Student pub culture in Scotland

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Student pubs in Scotland are an important part of the study abroad experience. Scotland-wide, there is a strong pub culture, and pubs are often a core part of a community. They’re energetic, welcoming, and great places to socialize and make friends, especially as a student at the University of Glasgow or the University of Edinburgh.

You might pop in for a lemonade and sandwich at lunch or you might join classmates after a lecture for a ‘half and half’ (a mix of beer and lemonade) or even a ‘wee dram’ (a small glass of whisky). For Scottish pub life, here’s what you need to know.

Home From Home

‘Pub’ is the short form of ‘public house.’ Traditionally – hundreds of years ago – pubs were often a living room in someone’s home, and that idea of stepping into someone’s home still exists at some level. Expect music playing and plenty of chatter, laughter, and a warmth that draws you in.

How to Buy a Drink

When you want to buy a drink, you go to the bar. Simply by arriving at the bar, you enter an invisible queue – the person behind the bar will know who to serve next, but you can know by looking along the bar when you arrive and notice who is there before you. Trying to jump the queue is rude and will not make you any friends.

You can pay for your drinks right away or start a tab and pay at the end of the night. For a tab, you hand the bartender your credit card, which they will put in a glass in clear sight, usually.

Take Your Student ID

The legal drinking age in Scotland is 18, so make sure you have your ID with you if you plan to order alcohol. Usefully, having your student ID with you can also get you a discount on drinks and food, making your pub time more affordable.

Fun and Games

Some pubs have a pile of board games you can play, others have a pool table or darts board. Darts and board games are generally free, but you usually pay for a game of pool. You slide a couple of coins into the table to release the balls. If someone else is playing and you want to play a round of pool, leave your coins on the side of the table to let the people playing you’d like to play next.

Many pubs host quiz nights, karaoke, or open mic nights. These can be a great way to get involved in the local student community and have some fun.

Scottish pubs are often community hubs, where locals gather to catch up on the latest news and gossip. Feel free to strike up a conversation with the person next to you – you might learn something new or make a new friend!

Grab Some Scran

Many Scottish pubs serve scran – food – and it’s worth trying some of the traditional dishes, like haggis, neeps and tatties, and Cullen skink. Tipping is not mandatory in Scotland, but it’s common to leave a small amount (around 10%) for good service