Many of the millions of tourists who visit the UK each year (amongst other places) go to Stonehenge, Westminster Cathedral, the Roman Baths, the Races, Buckingham Palace and all of the other worldwide famous places our wonderful Island has to offer. But to see British life in the raw and in glorious Technicolor, they should simply visit a British Pub! There are still about 52000 to chose from – all offering unique experiences.
Over three quarters of the British adult population go to pubs, and over a third are regulars – visiting the pub at least once a week. The pub is a central part of British life and culture. If a tourist hasn’t been to a pub, they have not seen real Britain’s or experienced real British life!
Who will they meet in a pub? Here are just some they will bump into and converse with; the labourer, the toff, the business person, the unemployed, the window cleaner, the vicar, the ladies taking lunch, the boozer, the half-pint of shandy man, the baker, butcher, candlestick maker. All of life’s rich tapestry and variety of characters can be seen in a pub.
Many visitors are fascinated by British pubs. Some pubs do food, some just drink, some drink and food, some welcome kids, some don’t, some have spotless toilets, some have toilets you would not even want to wash your hands in (let alone doing anything else!), some belong to a big chain, some are run by man and wife, some have flowers outside, some look like a morgue, some do darts, cribbage, aunt sally, quiz nights, skittles, music, dancing, wine tastings and loads of other very British activities. Some publicans and staff smile, some frown, some seem to spend most of the day yawning, some know what they are talking about, some are ignorant even of the beers they sell or the food they offer (amazingly). Some staff are a mine of information about local places of interest, local celebrities, local produce, local taxis, busses, churches, some others are not aware of the day of the week! Some staff heave a huge sigh when a visitor asks for a sandwich after a certain cut off time (“Kitchen’s closed mate”; an oft heard phrase. Unbelievable but sadly true!). Some actually sell food all day! I could go on and on but I know which pubs are the busiest!
Many though, despite being great at all they do, don’t advertise what they do!! The clever ones seek to establish a USP (unique selling proposition) – then they tell the world about it, especially visitors. How? Well, here are a few ways; The Web, Facebook, Twitter, dentists waiting room, doctors, local butcher, free local ad papers, B&B houses, hotels, etc, etc.
Then of course once a visitor drops in, they need to understand how pubs (most of them) operate. Even at the very simplest level, ignorance of “the rules and customs” can cause problems, such as unsatisfied thirst. Gasping for a beer, the innocent tourists go into a pub, sit down and wait for someone to serve them. Then there are the more complex aspects of pub etiquette – the intricate behaviour-codes governing every moment from “What’s yours?” to “Time, ladies and gentlemen” (almost a thing of the past). But many visitors are bemused by the opening/closing hours of pubs. All are an infinite source of misunderstanding, confusion and potential embarrassment.
Experienced, native pub-goers, obey the unspoken rules – but without being conscious of doing so. Regulars will mutter and grumble when an uninitiated tourist commits a breach of pub etiquette, but may well be unable to tell him exactly what rule he has broken. Just as native speakers can rarely explain the grammatical rules of their own language, those who are most fluent in particular rituals, customs and traditions generally lack the detachment necessary to explain the grammar of these practices in an intelligible manner. This is why we have anthropologists. Most anthropologists go off to remote parts of the world to live among exotic tribes, observe their behaviour and ask endless questions in order to understand and explain their strange customs.
So what’s the message?
Find your USP, advertise it, welcome all of those MILLIONS of visitors to our shores (they still quote a visit to a British pub as a key highlight of their reason to come here!). Train them in our ways, and make sure they return!!