I came to the UK one week before my classes began because I wanted to participate in the Warwick International Week. It was designed to help recently arrived international students navigate their new lives in England. In reality it was really just a week to party (which I had no problem with).
In America when you go out, you either go to a bar or a club. A bar is a place that serves drinks, and occasionally food, has places to sit, sometimes music, sometimes TV’s showing sports and all the time booze. A club is a place with alcohol, dancing, booths and partying.
So I was asked to go to a bar on my second night in England. It was on the Warwick campus and seemed exactly like every other bar I knew of in the USA. So I assumed that was what all drinking places were called bars(same as America). It wasn’t until several weeks later that I was educated about the difference between a bar and pub and taught that I had been committing a major tourist like faux pas.
A pub is a venue that serves drinks, but people usually consume beer, cider, ale or other more light alcoholic beverages. A pub serves food, typically consisting of burgers, fish and chips, chicken, beef and sausages. A pub generally caters to locals, doesn’t usually have music blasting, has tables and booths and is more of a restaurant with an attached bar (think Chili’s or Applebee’s in the USA).
A bar is a place that serves only booze, with the occasional bag of crisps/chips to soak up all the alcohol. It has some seating that is usually full. People do not sit or stand around the actual bar counter to drink or talk (something commonly done in America, to allow for quicker access to refills I think). You rarely make conversation with the bartender. And a bars main purpose is to allow the customer to get inebriated.
I admit to making the mistake of calling a pub a “bar” on several occasions. Personally I think the American way is slightly easier. We don’t require a separate word for a pub and bar. Bars can come in all shapes and sizes and we still know it is a bar. Maybe it serves food, maybe it doesn’t. Maybe you just sit/stand around and drink while mingling. Maybe you watch Sunday night football while throwing back some beers and eating chicken wings. IT IS ALL A BAR. The less confusion the better.
OTHER DIFFERENCES TO NOTE
A British shot is about the size of a thimble.Seriously, I laughed the first time I saw one. To get a normal US size, you have to order a double shot. And we wonder why everyone says America does everything bigger and better….
Cider is far more popular here…..There is no Mikes Hard Lemonade or other like drinks. They are all about the apple alcohol