alcoholic but I have lived in the area for much of my drinking life. But, as spiderman’s uncle once said “with great pubs, comes great responsibility” Pub etiquette is paramount. Here is my short survival guide.
1) If you can’t see the pub through the windows, don’t go in. These are local places for local people. I’m local but I still wouldn’t go in them. They are run, owned and frequented by the old east end guard. The only way to safely grab a drink is to a) go in the day or b) be related to one of the old school drinkers in the pub. That’s not to say that the clientele would do you bodily harm, more a case of the reaction the new cowboy in town would get in the old westerns. Music stops, people turn and stare, a pin drops and you can hear it. Uncomfortable would be the word.
2) Don’t ask to share a table. Even if it’s one person on their own. It’s not very British, it’s certainly not very London. This will mark you out as an outsider and the cowboy thing could happen. Propping up the bar (standing at the bar and leaning) is a much better option.
3) Wait your turn to be served (but don’t queue). This is a skill that develops over time. Even if the person serving the drinks has no idea of the order, you should. Walk to the bar, scan the people, place then in chronological order, wait to asked who is next then point the bar tender to that person. If it was you and someone fails to follow this rule then shout “sorry mate/love, I was next” and start your order before any argument can happen. Also, don’t queue in a straight line, spread out across the bar.
4) If you are a man then drink a pint. Bottles are ok, half pints are a big no no. You can get around this by ordering a pint, keeping the glass when finished and pouring your half pint into the pint glass. It’s much more manly, just make sure the glass collector doesn’t take your glass.
5) Always stand your round. If you are in a group (even if you don’t know half of them) ask if anyone would like a drink. Most people will quickly decline saying they will get their own. This is fine as long as the ground rules have been established. By the same token, never accept a drink if a) you are only staying for one or b) you have a nearly full drink. Forget this rule if you are with regular drinking buddies as this will generally work itself out over time.
6) The bells at 11 mean get another one in. Most pubs will try to kick you out just after last orders, this means you’ve got at least another half hour. Use it wisely to neck (chug, scull, down) your drink and stumble out to the fresh air.
A great deal to remember I’m sure you’ll agree. If you do then you will enjoy a hassle free night of drinking. Just remember to leave the pub quietly, show some respect for the neighbours.