Pub Culture: More than just a Pint

by Erin Cutroneo, NU.in

I am of the NU.in legacy: one of the ones who elected to go abroad their first semester of college instead of going straight to “actual” college. I chose Dublin, Ireland, mainly because my name is Erin, which literally translates as “Ireland.”

Within my first week in Ireland, I found myself transported to the sparkly student accommodations smack dab in the traditional working class “Liberties” neighborhood of Dublin, which I soon learned was populated by the “feral children,” as one of my professors called them: young people who enjoyed shooting off fireworks at the sky, passing cars, and each other. Just around the corner, I found my local pub: Arthur’s.

My first evening of ‘having the Craic’ and sipping a pint of Guinness, I sat in the midst of a group of Irish people socializing in an easy, open, and honest way. While at the beginning I mainly hovered next to my four-day-old friend, who would soon become my pub buddy throughout the rest of the semester, it was almost too easy to loosen up and talk to the people sitting next to you, or even the bartenders when they had a break between waiting for your pint of Guinness to settle before filling it the rest of the way up.

As I began to explore the other pubs around me, I came to realize something about them I just find often in the United States: how open they were. In Ireland, I had conversations with random people sitting next to me about everything from my opinion of Irish weather to the housing crisis to the state of democracy today. Never did I have a conversation where I felt judged for what I thought or how I felt. There were no factions, and everyone could speak to anyone and feel if not understood, at least respected.

A couple months into my stay, I began to wonder: “Why are Irish bars called pubs?” The answer was simple and telling: “Pub” is short for “Public House.” This makes a ridiculous amount of sense, as it rains a lot in Ireland. The weather is miserable, and because of that one might expect the Irish people to be downtrodden. But in fact, the very opposite is true. Through the bad weather, and the historical oppression and discrimination under British rule, the Irish have made one thing their strength: their sense of togetherness. The pub represents that togetherness, the sense of the doors being open to all who seek to enter with fair intentions. Despite being a somewhat isolated island nation, the Irish were much more accepting of people from all walks of life than many people I’ve met in the United States.

Through all the hardship the Irish have faced, from losing so much of their population during the Great Famine that the population has still not recovered from to this day to the fight for independence from British rule, the Irish still hold to their core values of fairness, warmth, and generosity. It is those very traits that are represented in the form and function of the pub: a place for the public.