Banter and bonding

How do the Brits make small talk?

What does it mean to banter?


Even though one may not be familiar with these two terms, they point to two particular aptitudes that make Britishness well known all over the world.


Banter and bonding are the acts of meeting people and chatting during one’s free time in a public space, usually a pub.


Banter is a form of British humour, that is a mixture of satire, sarcasm and self-deprecation, that we may find particularly difficult to understand as a first glance.


This is the particular kind of humour the British turn to when it comes to everyday interactions. It consists of sentences that a person uses to feel more comfortable with strangers.


The word banter has uncertain origins. The writer Jonathan Swift first reported it as British street slang in an article.


He wrote in 1710: “The third refinement observable in the letter I send you, consists in the choice of certain words invented by some pretty fellows; such as banter,bamboozle, country put, and kidney, as it is there applied; some of which are now struggling for the vogue, and others are in possession of it. I have done my utmost for some years past to stop the progress of mobb and banter, but have been plainly borne down by numbers, and betrayed by those who promised to assist me.”


Ways to banter like a real Brit


British banter The Ripon, Yorkshire race course is a perfect spot for banter and bonding
Flickr / Still The Oldie


As pointed out by the Art of Charms Academy, banter is mostly used to put a person at ease in a funny, self-confident way.


Let’s assume a guy would like to approach a girl. So he may start saying: ““Has anyone ever told you that you’d look great with a big purple Mohawk?” Or, again: ““You should quit your day job and be my bodyguard. I’ll pay you double.”


Other banter examples could be: ““Tell me three things about you I wouldn’t guess” or “So what’s your deal?” work great. These sentences will help you relax and allow the chat to go ahead.


Bonding: where and how?


Despite the slight obsession with privacy and their private lives, British people love bonding with others, but prefer being authentic and comfortable.


Pubs seem to be the best place for bonding, as one doesn’t have to think about work or other problems and is there just to relax.


That is why Brits are more likely to bond with new people at the pub. They think the best way to start a nice chat is in front of a good beer.


Pubs are the perfect place for healthy social lives. With sport on the telly, football matches, after work drinks, it’s no wonder most Britons go straight to a pub after work. There, they will show all their kindness and social skills.


Banter and Bonding in British movies


Human Traffic: 1999


The four main characters meet in a pub every Friday after a tremendous week of hard work at their alienating jobs. They spend their time having (a lot of) of beer, having fun and complaining about their unfulfilled lives.


The Full Monty: 1997


In one of the first scenes, dozens of women gather in a pub to watch a male stripper. During the movie, there are several scenes where the characters plan the Full Monty (a total striptease where they remain naked) in front of a beer.


Trainspotting 1996


Frank Begbie, a violent and quick-tempered man, during a chat with his friends where he boasts about his ability playing billiards, throws his glass of beer at a girl, starting a violent and agitated brawl.


An American Werewolf in London: 1981


The two American characters sit in a typical British pub. The room features soft lights, dark walls, people drinking beers, playing chess and darts. It gives an overview of what being in a pub really means.



Header image: Flickr / Leonid Mamchenkov


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