Pub Talk

As we all know, W&L has a speaking tradition that encourages people to greet and acknowledge other students on campus throughout the day.  Hence, when I first arrived in London, I found the lack of social interaction between people on the streets to be a bit odd.  People on the London streets often avoid eye contact and interaction with strangers, as this is the cultural norm.  Privacy is deemed very important in English society, leading people to be quiet and reserved in public places.  However, pubs in England are one place where this social etiquette does not hold, and the sociability rule deems it acceptable for people to talk to strangers.  The pub scene in London is a mixing pot of all ages, personalities, and perspectives, in which people meet with friends and strangers in order to socialize over libations.  Once inside a pub, it is clear that there is a distinct social dynamic that has its own micro-culture.  People tend to surround themselves with people of similar demographics and socioeconomic backgrounds, but there is much more integration than one would see on the streets.  The division of the pub into ‘public’ and ‘private’ zones is very apparent.  The rule of thumb for pubs is that social interaction with strangers is common at the bar counter, as this is a public area that indicates a willingness to engage in conversation.  People sitting close by the bar or at open tables are open to speak about topics relevant to English culture with strangers, where people sitting at tables on the outskirts of the room want to be left alone.

I have spoken to a variety of people at pubs, and conversations are often sporadic and somewhat random.  The free-association principle applies to pub talk, as staying on a particular topic for a few minutes indicates excessive seriousness, which goes against the sarcastic and light-hearted manner of British interactions.  My conversations often start with football discussions, and quickly bounce around other prominent topics in English culture such as Brexit, the economy, the weather, and places to eat.  In conclusion, sociability is acceptable and encouraged in pubs due to the amicable atmosphere that arises from drinking with people that have a shared culture.

  • The lack of social interaction on the streets definitely seems strange when comparing Lexington to London. I have found that people are friendlier before 8am and in smaller cities in England. When I had gone on walks in Lancaster, Edinburgh and Bath, people I came across on the streets all greeted me with either a nod or a brief “good morning!” It was unexpected, but a pleasant surprise. Maybe it is the nature that makes people more prone to speaking with strangers.

    I agree that the pub scene brings people together, but I’ve always wondered how things would be if we were locals. Our lack of British accent means that we stand out everywhere we go and some people seem to be interested to talk so they can ask us questions (and on more than one occasion, about Donald Trump).

  • You make a great point about the juxtaposition of the W&L speaking tradition and general friendly culture with London culture. Between being from W&L and the South, London’s social cultural is definitely a difference I was not anticipating. I will say though, my coworkers have been very hospitable towards me, and one of the first times I had the chance to get to know them was watching the England vs. Wales football match. There I saw first-hand what Fox was saying about pub-talk.

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