If you're from the USA, or actually anywhere else in the world, and visiting Britain for the first time, here are some light-hearted tips. The first part is just about pubs....
The Public House is a great British Institution. Although they are creeping in, the Pub is not a bar, it's not a coffee shop and it's not for kids.
Here is a bit of pub etiquette, because you need to know how to behave properly to avoid drawing too much attention to yourself. You've seen "Trainspotting" haven't you?
1. Go up to the bar and ask for what you want. Don't sit down and expect to be served. This is not France.
2. Note your place in the queue if there is one. Don't push, don't shout and don't flash a £10 note under the barman's nose. They don't like this. Don't complain if you think someone wrongly beats you to be served. The bartender rules here. His decision is final. Getting service in a busy pub is a subtle skill acquired after many visits over the years.
3. Assert your position in the waiting queue, and try to get eye contact with the bar staff, flirting a little maybe if it's a person of the opposite sex.
4. Perhaps exchange pleasantries with the people around you to find out who's next. It's good to talk.
5. If there are several in your party, whoever gets the bar man's attention first, orders a "round" of drinks, and pays immediately, in cash, for all the drinks in that round. The evening normally passes with a number of rounds being consumed. You take it in turns to buy rounds.
To avoid buying a round, you stop at the pub door, and hold it open for your friends, hence making sure you don't get to the bar first. There are other ways to avoid buying drinks (don't pull the female one with me - girls earn money too) but these are transparent and soon spotted. Scottish people are rumoured to buy less rounds. Allegedly. They have short arms but deep pockets.
6. Real men drink beer, in pints, and would face ridicule if ordering a "Martini". We don't actually know what a Martini is. To us, this is one specific brand of aperitif, a bit like sherry, and is only drunk by girls and old ladies.
6a. - You cannot just ask for Bitter or Lager, unless you are happy to show your ignorance, or appear to be 15. You must scan the hand pumps, see what is on offer, make a choice based on strength (%ABV) colour, flavour, body or your mood, and order that specific Ale by name. Understanding Real Ale is a black art, which real men with beer guts and beards take in their stride, but outsiders fail to grasp, so ask for some bland and tasteless lager, like Carling (IMHO). Heavy marketing sells bland beer to the ill-informed. Exmoor Gold, pictured left (click it) is one of my favourites by the way.
7. You all FINISH your drinks, to the last dregs, every last drop. It appears very rude to leave a drink, particlarly if someone else has bought it for you (yes -this really bugs me), and it's simply wasteful if you paid for it yourself. People only leave drinks in the movies.
8. Don't leave a tip.
Virtually the only people to earn generous tips here in England, are individuals running motorcycle tours.
Tipping a barman isn't the norm, but does occur sometimes; more in a country pub setting. If chatting naturally, not forced "American Tourist" style to a friendly bar person, you may say "get one for yourself". They may literally pour themselves a drink and charge it to you. Being polite, it is normally not an expensive cocktail - like bar girls in Thailand!!! - but will usually be a modest half of beer or a soft drink. Often they will take the equivalent money (about a pound) and put it into a pot, to share out amongst the other staff, or buy themselves drinks "after hours".
9. Lock-ins. Can't be bothered to explain this fully now, but it broadly means at 10:30pm or 11:00pm the Landlord will ring a loud bell and in a fairly rude manner will eject you from his pub while shouting loudly "haven't you got homes to go to?" Then you will notice that the doors are shut and curtains drawn. Stangely though, the landlord will have kicked out the general public and people he doesn't like, but allowed the locals and his favourites to remain inside and carry on drinking until the wee hours. It is a great priviledge to be invited to a "lock-in". All these are unwritten rules however, and inadmissable in a court of law.
10. Serious point. Drinking and driving is illegal. There is a blood alcohol limit of 80 milligrams in a certain quantity of blood. It varies greatly on your body weight and what you've had to eat. 2 pints of beer is likely to push you to the drink drive limit. Most drivers will stick to one pint, or in my recent observations, avoid alcohol completley while motorcycling.
English Ales (and lagers) tend to be stronger than draught beers in America. 3.4% to 3.8% ABV (alcohol by volume) would be a light ale here. "Normal" strength is 4.0 to 5.0% ABV. Some strong Ales and lagers may go to 6%, 7% and beyond. It might be worth bearing this in mind, if attempting to neck a few ales with the locals. English drinkers will leave the car / motorcycle at home, and either take a taxi, catch a bus, cycle, or walk to the pub.
