A Business Traveler’s Guide To London Pub Culture

If you spend any time in London for work, chances are you’ll want to drop by a pub every now and then. Local watering holes are the perfect places to take a client for a round or to unwind after a long day of work. London has more than 3,500 pubs, and the ritual of the legendary visit to the local alehouse goes back for centuries. With all that history, pubs have taken on a set of norms and rituals all their own. Most rules of pub etiquette go unspoken, so it’s important to know a thing or two before stopping by. Here’s how to fit right in at the pub.

Pub Etiquette Visiting London

Order at the bar.

Don’t expect table service at the pub. Instead, grab a table for your group when you arrive. Once you know what everyone in your party wants, one of you should walk over to the bar to place everyone’s orders. (You’ll want to avoid all heading to the bar together because it creates unnecessary crowding for anyone else looking to order.)


You’ll be served a pint.

Unless you request a half pint or a different sized drink, the bartender will serve you a pint. (In Britain, pints come in at 20 oz.) Pubs most often serve ale, lager, bitters, and stout. If you’re looking for spirits, you’ll likely be offered it with a soda mixer. If you’re looking for a cocktail, you might be out of luck - most pubs don’t offer cosmopolitans or martinis.


Be sure to buy a round for your friends..

It’s often expected at pubs that everyone at the table will take turns buying a round of drinks for the group. If someone in your party buys you a round, expect to reciprocate by buying the next one.

Visiting London For Work Pubs

You don’t need to tip.

While it’s customary to tip in British restaurants, you’re not required to tip bartenders at the pub. If you see a tip jar sitting out, feel free to add a pound or two, but bartenders won’t expect you to tip directly with your bill.


You can make friends at the bar.

If you’re looking to chat with some locals, you’ll want to sit at the bar instead of at a table. This signals to others that you’re open to talking. If you see a potential new friend at the bar, striking up a conversation is generally welcome.


A little debate comes with the territory..

The pub is often a place for airing grievances and participating in light-hearted debates. Don’t be surprised if you come across some spirited discussions on topics that wouldn’t go over so well at the water cooler. In most cases, debates at the pub are all in good fun, and are often accompanied by buying rounds for your opponents.


Last call is signaled by a bell..

You’ll know it’s last call when the bartender either rings a bell or flashes a light. When last call is over, you’ll hear another bell (or see another flashing light) indicating that the bar is officially closed. After last call, pubs allow for twenty minutes to finish the last beer you purchased. Drink up!

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