14 Things Only a Country Pub Barmaid Will Understand

Being a country pub barmaid is hard work. It’s not your regular nightclub but it’s not your regular café either, it’s this weird combination in the middle. And unfortunately if you’ve had to pave your way through university or had parents that forced you into employment, you’ve probably done a shift or two, or at least considered it. Well this is a list that only a true country pub barmaid will really understand.

  1. Banter happens. There’s one thing to say there’s banter between friends but it’s another to have a complete stranger say something to you that is potentially quite offensive. Especially when you’re new on the job and the assistant manager has decided (because the big boss isn’t around) to drop you in the deep end and introduce you to the locals. Uh oh. It’s not until this horrendous rites of passage experience is over that you can begin to understand the life of a country pub barmaid.
  2. Flirting is part and parcel of the job. Yep I said it. If you’re not the flirting type, my guess is you weren’t in the job for long. And yes, there’s almost something disgusting about men leering over their pints at you but soak it up girl, it’s all part of the job. Keep the customers sweet and they’ll be buying you drinks until the end of your shift.
  3. Nice shoes don’t last. Do you remember your first shift? Perhaps you decided to wear some nice smart shoes, they were new (or nearly new). Or perhaps you made the rookie mistake of buying a new pair and thought ‘I know, I’ll wear them to work tomorrow’. Poor choice. Within half an hour of your shift, you already know you’ve made a terrible decision. The overflowing beer splashes onto your feet the moment the drip tray is full. And if that isn’t enough, trying to carry full-to-the-brim ale is just impossible, yep you know it, it’s sloshing onto your feet.
  4. Standing up is hard work. It’s Monday afternoon and who’s in the pub? No-one. No-one goes to the pub on a Monday afternoon, maybe one or two in their early retirement but let’s face it there’s no-one here. It’s then you realise that you’ve been on your feet for three hours and at any second your legs are just going to give way underneath you. This results in the causal leaning on the bar move that thankfully keeps you upright, but only until the boss appears.
  5. Dodging the glass. Accidents happen, unfortunately, more often than they should which means the scene behind the bar is rife with health and safety hazards so you’ve trained your reflexes to respond like a cobra striking its prey. A dropped glass (at least an empty one) results in an instantaneous shunt backwards to avoid shards in your clothes or on your shoes. But when it’s someone else that’s dropped it, you’ve learned that little dance to dodge the glass on the floor whilst you’re still able to serve your customers.
  6. You’re suddenly buff. It’s an unexpected task that’s suddenly lumbered on you but moving things about in the cellar is impossible work. The barrels are far too heavy and to make matters worse, your arms are aching from having to pump so much ale. It’s fine though because all of a sudden your bicep have tripled in size and you could challenge any of your regulars to an arm wrestle, no problem.
  7. Knowing your beers by heart. You’re not a beer girl, never have been. In fact you love a good vino in front of the TV but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a thing or two. So it’s got to the point where you know all the ales on the pumps, all the beers on the taps and you could recite their order in your sleep – along with the alcohol percentage.
  8. Knowing the price list. And to make matters worse, you know the price of every drink on the menu. Even when someone wants a small house red instead of the imported Pinot Grigio, you can calculate the price difference in your head. You know it’s really bad once you’re able to price up the spirits and the whiskey without batting an eyelid. Some people will look at you with amazing, but deep down you know it’s just sad.
  9. Staying after work. When most people finish work, they want nothing more than to go home and relax but sometimes the party is so good, you just can’t help yourself but join in once your shift is over. When there’s a crowd of people, time flies. And it’s not uncommon for you to join in the jokes and the conversation, after all it’s your job to make sure they’re served. So when a few begin to leave, a few more may follow but on a Friday night, your regulars are more inclined to loosen up a bit and before you know it, they’re having a jolly old time. So why not join them? At least if you’re not working, you can have an alcoholic drink too.
  10. How to pour a real pint. Now there’s a pint and there’s a pint. A proper pint is something of perfection and has the right amount of head in the most delightful proportions. Getting it right maybe once or twice is just not good enough, but knowing how to pour one is a hard-learned skill and something you can boast with pride. The regulars thank and congratulate you all the time for your magnificence contribution to their drinking experience. Be proud you can pour a pint.
  11. Cleanliness is next to Godliness. At least that’s what the boss tells you. So when the pub is empty and there’s little to do, out comes the cloth and cleaner. The endless task of removing all the glasses, cleaning the shelf and then replacing them fills those dull hours. And once the shelves are done, the wine glasses need a polish, as does the cutlery. It’s a never ending list.
  12. Smiling when you really don’t want to. There’s that really awkward customer back again. And you’ve been stuck with serving them so smile away and be polite. They know the smile on your face is fake but there’s nothing you can do about it now, just grin and bear it. Even when you’re in a bad mood or feeling hungover, it’s time to smile at the customers and wish the day away.
  13. Knowing people you don’t know. It’s Thursday evening and low and behold there’s that couple. You have no idea what they’re called but they’ll chat to you for a few minutes like your old friends. It’s a familiar yet unusual phenomenon. 75% of the people walking through that door, you don’t know them, but somehow you do. It becomes particularly strange when you pass them on the street and they say hi. That’s not strange in itself but try and tell your friend who they are and listen to you falter.
  14. Knowing what a ‘usual’ is. You’ve been there a while now. You know your regulars by name and you can even understand their humour, most of the time. But this is the true test. The test of being able to serve the drink before your regular asks, or knowing what they want without the need to order specifically. ‘Yes please’ should be all you need to supply them with the right drink.

    6 Comments

  1. Patricia Salamone 16th November 2015 at 11:54 am Reply

    We vacationed in Ireland in 1990. We have friends that live in Dublin. We went to quite a few pubs including Dirty Nelliy’s and had a wonderful experience. Our trip was unforgettable thanks to all the friendly warm people we met. So thank you for bringing our trip to the forefront of my mind and know that all you do or did for the customers is appreciated. :o)

    • Natasha Orme 17th November 2015 at 8:04 am Reply

      Thanks Patricia! I’m glad I was able to remind you of happy times!

  2. noelleg44 16th November 2015 at 10:25 pm Reply

    Loved this insight, and your humor in dealing with a tough job. Some of it I can really understand – several years of being a tour guide and a waitress taught me a lot!

    • Natasha Orme 17th November 2015 at 8:03 am Reply

      I’m so glad you liked it! I only worked as a barmaid for about six months but it was enough to show me that I couldn’t do it for ever!

  3. Elizabeth 3rd December 2015 at 1:51 am Reply

    Never before have I come across something so accurate! I currently work in a country pub as a barmaid and have done for the past 3 years. Needless to say, I now can’t go anywhere without seeing someone who recognises me!

    • Natasha Orme 3rd December 2015 at 8:04 am Reply

      Hi Elizabeth – thank you! I spent only 6 months working in a pub but it didn’t take me long to fall into the patterns that every barmaid loves, even now – 2 years on- I still see people I know!

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