What Happened to America’s After-Work Pub Culture?

I’m returning from London today and there was something I noticed on my trip that we don’t really have in America. In fact, in the past year, I’ve visited Australia, South Africa, and now the UK, and in each visit to these countries I’ve noticed they have a very strong after-work pub culture.

When I talk to my grandparents it seemed like at one time in America we also had this after-work pub culture. We would go to work, do our job, and afterward we would meet our workmates and friends from, old and new, for a drink or two before heading home.

I love the after-work pub culture!

It’s not really about drinking, although a lot of that happens, it about true connection. The one thing you instantly realize about the pub culture is that no, absolutely no one, is looking at their phone! It’s so strange because you realize how much we are on our phones in America when you see this!

It’s adults, sharing a pint, having conversations. Laughing. Hugging. Just sharing their daily frustrations and joys. Then they head home and finish their day.

Somewhere in our history we stopped heading to the pub after work and started heading directly home. Why?

Part of the pub culture is a city culture as well. When you don’t get into a car, by yourself, but you walk to the train, or bus, or ferry, or to where you live directly, you put yourself in a position to stop along the way for a drink with a friend, or to meet up with some friends. As we moved out of our cities, we moved away from the after-work pub culture.

We became addicted to busy. Around the world parents have their kids play sports and do activities, but, in America, we’ve become completely insane in over-scheduling our kids. It’s not enough to have them play little league on the weekend or take piano lessons, they have to be on travel teams, or prepare for concerts, etc.

We stopped having real relationships and we started having social relationships. I’ve found other countries place a higher importance on having a real face to face interactions to consider someone a friend. They want to break bread and share a drink and really get to know the person that is you. For many Americans, we’ve grown uncomfortable with real relationships!

I think there is a balance. I’m not sure I want my Dad or Mom showing up a 7 pm each night because they’ve been at the pub, but I think it’s okay if they do this a day or two a week. I think it’s healthy for adults to have adult relationships.

I like the concept of the neighborhood pub where you can go and you know the staff and the patrons. I think an after-work pub culture acts sort of like adult therapy in so many cases. I’m wondering if the Millennials and GenZ will turn the tide and re-create the after-work pub culture in America, as we see more and more young people move back into our cities? I hope so!

Hit me in the comments on your thoughts about an after-work pub culture. Are you for it or against it, and why?

12 thoughts on “What Happened to America’s After-Work Pub Culture?

  1. I agree with Diane, you did meet people and hang out. Now things are so different. Remember answering machines you wanted until you were home to call people back. Now we can communicate anytime but feel we truly communicate less that has meaning.

  2. Most American towns just aren’t designed to facilitate this. Our commutes are too long, and in many places bars are shoved to the outskirts of town as “undesirable” places.

    But if you live in the core of a major city, this is still pretty common, at least among young people.

    People do still crave that connection, though, so we get executive breakfast meetings and lots of coffee meetings.

  3. We also turned “hanging out after work” into another part of job culture: networking. Forced/implied schmoozing after a day of work is more work for those of us in the introverted community. Keeping it turned on and then having to dial it up another four notches to impress people sounds as inviting as my hour commute.
    But I totally agree: “We became addicted to busy.” and for what?

  4. All depends on where you call home. In Chicago if you want to grab a pint on your way home there are many options. Priorities and the human condition are unpredictable! I also liked the pubs in London as well, but when you are a tourist your perspective is a bit different than a native trying to get home on the tube !

  5. Great commentary. You have made me realize how much I missed that after work wind down. It was easier in London as we were all on public transport; In CA we have no option but to drive. I also agree with previous comments that pre kiddos it was much easier. Fascinating read and I’m off to the pub on the way home tonight!!

  6. Our society would benefit greatly from better transportation systems that would allow us to pop on a train to a stop near our house. This would enable us the ability to grab a drink with friends before venturing home. With my commute I wouldn’t even finish one drink because I wouldn’t want to be impaired in crazy Seattle traffic.

  7. Work burnout. Commute times are way longer now. Non-work obligations. Single-parent homes. Double-parent homes and day care is wicked expensive. No desire to hang out with people you see for almost 12 hours a day as it is….

  8. We did that often at my former employer, but I was single and in my late 20s/early 30s then. Once or twice a week now would honestly be too much for me; I have a young son at home and would prefer to be home with him after work.

  9. Applebee’s happened in the suburbs. Duh. You helped it flourish!

    That and the drunk driving after the pub started being viewed as less than optimized.

  10. My first profession was as a pilot in the military. Showing up at the bar was a given, usually on Friday evenings. Squadrons would compete with each other in all types of games, wives would show up around 6:00pm, and everyone had a great time. You got to know a great deal more about the people you worked with, the pilots from other squadrons, and also got to talk directly with the leadership. This really cemented some lifelong relationships that I still have today.

  11. This brought back such fond memories! Being a Boomer, we would head to our local bars and have some appetizers and drinks. This is where we met new friends, made business deals, sourced and recruited new talent as well. My dearest friends who I met in the late 80’s and early 90’s were all a result of the “pub” scene.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.