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.