As a traveler through Ireland, one of the things I longed to do, was to sit in an old, wooden pub and drink a pint with the locals. Public houses are a big part of Ireland’s culture. On my travels through the emerald isle, I have been to many pubs, and have encountered many different people. And being from the states, I was accustomed to bars hosting guests over the age of 21. When I was in Dingle, I was surprised to see people of all ages socializing and drinking in the very cozy pubs. One of the pubs I went to had a very long wooden bar. It had bar stools in front of it and in the rest of the place it had couches, benches, nooks and chairs.

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I ordered a beer and decided to sit on a couch that was placed in a circle so people could chat with one another. There were two men sitting at the bar conversing loudly about politics, some older women sitting in the chairs in front of me were talking about their marriages, and at my feet were two toddlers coloring a book. I felt very strange at this sight because this would be forbidden where I’m from. Children in bars surrounded by adults under the influence did not seem safe to me. I started a conversation with one of the ladies about how adorable her children were, and she thanked me. I asked her if children were normally allowed in pubs, and she said that before 7pm adults and kids can be in the pub. No one really thinks anything of it; it is a part of the culture.

Life is different in Ireland. In the west especially, there are no parks, or malls where people can gather. People meet at their local pub to socialize from a very early age. In the US, bars or public houses are not the norm, therefore, I must be honest … I found children in pubs difficult to accept. But in considering what is acceptable and what is not in regards to drinking, however, there are norms in the US that are unacceptable to the Irish. One thing we differ in, is that they have a zero tolerance for drinking and driving. I was once in a pub once where some people were discussing this and they seemed appalled, almost enraged at the thought of people leaving the bars and driving home. In a place like Ireland where alcoholism has become a national concern, a zero tolerance is a way to manage the situation, and keep the community safe.

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Until recently due to my exposure to travel writing theories, I would have not understood the situation I experienced and would have forever thought of the Irish as irresponsible parents. But after reading about The Danger of the Single Story, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I realize that I only had part of the story. Adichie states brilliantly, that “when we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise” (Single Story 18:16). She argues that she has been the victim of a single story when people think of her as being from Africa, and with it the stereotypes we see in the media. She illustrates that if she had not been raised there, she too might have thought the same way: “If I had not grown up in Nigeria, and if all I knew about Africa were from popular images, I too would think that Africa was a place of beautiful landscapes, beautiful animals, and incomprehensible people, fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty and AIDS, unable to speak for themselves and waiting to be saved by a kind, white foreigner” (Single Story 5:55).

I think back on that day in the lively pub, and I am so glad I talked to the women with the children. If I had not spoken to them, I would have gone home with a single story: my own. In speaking to them I realized that it wasn’t as if the children were victims of abuse as they would have seemed here. The children were safe, and carefree, living in the place they call home. The women and men in the place were just being themselves, socializing, and nurturing relationships. I was the one who was out of my element, but thankfully trying to learn and to immerse myself in new cultures.

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6 thoughts on “Slainte!

  1. Hi Alma

    I’m happy I found this article with such detailed insight into Irish culture and social norms. It’s very well written and the your flow of details really completed the immersion, can’t wait for the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Alma,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I would love to go to Ireland one day! When I was in Italy I was so taken aback when I saw teens walking up to a bar and ordering shots. It’s just such a different lifestyle than we are used to here in the states. I recommend sharing quotes or sharing more about the dialogue you had with the Irish woman. It would give us a better picture of the different stories. You tied in our course materials very well though!

    -M

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  3. Hi Alma,
    I just wanted to comment on some aesthetics or cosmetic features of your blog. So feel free to disregard if my tastes are not yours. When I very first clicked on the URL to your blog, I can view the banner and title and I can see a little snippet of each post. The weird thing is that the size of the text of your title is smaller than the text in the snippet. It just makes it a little confusing as to if that is the title or not. And then it took me a while to figure out where to click to expand your post to read it. I don’t know if there is really anything you can do about that, but maybe if the title were bigger, it would be more obvious that is where I’m supposed to click? I’m not sure. The texts of the posts is quite large, and even though I use a big monitor on my home computer, it is hard to see anything but just text at a time. If the text were a little smaller, your reader might be able to see some of the images while reading.

    Your blog makes me want to visit Ireland!

    Like

  4. Alma,

    I like the layout of your blog’s front page, with a teaser for each entry.

    This is a strong reflection. I think most Americans would prefer not having children near the bar. My home state (and I’d assume many others) prohibits anyone under 21 from sitting at the bar, but I think a lounge area is okay. Maybe.

    Anyway, the entry provides an interesting slice of contrasts in cultural attitudes. You connect your experience well with the reading and “single stories.” The entry provides more than an experience, but a reason for readers to reflect on their own perceptions.

    Like

  5. Thank you, Alma!
    I enjoyed reading your blog and viewing the pictures you posted. I especially enjoyed your example of how it baffled you seeing children in a pub, but by asking around realized they were safe and in a common element for children in Ireland, not an abusive situation. Your blog changed my views of what an Irish pub would be like. I always imagined them rowdy and full of adults, more like bars here or what you would see in a western. It showed me another example of a “single story” that I have been exposed to about what these social places would be like. I never imagined nooks and cozy couches, let alone children coloring being the norm. It is a humbling thing to think about because in your situation, I am almost certain I would have been worried for the children’s safety, so I am glad you asked about the kids. It is humbling to think that you might go home with a story of abuse when nothing was truly wrong.
    -Laurie

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  6. Context is indeed everything. Our relationship to the vine, the grain, and the places we imbibe them are very culturally contextual. Drinking in many Mediterranean places is an everyday thing, but public drunkenness is more taboo. The acculturation of young people to alcohol is done over time as a social and gastronomical way, not in a priming for life-long inebriation as an end goal way. A pub is a public house. It is the neighborhood’s living room. This is something we might get in some urban neighborhoods with the corner bar, but these are definitely not kid-friendly.
    Your example highlights the dangers of judging one place by the standards of another–looking at rules and intents in differing measures and situations. There may be some things that are lines in the sand, such as genital mutilations; these are the exceptions.
    In a commentary on your blog itself as a piece of writing, I make two humble suggestions. First, read your prose out loud and listen for modulations in the sentence patterns as they build your voice. Second, the images are great and generally well-place. The font is very large, however, and in proportion–leading to scrolling and multiple breaks that slow down the reading because the text width is thus narrowly proportioned.
    As a side note, your work is much more advanced than mine–I still need images and links, let along tweaks to format.

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