Visitors to Britain may find the best place to sample local culture is in a traditional pub. But these friendly hostelries can be minefields of potential gaffes for the uninitiated.
An anthropologist and a team of researchers have unveiled some of the arcane rituals of British pubs--starting with the difficulty of getting a drink. Most pubs have no waiters--you have to go to the bar to buy drinks. A group of Italian youths waiting 45 minutes before they realized they would have to fetch their own. This may sound inconvenient, but there is a hidden purpose.
Pub culture is designed to promote sociability in a society known for its reserve. Standing at the bar for service allows you to chat with others waiting to be served. The bar counter is possibly the only site in the British Isles in which friendly conversation with strangers is considered entirely appropriate and rea1ly quite normal behaviour. "If you haven't been to a pub, you haven't been to Britain." This tip can be found in a booklet, Passport to the Pub: The Tourists' Guide to Pub Etiquette, a customers' code of conduct for those wanting to sample "a central part of British life and culture". The trouble is that if you do not follow the local rules, the experience may fall flat. For example, if you are in a big group, it is best if only one or two people go to buy the drinks. Nothing irritates the regular customers and bar staff more than a gang of strangers blocking all access to the bar while they chat and dither about what to order.