Historically the British pub has been central to the lives of many people in the UK. While this has changed in more recent years as people have more options for socialising and many people are pursuing healthier lifestyles that sitting in a pub promotes, it is still a significant aspect of the culture. 

Pubs are still used regularly as meeting places for friends and you should not be surprised if someone asks you to meet them at a pub. In fact, they will normally specify meeting inside a pub, as it is socially acceptable for both men and women to enter a pub on their own. Sitting at a bar or table waiting for friends is not uncommon, though the person waiting tends to avoid making unnecessary eye contact with strangers in the pub, often focusing on their mobile phone until friends arrive.

The UK has a reputation for ‘heavy drinking’, meaning many people consume large amounts of alcohol, often without eating. In fact some people will arrive at a pub after their dinner and remain for 3 – 4 hours steadily consuming alcohol. Being seen drunk, or intoxicated with alcohol, is not something to be proud of but it also not particularly shameful either. Do not be surprised to hear some people boasting (even exaggerating) about the amount of alcohol they consume and how drunk they have become on different occasions.

If you go to a pub you will be offered alcoholic drinks by friends. You shouldn’t feel under any undue pressure if you do not wish to drink alcohol, as refusing alcohol in favour of a soft drink is not considered rude.

If a stranger offers to buy you a drink then it is acceptable to refuse politely if you do not wish to accept. Buying a stranger a drink is often interpreted as a sign to initiate a conversation, something that you may or may not wish to happen.

If you are in a pub with friends you may become part of a ‘round’. A round is where each person in the group takes it in turn to buy drinks for all of the friends. If there are five people in your round you could quickly end up having drunk five drinks or more.

Night clubs offer a different version of the pub. They serve alcohol but usually play music and allow dancing, and generally stay open later. Night clubs are most often attended by younger people, though of course you will always find exceptions.

What is often surprising for people new to the UK, is the very revealing clothes that people wear, particularly young women. Even in the coldest months you will see young women in short skirts and dresses with exposed legs, shoulders and waists.

Visiting friends at their homes is a common social pastime. On arrival you will probably be offered a drink, even some snacks, but you will normally be disappointed if you expected a meal unless this was specified in advance as an ‘invitation to dinner’. If you were not invited to dinner specifically, your host will assume that you ate before you arrived.

If you are invited to dinner then it is common to arrive with a small gift such as flowers or chocolates. You may arrive with a bottle of wine though do not be surprised if this is not shared at the meal, as your host may have already arranged the drinks. It would be considered impolite if you asked to take the bottle of wine back home with you.

At dinner it is considered polite to offer some help to your host, such as serving or clearing the dishes away. It is not as important for your host to allow you to help as it is for you to make the offer. Not offering may appear impolite.

ICD4E1 - Listening Skills

Which is the more common place for friends to meet in the UK?  

Are people in the UK proud of getting "drunk" (intoxicated with alcohol)?  

Is it acceptable to refuse alcoholic drinks in a pub?  

If a stranger offers to buy you a drink, what does it normally mean?  

If you are invited to dinner at a friend's house in the UK, which of the following would be suitable as gifts?  

ICD4E2 - Discussion Activites

1) Working in a group discuss the advantages and disadvantages of socialising in pubs in the UK. Try to consider as many different aspects of this leisure pastime as possible.

2) Working in a group discuss the way that UK people (particularly young women) dress when they attend pubs and nightclubs. Consider any negative consequences this type of decision making may have.

3) Working in groups discuss the type of dinner party that you would provide for your UK friends. Consider the type of food that you may serve and any other forms of entertainment.

ICD4E3 - Cultural Comparison

1) Write a short piece that compares attitudes towards alcohol in the UK with attitudes towards alcohol from your own country / culture.

2) As we have heard it is not uncommon for young people (particularly women) to wear very revealing clothes when socializing, even when the weather is quite cold.

Write a short piece that compares this approach to clothing to approaches within your own country / culture.

3) Discuss with a partner the differences between how UK people host guests in their home and how this is done in your own country / culture.

ICD4E4 - Vocabulary

Provide your own definitions

Pub : {}
Night club : {}
Reputation : {}
Intoxicated : {}
A round : {}
Initiate : {}
Revealing : {}
Pastime : {}
Invitation : {}
Project number: 543336-LLP-1-2013-1-DE-KA2-KA2MP - This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.