Britain has been allowed to keep it’s pint, the BBC reported today. To some, this probably seems like a small thing, almost unworthy of reporting. But to Britons, it’s actually quite important. Despite being so geographically close to mainland Europe, and enjoying a fairly good relationship with the continent, the British are very resistant to change. And when it involves how we ask for our drinks in pubs, well, it’s topic full of debate.
The pint is very much a tradition in the UK, the words “I’ll have a pint, please Landlord” being uttered right now as I write this article. But it isn’t just the way we speak, it’s the way our minds work and the way most of us have been brought up. Allow me to explain…
I’m British, 27, and went to school from age 4 to 16. After school, I went to college and then university, but these two institutions do not come into this because by the time I was 16, my mind was already programmed into it’s current set of workings. I was primarily taught a mixture of imperial and metric. Which pretty much sums up the majority of this nation. When we’re asked the temperature on a cold day, we usually respond in Celsius. On a warm day, Fahrenheit is used. “It’s cold today, at least a couple below”, or “It’s sweltering, must be in the 90s at least!”
The measuring of distance (and therefore speed) though is different. We are very much fixed in imperial. Our dashboards have mph in large type, the metric equivalent in smaller type on the inside of the dial. Our road signs give miles instead of kilometres. The speed limit on the motorway is 70mph, not 112.65408kmh. Travel 30 miles (or 48.28032km) over the English Channel though, and everything is different. Europe has embraced the metric system, and who can blame them. It’s easier. That 500ml bottle of water your holding weighs 0.5kg, or thereabouts. Every part of the countries are the same, there is no mish-mash of two systems being used, be it in the mind or physically in the form of signs or language.
I don’t think Britons would mind too much if all of a sudden we had to stick to 110kmh as opposed to 70mph. I don’t think we would be too upset if our dials subtly changed on our cars, or distances on signs were altered. But mess with our pint, the routine of language in the pub? That’s going too far, apparently. Even though bottles and cans of beverages have long been 330ml, 500ml etc…, you can’t go changing how much goes in a pint glass.
Which, for the record, is absolutely ridiculous.
However, when I read about this on the BBC site, one comment stood out from the page and almost made me angry. The level of naivety in the comment made by one patron of a pub was just ludicrous.
I worked in Spain where you get smaller servings and you could better regulate what you’ve had and check how drunk you are.
Using millilitres might encourage more people to drink less. Binge drinking is less common in Europe.
The young lady who spoke those words is quite correct; there is less binge drinking in continental Europe, but it has more to do with their drinking culture and less to do with the size of the glass. Do you think I could really regulate how drunk I am after consuming 20 European glasses of lager? Irregardless of the size of the vessel, I think my judgment would be impaired. Using millilitres will not discourage binge drinking; it will just mean more trips to the bar. I’m sad to say our nation’s drinking habits run deeper than the size of the glass.
So despite thinking that Britain is crazy not to adopt and embrace the metric system in its entirety, I do understand. It’s (unfortunately) the British culture.