This article first appeared in The Oxford Student on 23 October 2015.
The experience of drinking in an Oxford pub is best recreated by finding the nearest castle and/or stately home, driving to it in the early evening having spent the last twelve hours poring over books with unreadably small print, and downing several cans of White Lightning while attempting to engage someone in a conversation about the triad structure of Hegel’s dialectic. The strange mixture of stress, history and numb-faced smashedness which results is not only an accurate (and cheaper) summation of the Oxford pub scene, but a pretty good introduction to the Oxford student experience overall. But as archaic and overpriced as the city’s drinking establishments can be, let’s face it, we’re still going to go the them anyway – we all need somewhere to unwind, and if not for them we’d all be forced to do something truly awful like visit Wahoo.
The problem, of course, is that academics use them as well. The sheer awkwardness of running into a tutor or a lecturer once you’ve both had a few is one rivaled only by the next time you run into them sober, most likely to hand in the essay that you were supposed to be writing instead of getting bladdered in the King’s Arms. This can be avoided with a few polite discretions; it’s generally a good idea not to drink in the pub closest to your college and/or faculty, and it is generally recommended that you avoid the Eagle and Child at all costs, unless of course you want to get roped into a dramatic reading of Beowulf, which you will of course be expected to know by heart, in the original Old English. But then, the Eagle and Child isn’t that good anyway. I mean, Tolkien liked it. And we all know what bad taste he had.
Other than that, the etiquette really comes down to standard pub behaviour; be nice to the bar staff, don’t throw up on anybody, try not to make the toilets any more disgusting that they already are, and do not, under any circumstances, play darts. Happy drinking!