Europe Narratives

Pub Culture: More than just a Pint

Story by Erin Cutroneo, NUinPhoto by Danielle Vandre

I am of the legacy: a newly accepted freshman who elected to go abroad their first semester of college instead of jumping straight into the “typical” college experience. I chose to go to 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 that juxtaposed the traditional working class “Liberties” neighborhood of Dublin that it was located in– one which I soon learned was populated by “feral children,” as one of my professors called them: young people who enjoyed shooting off fireworks at the sky, passing cars, and even each other. Just across the street from where one of these children tazed my group leader the first week, I found my local pub: Arthur’s.

My first evening in Dublin, I sat in the midst of a group of Irish people having a good time and socializing in an easy, open, and honest way: “having the Craic”, as the locals call it. While I would initially stick to hovering next to my four-day-old friend– someone who would soon become my pub buddy throughout the rest of the semester– it was almost too easy, too natural to just loosen up and talk to the people sitting next to me, 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 in my area, I found something you don’t find very often in the US: people who were genuinely open to points of view and ideas different from their own. In Ireland, I had conversations with strangers sitting next to me about everything from my struggles adjusting to the Irish weather, to their experiences with the housing crisis and our thoughts on the current state of democracy. Never in these conversations did I feel any sort of animosity or judgement for my thoughts or feelings. There were no factions, no sides and anyone could speak to everyone and feel, if not understood, at the very least respected.

A couple months into my stay, I began to wonder: “Why are Irish bars called pubs?” The answer was both simple and telling: “Pub” is short for “Public House.” Given the typical dreary and rainy Irish weather, the Irish people created a place of welcoming and gathering for themselves. These pubs represent the undeniable community that exists in Irish culture. Under a rarely blue sky that almost constantly threatened dreary weather, the Irish people displayed a character that exactly contradicted the miserable skies that hung over their city.  Through centuries of oppression and discrimination under colonial rule, the Irish have made one thing their strength: their sense of togetherness. The Irish pub is the physical manifestation of that, representing Irish resilience through unity.

Despite being a somewhat isolated island nation, I found the Irish to be much more accepting of people from all walks of life than many people I have met in the United States. Through all the hardship they have faced, from losing so much of and still struggling to recover the lives lost during the Great Famine to the fight for national independence from British rule, the Irish still hold fast 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: refuge from stormy weather, acceptance for all, and above all, a place to have the Craic  – a true place for the public.


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