Why people take turns to buy drinks

A tray with three types of beer in the foreground. In the background there is a man in a wheelchair

If you go out to a pub or bar with friends or work colleagues, you might notice that people take turns to buy drinks for everyone in the group. This is called ‘buying a round’ – and you will be expected to join in.

There is rarely any table service in British pubs. If you want drinks or food, you usually have to get up and go to the bar ( the area where drinks are served) to buy drinks. The custom of buying a round is a way to spread the job of going to the bar, while making sure that everyone pays a roughly similar amount.

Even if you are in a place that uses an app to order drinks, the custom remains because buying a drink for everyone is seen as friendly and generous.

If you are with a large group and leave before it is your turn to buy the round, it is polite to make sure you buy a round the next time you are all in the pub together. This way, you all end up paying roughly the same amount over a period of time and you’re not the person who ‘freeloads’ (gets everyone else to pay for you all the time).

There are some exceptions to buying a round: for example, when a clear social superior (such as your boss) says they will pay for everyone, or if you pay for your own because you can only stay for one drink.

Image: Elevate/Unsplash

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