Let’s wipe out these fetishes that spoil our pub drinking

The result  of "pub etiquette" is that instead of the one drink I planned I have six and pay for six.

Do you like a “spot” unmarred by an etiquette-forced minor orgy? This writer complains that he can’t go into a local pub without being pulled into an expensive “circle.”

He’s right, too. It’s silly, this etiquette we’ve built around a simple noggin.


WHAT I like about pubs is that they’re so free and easy. In a club or in your social circle you’ve got to conform to a certain fixed code of behavior; if a pub you’re just as free as air – or are you?

Unhappily for me, I’m not one of those men who are making a fortune out of the war.

I have to watch the pennies pretty closely, and sometimes I go into a pub wanting (and prepared to pay for) a pint of beer and no more.

If I go into a pub where I’m not known, that’s all right; but when I walk into my local intending to drink a modest pint, what normally happens is this: I run into half a dozen people who know me, and before I have time to ask for my pint I am greeted with: “What’ll you have?”

Now, I know that people with enormously forceful personalities will tell me that I ought to reply: “Thanks very much, but I’m buying my own.”

I am sure these people are right; but unfortunately I don’t happen to be one of these people with enormously forceful personalities.

I like to be matey. So I say:‘”thanks, mine’s a bitter.”

I then feverishly finger the shillings in my pocket and offer up a prayer (rarely answered) that none of the members of the assembled company is drinking “shorts.”

The result of this unavoidable piece of “pub etiquette” is that instead of my one drink I have six (which I don’t want) and also pay for six. Also, for the privilege of drinking six bitters I sometimes pay for six Scotches.

That’s silly enough, but the difficulties of Australian pub etiquette don’t stop there.

Half-way through the first round a couple of other people – strangers to me but known to one of our company – will come in.

Instantly this man will hail than joyfully, and the newcomers, with painfully, ill-simulated enthusiasm, will join our party.

I shall be formally introduced to Mr.Um-er and Mr. Er-um, and I shall realise that here are two more drinks to be paid for and two more unwanted rounds to be consumed with complete strangers!

Don’t imagine that this is the worst that “pub etiquette” can do to me.

During the second round of drinks some big-hearted, hospitable soul will suddenly discover that where as he is drinking Scotch I am drinking bitter.

Clearly this is an injustice not to be borne! So, in order to preserve his honor untarnished, either I must give up beer and take to Scotch (which I don’t like) or else I must drink pints of beer to his small nips of whisky, a contest in which I feel myself unfairly handicapped.


If i want a packet of cigarettes or a cigar in a pub, I may buy that for myself without comment.

Nobody suggests that I am under any obligation to buy cigarettes for the assembled company, or that every time Mr. X swallows a sausage I must swallow one as well.

Mr. X may well have a larger capacity for liquor than I have, but that doesn’t let me out. If he drinks I must drink, on pain of giving him undying offence.

I don’t want to see a “no-treating”order enforced. I am a firm believer in the sanctity attaching to hospitality, and I admit that to offer a man an alcoholic drink is in some mysterious way quite a different thing from offering him a cup of tea.

The Sacrament is celebrated in wineand the miracle of Cana would have been less impressive if the water had been transformed into cocoa.

But I do most respectfully ask why I may not be permitted to refuse a drink on the simple but all-sufficing ground that I don’t want one.

After all, men exchange hospitality with cigarettes just as with drinks, but you need never accept a cigarette if you don’t want it.

You can proclaim yourself a nonsmoker without incurring any of the odium that attaches to the teetotaller, or you may decline merely for the reason that you have smoked enough.

If you refuse a drink on the same grounds, you will be first asked to have “a short one,” and then implored, pestered, and even commanded to have “one for the road.”

There can be no civilisation without convention, and etiquette of a sort is as essential in the pub as in fee drawing-room or the church.

But this kind of etiquette is as“phoney” as it is valueless; it is a sort of false good-fellowship that is divorced from any kind of real friendliness or companionship: It is beginning to make the pub an impossible meeting-place for the man of moderate means and limited capacity for alcohol.

– The World News (Sydney) Saturday 23 September 1944

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