In these cold months, we struggle to stay entertained indoors. For American servicemen and women in Britain, this basic struggle was tangled up in all sorts of strange and wonderful cultural discoveries. The following is a passage from our copy of INSTRUCTIONS FOR AMERICAN SERVICEMEN IN BRITAIN, 1942, which is reproduced from the original publication distributed by the US War Department….
INDOOR AMUSEMENTS. The British have theaters and movies (which they call “cinemas”) as we do. but the great place of recreation is the “pub”. A pub, or public house is what we would call a bar or tavern. The usual drink is beer, which is not an imitation of German beer as our beer is, but ale. (But they usually call it beer or “bitter”). Not much whiskey is now being drunk. War-time taxes have shot the price of a bottle up to about $4.50. The British are beer drinkers – and can hold it. The beer is now below peacetime strength, but can still make a man’s tongue wag at both ends.
You will be welcome in the British pubs as long as you remember one thing. The pub is “the poor man’s club”, the neighborhood or village gathering place, where the men have come to see their friends, not strangers. If you want to join a darts game, let them ask you first (as they probably will). And if you are beaten it is the custom to stand aside and let someone else play.
The British make much of Sunday. All the shops are closed, most of the restaurants are closed, and in the small towns there is not much to do. You had better follow the example of the British and try to spend Sunday afternoon in the country.
British churches, particularly the little village churches, are often very beautiful inside and out. Most of them are always open and if you feel like it, do not hesitate to walk in. But do not walk around if a service is going on.
You will naturally be interested in getting to know your opposite number, the British soldier, the “Tommy” you have heard and read about. You can understand that two actions on your part will slow up the friendship – swiping his girl, and not appreciating what his army has been up against. Yes, and rubbing it in that you are better paid than he is.
Children the world over are easy to get along with. British children are much like our own. The British have reserved much of the food that gets through solely for their children. To the British children you as an American will be “something special”, for they have been fed at their schools and impressed with the fact that the food that they ate was sent to them by Uncle Sam. You don’t have to tell the British about lend-lease food. They know about it and appreciate it.