If you want to find out more about what a proper English Beer (NOT lager) should be, check out the Uley Brewery's explanation, click here
I was prompted to start putting stuff like this on my website when I realised just how different American and English language and culture is. I've made many observations over the last few years - and discovered people even write whole books on the subject. This Anglo-American lady wrote to me, and the excerpts from her book are well observed. I've ordered a copy.
I would like to tell you about my new book, "Rules, Britannia: An Insider's Guide to Life in the United Kingdom", (St. Martin's Press, NY). It is written specifically for Americans visiting the UK, especially those who plan to go beyond the usual tourist schedule. It covers a wide variety of topics, giving the plain facts about life in the UK, in an informative and entertaining way.
It is receiving great reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Please take a look at my web site to learn more. www.rulesbritannia.com
. The book is available throughout the US and currently on the Amazon UK web site, with more UK outlets to follow in the near future.
I hope you will agree that "Rules, Britannia" would greatly enhance the service you provide your American clients traveling to or around the UK.
I just had a letter of complaint about this article? (from an American) Weird eh?
It was suppsed to be slightly useful (Americans do actually take a seat in a pub, sit there for ages, and wonder why they are not getting served) and mildly humorous.
If you don't like this kind of banter, give Bike Tours UK a miss.
Not everyone will like England. That's fine. Go elswhere then. The UK can be quirky, and it is certainly NOT LIKE the USA.
One disgruntled visitor wrote this on Trip Advisor......
1/26 found this review helpful
Do not stay at this hotel. In fact do not go to London unless you absolutely have to .. more on this later ... This is the crappyist hotel I have ever stayed in.. worse then any motel 6 .. Sauder furniture, old and crappyist, smoke alarms go off EVERY morning because the fire alarm is super sensitive and taking a shower can set it off. In fact there is a sign on every bathroom door that says to please keep the door closed or it will set off the fire alarm.. Im not kidding.. sad but true. vending machines don't work ... you will be disappointed I assure you.... for us, the heater in the room never worked and the brought in a portable. no big deal if the building wasn't 200 years old and drafty as hell.. its just very old and super crappy ...And there is no need to ever stay in the middle of London as everything is a Tube/Subway ride anyways ... and the tube goes everywhere.. largest in the world .. As for London it is exactly twice as expensive as the US, Big Mac value meal is $12, fish and chips $35 .. and it is cold as can be, rains every day, the sun never ever shines, its just a miserable place. Plus all of the sites can be seen in one day as they are all in the center of the city. Also, Big Ben, the house of parliament and West Mister abbey are ALL THE SAME BUILDING .. they left that out of the brochure. I hated England.. freaking 20 degrees, $12 McD's, people are rude, hotels sux and cost a fortune.. Ill repeat, dont go to London unless you absolutely have to.
for questions or pictures of this sucky room just email me... email@example.com (address changed)
Sums it all up really. If you judge everything by the price of a Macdonalds - give the UK a miss. Mind you, I'm not a big fan of London either - that's why I say, "Go North" and see the real England.
My review of the very same hotel is here
Most people give this Premier Inn in London 4 or 5 rating stars. It's ideal for a stay in London. My only criticism it that it's a bit too much like an American Motel - not a quaint English Inn at all :)
I just wrote this in response to an item on a Forum, so might as well not waste it...
I could ramble on all day about pros & cons of living in the UK. Probably too much information to flood a message board with.
Despite perhaps misleading similarities; the same language (but not as similar as you might think) and supposedly the same foreign policies (highly contentious), the differences betwen the USA and the UK may be greater than you think.
I'll confess straight away - that apart from in transit at JFK, I've never been to the United States. However, I have travelled to virtually every continent in the world, and stayed in something like 20 different countries. I'm fairly well travelled, and have seen how people live, in different places across the globe.
I didn't really understand the uniqueness of England, until I'd spent time in, or worked in many other places first.
Many of my customers are American, and indeed up to 80% of people viewing my website are from the USA. I "import" American tourists every year, who join my motorcycle tours. Many of my guests have left the USA for the first time, and find England quite different.
Remember - it's possibly an urban myth, but we're told only 6% of Americans hold passports. Even presidents travel less than we do, and have less expereince of living in other countries. An utter guess, but I would think perhaps 50% + of British people hold passports. (I just tried Google, and got this, http://www.gyford.com/phil/writing/2003/01/31/how_many_america.php
) What I'm trying to say is, many Americans come to Britain for the first time, and think it's going to be like America. But it isn't.
