A letter from a bartender

For this week’s blog post I decided to write a letter to all bar or pub goers from my point of view as a bartender. The post was inspired by my experiences at work, and my perception of the atmosphere in bars (or any other place one might go to for drinks and food). It’s my personal opinion, shaped by working in horeca for nearly five years now.

I have spent many, many days in bars, both behind the bar and as a customer. I love spending my free time there to relax, talk to people, play some games and have a beer or something else. I also love bar tending (most of the time), but this isn’t a love letter to my job. What I want to discuss here is the balance between our online and offline social behavior in social setting. The topic of our relationship with our mobile phones and the ‘phone abuse’ that is often the result has been discussed extensively in many blog posts. In this one I wanted to address two experiences I have with the combination of pubs and mobile phones.


I’ll start out with, in my opinion, the worst one. Luckily it’s also the rarest, and let’s keep it like that. A few times, whilst ordering with me, customers have been so obsessed with whatever it was that they were doing on their phone that I merely got some mumbling. No eye contact, and often in these cases I get no polite ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ either. However, from the mumbling I am expected to take an order. Of course, the people showing such behavior might in general be ‘less polite’, but it does show me how easy it is to get so lost in your phone that we forget or ignore basic manners. Luckily, I have the privilege of deciding who will get their beer first and being on your phone definitely doesn’t help.


Second, phone use at the table. Group atmosphere is immensely influenced by use of phones. This also has an influence on the atmosphere in the bar as a whole. For me, it goes without saying that it isn’t appropriate to constantly be on your phone whilst sitting with friends. If you’re talking to somebody on your phone I would compare it to having friends at two separate tables and constantly leaving one table to talk to the other one, giving neither your full attention. On your phone the amount of conversations you’re having at the same time does not matter as much. Nobody is really with you anyways. In a bar they are, and being partially online and partially offline without coming across as absent is an art not many master.

In an ideal setting phones wouldn’t even be on the table, but considering the large role they play in most peoples’ lives it is understandable if that’s not the case. It is hard to resist a quick check every now and then, but what I don’t understand is why people spend most of the night glaring at their bright screen instead of interacting with people at the table. Why even put in the effort to meet in the bar then, if you might as well have been at home in your pyjamas. Sounds a lot more comfortable.

Of course, this isn’t a complain to everyone because not everybody acts like this. And phones can be social too, for example when showing a video. I don’t see harm in all phone use, just the phone abuse. Our online social interaction shouldn’t diminish our offline social interaction. Whenever I’m out with friends or colleagues and I grab my phone for longer than 2 seconds, the amount of complaints I get about it will give you a spontaneous headache. Most often, I do put my phone away immediately.

Type 1 people should be called out on their behavior, as with any other rude interactions. Type 2 people might as well be confronted as it is oh so easy to get completely dragged away in your phone without noticing. Online social media are made for online social behavior, and offline social settings are there for offline social behavior. It is hard to find your own balance in using your phone, but we might as well help each other along the way by sometimes asking: “Do you really have to be on your phone right now?”. As a Dutchie I love Dutch ‘gezelligheid’ and I don’t want phones to ruin that. Maybe, just maybe, in the future the only bright thing I will see on the tables will be the burning candles.

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  • Amanda
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 5:45 pm 0Likes

    I really enjoyed your post, especially because it’s coming from a bartender’s perspective! I liked that you drew a distinction between “phone use” and “phone abuse”; when my friends and I head out to the pub to watch a match, I’ve realised that we tend to pull out our phones between lulls in play or during half-time. At the same time, we aren’t glued to them – just a quick check for messages or statistics and then we’re back to watching the game or talking to each other. I do think that you make a good point about non-urgent phone use ruining ‘gezelligheid’ – we should try putting our phones away entirely, and socialise with who’s around us in the here and now instead.

  • Eleonora Bartoli
    Posted October 15, 2019 at 5:54 pm 0Likes

    Hi! I can perfectly relate to your blog post, personally I hate when people are surrounded by other people and they use their phone. I find it very unpolite, and for this reason I always try to use the telephone as less as possible when I am in company. As you said, we shoud find a balance between the two realities to which we belong nowadays, but people are used to get their phone as soon as they are bored or as soon as there are embarassing moments. It is sad if we think about how much we lose of LIFE when we use our phones also in the moments in which we are supposed to make sense of our life: those moments in which we interact with people we love and we make the best memories of our life..

  • ManonvdG
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 10:18 am 0Likes

    So relatable indeed. I really do not care so much if someone if maybe quickly responding to a message, or maybe want to look something up before they forget or whatever. But it should definitely be a balance in the sense that “does that really need to be done now?”. Also, I think therefore we are losing some of our social skills that previous generations were better at. Like keeping up a conversation without being distracted. Or coming up with subjects to talk about without referring to an Instagram post (I am guilty of all of this btw). But I do make a conscious effort to try, and definitely call people out on it when it is just too obnoxious.

  • Sanem Cerit
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:17 pm 0Likes

    Heyy! I really enjoyed reading your post and I loved that it kind of has two persperctives/ two incidents from the same context. Even though I cant really relate being behind the bar in bartenders shoes when you come across with the type 1 person but I can imagine how annoying that must be and am not even mentioning what comes afterwards if their drinks are late or even wrong!! However, from personal experience I must also say that it sucks being in front of the bar trying to order to a bartender who is looking at you as if he/she wants to get the hell out of there as soon as possible and is not as polite as well. But I guess both situations have its reasoning and certain correlations/ factors effecting it or maybe its just about those people’s characteristics. And for the second part, totally on point👌🏻 I generally love the bar enronment when I am meeting my friends because it immediately gives you a warm and cosy feeling which is enough to make my day however the environment is ruined for me when I realize that I am the only one on the table trying to listen or talk while all the others are on totally different realities. I believe that this a matter that should be discussed and find a balance for, for the sake of the quality of our relationships but also for the cosy bar environments.

  • imanhs
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:19 pm 0Likes

    Hi Judith! I also spent some time working in a bar and very much have witnessed this addiction to phones. Although I have to say the older customers would often find it easier to chat while ordering and waiting for their drink whilst some younger ones would never make eye contact. What I like about bars is the social aspects as most people are in a good mood after a drink or two and feel comfortable talk and put their phones away. I find it interesting to see people becoming more social while drinking and find it a curious that we have to be distracted in order to not use our phones.

  • LTMicajkov
    Posted October 16, 2019 at 2:45 pm 0Likes

    I am so familiar with this situation, and it is exhausting sometimes. I work at the cinema and people on phones can sometimes be incredibly rude. Especially the situations where a customer is on their phone while speaking to me #annoying. I think your blog shows how digital media devices have changed our way of socially interacting with other people. We tend to ‘accept’ people being on their phones in social situations, while maybe we should not have the phone as an excuse to act impolite or ‘escape’ the social interaction. Phones are easy escapes, and do not challenge us to interact in real environments. Well, to wrap it up, I think your blog shows this through your own personal experiences. So thank you, I really enjoyed it!

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