How to drink properly in a British pub: a guide for American soldiers of World War II

How to drink with the British? What can and cannot be said to a drunken Scotsman in a kilt? How to spend time in a classic pub and not get stabbed in the ribs? All this is told by the admirable in its directness educational film "How to behave in Britain" (How to Behave in Britain) in 1943. In it, an experienced beer warrior Virgil tells ordinary American soldiers how to drink and be friends with the British during the War, so that later they would not be painfully ashamed.

How to drink properly in a British pub: a guide for American soldiers of World War II

During the Second World War, a huge number of American soldiers visited Britain — about two million servicemen. And this led to a serious clash of cultures: crowds of Americans on leave, behaving like drunken Boy Scouts, often provoked the anger of local residents. The British, in turn, responded to the visiting soldiers with ostracism, or even a kind "Scottish kiss" in a bar brawl. In 1943, when the contingent of American forces was at its maximum, the US Office of Military Information decided to create a special training film that was supposed to help soldiers not to make a mistake. Well, or at least not to bring the dialogue of cultures to a drunken brawl.

The special charm of the film is given by Air Force Captain Burgess Meredith, who played the main role. In the image of the soldier Virgil, he appears before us in the role of a kind and more experienced friend who gives good advice about life in Britain. Tellingly, the film begins with the most important thing: behavior in the pub. 

Here are some basic rules:

A pub is not a saloon!

An English pub is not a saloon—" Virgil warns immediately. People come here not to get drunk, but to sit in a friendly atmosphere and chat. Of course, in the process of this, someone will definitely throw up, but this is already a detail. 

Virgil advises you to cultivate a little respect for the pub. For example, the place Taylor Walkers, which he invites us to look into, has existed for as long as the United States of America. Or even longer. Many generations of locals have come here. The grandfathers and great-grandfathers of today's regulars have been drinking here for hundreds of years. Do not trivialize such a place!

Get used to drinking warm ale!

How to drink properly in a British pub: a guide for American soldiers of World War II

Virgil warns: the British are not drinking the usual beer for Americans, but ale. And they drink it at room temperature, not cold. It's obviously not the first time you get used to this. The main thing, knowing about it, is not to grimace and not spit it out on the floor. Another important tip: in Britain of the 40s, you may not be completely understood if you ask the owner of a pub for "beer". If you want to pass for your own at least a little bit, ask for "bitter" or "mile". The first is very hoppy, the second is softer, just for a summer evening.

The loser pays for the next beer

A simple rule, the neglect of which cost many American servicemen their teeth. In an old-school English pub, games flourish: sometimes calm board games, and sometimes accompanied by noise and betting darts. The main thing is not to forget: if you take up the game and lose, the locals will expect you to buy them a drink. But they themselves, in case of loss, will not be greedy. Good advice from Virgil: if you don't know how to play darts, just wait and see how the British do it. Also an interesting entertainment.

Don't bother them!

Walking through the pub, our wise Virgil asks to pay attention to a couple of elderly subjects who smoke pipes, talk about something and frown their foreheads. The American ironically calls them "philosophers" and asks not to interfere with them. The British, after drinking, like to reflect melancholically on the problems of life and politics. They don't need a young drunk soldier in the company. It's the same with newspaper readers. Paradoxically, many Englishmen come to the pub to be alone. Read the newspaper, be quiet over a beer. Do not bother them, and even more so look into their pages — they will go berserk in earnest.

Share American cigarettes!

How to drink properly in a British pub: a guide for American soldiers of World War II

In wartime, the British are not doing well with tobacco. Cigarettes are very expensive here, especially good ones. The message is clear: good means American. The authors of How to Behave in Britain hint that sharing them is not just good, but also useful. Moreover, you can give them not only to new friends in the bar, but also to ordinary employees on whom your comfort depends, like train controllers or porters. All this, of course, is on the verge of a bribe, but let's not complicate it, okay? 

The documentary has a revealing and very funny moment in its naive patriotism. Virgil treats a Scotsman standing at the bar with an American cigarette, he blooms and throws an old bull stashed behind his ear into an ashtray in his heart. Humanitarian aid with tobacco is a pledge of friendship of peoples!

And here is an episode with a bad example (from 2.42).

So Virgil did a great job of showing how to behave properly. But in order to point out the mistakes, a new character appears in the film: a boorish and noisy soldier who embodies everything that the British dislike so much in Americans. Using his example, we understand how not to act in a pub.

Laughing at the Scots

How to drink properly in a British pub: a guide for American soldiers of World War II

A terrible, fatal mistake! According to the filmmakers, ridiculing the Scots, their strange hats, military insignia and, of course, kilts is almost natural. But you need to restrain yourself and not give in to the impulse. To make a joke about the "dresses" of the Scottish servicemen, despite the fact that the kilt was then an element of the military uniform, is like spitting in the face of all the Celts in the Mili district. Don't be surprised if they dance a jig on you after that. Another important point: because of their monstrous accent, you will almost certainly simply not understand what they are talking about, and this promises new problems. In general, beware of guys in skirts and prepare cigarettes to smooth out the conflict.

Yell like a madman (even if the Brits themselves are yelling)

As soon as he enters the pub, the Bad Soldier starts yelling, greeting everyone as if he is shouting over the crowd at the stadium and generally attracting all the attention to himself. For a simple American soldier of the 40s, this is habitual behavior. But remember the first rule: a pub is not a saloon! They don't do that here (at least at the beginning of the evening, until everyone else gets drunk). It's only worse to touch local women and frame them with the most vulgar hints.

To waste money, especially banknotes

As an inexperienced and stupid soldier does on leave: he throws banknotes, shows money, boasts of them in front of the "beggars" of the locals. In general, he plays the Texas millionaire. As the wise Virgil does: he exchanges banknotes for small things ahead of time and pays with coins. By the way, in some cases, the same cigarettes can play the role of money. Wartime, after all. 

Buy expensive booze for the British

At first glance, a strange rule. Why not buy new friends a good drink? The problem is that etiquette obliges them to give you a drink in return. And the same, or about the same amount. If they are not very rich people, it may be embarrassing: they will have to spend seriously, and they will not be happy with a gift from a proud American in the end. Drink cheap, drink what the locals themselves drink - Virgil advises.

The entire 38-minute film in its entirety. There's a lot of fun in it, not even counting the pub episode.

In the end, a Bad Soldier, who annoyed everyone present, burns up in a cloud of smoke. Most likely, this is such a euphemism for beating upstart locals. In general, old Virgil's advice boils down to being less American: to become more introverted, quieter and more polite. A million-dollar smile and a loud voice do not cause any admiration, approval, or desire to make friends here. By the way, please note: the name Virgil is probably a reference to Dante's Virgil, the poet's guide to the other world. After all, How to Behave in Britain smart people did.

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