If you're after a complete change, then maybe this is it!
There are of course, many British people who are fed up with life here now, and decide to emigrate to Spain or wherever. Even paddling to Panama.
Cultural difference is a topic of interest to me.
Just some observations which may be hard to prove - just opinions really.Good things about England;
History & quaintness - England is genuinely old, and has real history and traditions.
Fairly small, and fairly easy to travel to all 4 corners.
Relatively low rate of crime compared to some countries, and as yet, little armed crime (all relative, and deteriorating, however)
Police force are normally quite approachable, and not armed with guns. (unless in special, rare circumstances)
Cheap travel to Europe and rest of World. Despite its more unpleasant sides, mass-market package tourism has caused prices to tumble, and gives us all cheap holidays.
We get a generous holiday allowance (compared to States). 22 days (plus bank holidays) is the minimum here. Many enjoy 30-35 days upwards.
We have the NHS. Open to all.
We are proud of our English ways and customs, but still also reasonably tolerant of other cultures. We don't see Islam as a threat. This is hyped up in the USA to keep George's war going.
We have some great pubs and great beers (subjective of course)
I believe our salaries are quite high now, compared to averages in Europe and the States. This can be deceptive though, as the last Labour government introduced lots of Stealth Taxes over the last few years. The cost of living is very high, and motorists are penalised heavily with fuel costs, road tax, parking charges, soaring insurance costs and heavy automatic penalites imposed with a huge blunt hammer for even very minor motoring or paperword indescretions. Mugging is dealt with leniently, and dropping litter is not punished. It's fair game to bleed as much money as possible from anyone owning a car or motorcycle.
We have temperate climate - we have enough rain, and enough sun (just), nice green scenery, attractive farmlands and pleasant National Parks.
In general, we are fairly polite people, who still say please, thank you, and sorry. However, sadly we're becoming harder, less tolerant, and downright rude to each other.
We have fairly good public transport (although it could be better), and not quite everyone in the land is totally car dependent yet. People still use the buses and trains.
Thank God we can still call Christmas, Christmas. Merry Christmas everyone!
We do sarcasm.
We can have an odd, dry, bleak sense of humour. We do something called "piss-taking". Americans think this is very rude, and just don't understand it. It's actually quite a sign of affection to be rude to your friends. You are "accepted" if your mates insult you and flesh out all your imperfections. At this years 2008 TT, Jim really though we were being offensive to him at first - he didn't cotton on that it was simply a sign that he was fully accepted into our cliquey camping group.
All these things, you may get to like.Less attractive things about England, or things Americans complain about
Our roads are now getting quite congested. Americans comment that we drive faster and more aggressively than them. When we can. More time is spent in traffic jams these days. Our speed limits are higher.
We might have high salaries, but we also have high taxes. We also now have many "stealth taxes", you'd be surprised how much we pay for petrol.
I feel our culture is getting more diluted, and more Americanised due to TV, Film and large global companies. Personally, I don't like this, and resist it quite strongly.
Americans EXPECT to see a Macdonalds and a Starbucks in every high street, Frankly it appalls me
I try and take my guests to places where they will not see one at all
There is a fear of rising crime rates. Very few actual murders (compared to USA and Jamaica) & gun crime, but more and more petty stuff.
There is tendency now to tax & persecute the motoring middle classes (by cameras & computers) in order to hit crime detection targets, whilst doing little to combat the growing lawlessness on the sink estates.
American say our hotels are expensive, and of a comparatively poor standard. This is often true - but they are often genuinely old buildings. 400 year old Country Inns were not originally built with walk-in ensuite bathrooms, although there would be stables for the horses, out the back.
We have separate hot & cold taps. Americans can't understand why we don't have one "faucet" (mixer tap). They think our showers are way too small.
Our weather can sometimes be grey and miserable. That's we flock abroad every Summer, and often in the Winter as well.
We are a little more reserved, and quiet, than Americans. We don't strike up open conversations quite as readily. I often do, but then, I'm not normal. As an opening gambit, we'd never say, "how much do you make a year?" We don't talk about money. It's vulgar. There are whole books written on this subject.
I still think we are less "commercial" than the States. Not everything is about money. It's changing, but it's still far less "hard sell" here.
On the surface of it, our service personnel can be more rude than in America. They are not normally trained to say, "have a nice day, Sir". But, if they do say something similar, in Englaish, it will generally be heartfelt.
Am I right?
(thanks to the people who read this, and sometimes send me comments)