Buying a round

Dublin

The concept of “buying a round” doesn’t really exist in Norway, however it is expected when you go to the pub in the UK!

This is a concept so common in the UK that anybody living there, and reading this, will probably wonder why I even bother writing about it. However, to Norwegians, this is a very strange concept that it is very difficult to comprehend. This concept just doesn’t exist in Norway, it is just not done! I wish somebody had explained this concept to me before I moved to England, and I know that my husband wish that somebody had explained to him that Norwegians do not buy rounds before he moved to Norway. He would buy a round and never understand why nobody else would do it, but I think it is so ingrained in the British that he found it difficult to stop, as that would be rude! He can’t imagine going to the bar and just ordering a drink for himself!

But that is the way it is done in Norway – you buy your own drink, meaning you pay only for what you drink yourself – so it may well be related to the prices of drinks here. Alcohol is very expensive!

I still haven’t worked out all the practicalities about buying a round – but it isn’t all that complicated (unless you go out with a big group of people). So… When you go to a pub or a bar with a group of friends it is customary that you take turns buying the drinks, alcoholic or non-alcoholic. This means that if you would like a drink, you ask other members of your group – or at least those around your table or near you, what they would like to drink. You have to memorise the orders, go to the bar, place your order, pay and carry all the drinks back. If it is a big order somebody may offer to help you carry the drinks. There is a lot to think about here – for instance when to get your round in – I like to do it quite early in the evening to get it over and done with (I hate going to the bar to order drinks, as one I am quite short and feel even shorter when trying to reach the bar, they are always so high, and two – I look quite young, and I hate being asked for id...). If you go out for a drink with my husband I let him do the “round buying” as that seemed to be the custom among our friends. But more information about how to “buy a round” check out this website: http://www.sirc.org/publik/ptpchap5.html.

This custom also seems to exist outside of pubs. For instance at my in-laws. I grew up in Norway, and if I ever felt thirsty I would go to the kitchen and get my own drink. When in England you can’t go to the kitchen to get your glass of water without asking anybody else in the house (I may be exaggerating ever so slightly here) if they would like anything to drink as well.

A good friend of mine who is French mentioned that her Norwegian husband is the same… He will go into the kitchen and get himself a drink, without offering her one. To me this is perfectly natural, but to her it is not – So maybe “buying a round/getting a round” isn’t just a British phenomena… does everybody do it? Apart from Norwegians?

– Photo credit to Asta Burrows –

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6 Comments to “Buying a round”

  1. It’s the done thing here in New Zealand too, Asta, but that’s probably as a result of all the British settlers. Even making a cup of coffee becomes a mission when there’s 10 adults around, but on the positive side – later on in the day someone else will make me a drink at another time.

  2. I live near Milwaukee, WI USA where beer is a past-time! Milwaukee is the home of Miller brewery, the Milwaukee Brewers professional baseball team and Summerfest, a Summer music festival where we walk around, drink beer and listen to the music. Buying a round is certainly customary, especially if you’re sitting around with a group of friends at a pub. I think it’s a way to ensure that you will hang out and drink for at least as many rounds as there are people. 🙂

  3. Asta, we do it here in the U.S. Although I will say, not so much among poor college students, more so among adults (with income) 🙂

    • It seems that everybody, apart from Norwegians, buy rounds 🙂 I do think it is a nice habit though, and I think we should start here as well, allthough I will not be the one to buy the first round, as it is very unlikely that somebody else will offer me one 🙂 But I guess somebody has to start! Thanks for your comment!

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