After a few weeks in London and a Scotland pub-crawl it’s safe to say our group has frequented a few pubs. When I began reading Kate Fox’s chapter on pub-talk I assumed the chapter covered a pretty self-explanatory topic. (Plus hands-on experience probably taught us more about the subject anyway, right?) She opens the chapter discussing the sociability aspect of the pub, which seemed like a pretty obvious statement. Most places that draw large crowds and have alcohol as a central theme tend to promote sociability. After I read more, I realized the uniqueness of the British pub from say an American bar is not the atmosphere but the nature of the people who frequent them.
The notion that British citizens are more closed off is somewhat of a stereotype, but holds true in a lot of cases, after all almost all their conversations open with a comment on the weather and don’t get much more personal. Unlike many Americans, especially Southerners, who strike up a conversation about just about anything, people here tend to mind their own business and don’t see the need to make small-talk with complete strangers. All this changes the minute they enter the pub.
Waiting for a bartender to notice you with the lack of a queue, a person on your left may ask you about your opinion on Brexit and another on your right may comment on the football game. The common courtesy of addressing the weather immediately disappears once inside the pub. I first saw an example of this in Scotland. Making my way through the crowded room, I tripped and knocked my drink into a large man sitting on a barstool. Expecting a rude look or comment I quickly apologized. Instead of a negative reaction, the man shouts “You are American! Where are you from?” Within five minutes I learned that he studied in Atlanta, we shared a favorite restaurant and he moved back to Scotland a few years ago. This interaction shows the reason the Brits pride themselves on their beloved pubs. They are the only place that forces them to let their walls down and meet strangers of all ages and backgrounds.