With fewer self-policing pop culture tribes, the dancefloor is more mixed up than ever. Fortunately, our clubland correspondent has compiled this etiquette guide
Music culture is less tribal than it has ever been. These days, you're as likely to find notional indie kids at a dubstep night as you are a Chris Moyles fan at a techno club. They don't know why they're here, a mate dragged them down. Such a mix is healthy. Kind of. But it does mean that clubland is now suffering as the communicable code of conduct flies out of the window. Tighter clans – say, self-policing punks marshalling the moshpit – know how to behave around one another, but clubbers often have to share their space with part-timers in need of a lesson in disco etiquette. So, please, pay attention at the back: here's a new list of rules for the dancefloor…
• In confined spaces, drunk people bump into one another. If someone steps on your pristine trainers, don't carry on as if they've just urinated against your leg. If you're not prepared to end the night with a layer of "rave scum" on your footwear, go home.
• If, in a moment of transcendent musical ecstasy, somebody smiles at you, smile back. Clubbing is communal. Embrace that. If that same person then offers you a swig of their water and/or a sniff of their poppers, don't look at them as if they're handing you a fresh, steaming turd.
• Anyone who finishes their drink by launching it backwards over their heads deserves to die.
• Has someone lit up in the middle if the dancefloor? Then suck it up. It's a nightclub, not a meeting of the WI. But what's that? Smoking's banned? Cigarettes kill? True. But not as quickly as self-righteous twonks kill a good night's atmosphere.
• If you need to validate your evening's experience not by dancing but by constantly updating your Facebook page or uploading footage to YouTube, then get yourself off the dancefloor.
• Do you or your mates find it funny or unnerving that "it's full of right weirdos in here"? Then stop laughing and get your coat. The freaks own the night, and you're just a guest. Straight folk have the whole world to choose from – football, Ikea, Saturday night ITV – and you really don't have to be here. Classic example? A bloke the Guardian once met in Berghain, a club 80% populated by muscle Marys, who complained, "Music's all right, but it's bit fucking gay, innit?" And people say the door policy is too strict.
• Gents, does your "dance routine" look like an American football team celebrating a touchdown, or old footage of a Sham 69 gig? Then you're doing it wrong. Your behaviour should not aggressively invade anyone's space.
• The queue to get in was long. The cloakroom queue is longer. You're desperate for a drink and the bar staff are useless. You're tense. Don't push in, a ball of bad body language. Instead, let someone who's been queuing longer get served first. That good deed will tee up your night. It will put you in an altogether more positive head space.
• If you're 18, it might seem extraordinary that somebody over 30 would still be out clubbing. But they are. Sometimes for perfectly legitimate reasons. So stop asking me – sorry, them – if they've got any drugs you can buy.
• Don't harass the DJ. This isn't a 21st birthday. They don't take requests. There's a reason they are being paid to play music and you are paying to see them. You don't like their choice of tunes? Tough. Bad clubbing experiences are as formative as great ones.
• It's not something that anybody will admit, I know, and it will come as a shock to many, but some people who go to clubs do so to take drugs. Some of them may gibber at you, particularly if they're coming up. Be nice. We've all been there.
• Girls. Young girls. You're in a good club; stop acting so petrified. You don't need to trail around holding hands and sneering at anybody who crosses your path. Men are not the enemy. Nor are other women. Do not try and recreate a bitchy American high-school prom in what is a club-space full of perfectly reasonable people. You're worried that you'll lose your mates? That's the point! Now, lighten up.
• There is a way of working your way through a packed crowd: slowly, saying "excuse me", a gentle hand in the small of someone's back to indicate you're coming through. Hurling yourself into the melee like you're a enraged prop forward – or, worse, a pissed-up indie kid who's never been out clubbing before – is poor form. See also: carrying four pints above your head and spilling most of them on your fellow clubbers.
• In clubs, do you impose yourself on groups of girls on the dancefloor, joining in other people's mock "sexy dancing", getting a bit too close to the more enthusiastic female dancers? Then you're not a clubber. You're a sex pest.
• Be nice to flyerers. There is nothing more dispiriting than standing outside a club at 4am being ignored, abused or handing people flyers that are thrown on the ground three feet later. Plus, those people flyering may well be the same DJs who'll be ignoring your requests and knocking back your pissed mates next Saturday night.
• If you're shagging – say, for argument's sake, in a Portaloo at Manchester's Warehouse Project – then you are probably way past the point of thinking about this. But please do lock the door.