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The first times I visited Ireland – at 20 years old, at 28 years old, and then again in my 40s – Irish pub culture escaped me entirely!  If you know me at all, I am no stranger to bars or restaurants.  A wine and food blogger, no less, completely clueless about the vital role that pubs play in daily life in Ireland.

How did THAT happen?

It may well be that I am finally making connections about larger themes.  I have taught a Culture and Civilization of Spain course now in several different iterations. This recent visit to Ireland made me realize why so many Spaniards go to Ireland to learn English: the one and same pub culture I only recently noticed.

There is a pub every two feet in any given Irish city or town.

There is a bar every two feet in any given Spanish city or town.

Churches are probably just as ubiquitous in both countries, but I cannot claim familiarity with them as I can with bars.  Sorry Mom and Dad.  My failing, not yours.

Pubs are central pieces of everyday life in Ireland.  It is a culture, like Spain’s, that is inherently social.  People like to talk in Ireland. The gift of gab. No need to kiss the Blarney Stone if you are Irish. You already have the ability to flatter, to weave tales, to engage others in conversation.

And it is in pubs where this art of conversing with others is practiced and honed.  A pint of Guinness, eye contact established, and off we go on a completely unpredictable and often times hilarious conversational ride.

Granny O’Toole had this gift of gab.  She was a social creature, craving interaction with others, even after a stroke took her ability to express the words she wanted to say.  Thankfully, her lively intonation would allow you to guess at what information she wanted.  Usually gossip.  Her eyes shone with delight as us twenty-somethings recounted a Saturday night out!  Ne need to filter for Granny – she wanted ALL the details!  If you didn’t provide them, she would demand them!

Second great insight on pubs in Ireland: my Dad likes Guinness!  He also likes conversation, so he stayed out many nights later than me.  How cool is that?

About Claire Ziamandanis

Claire Ziamandanis is Professor of Spanish at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. Over her 20 years at the college, she has been a champion for study abroad, establishing the first affiliation for Spanish students, and then working with the Study Abroad office to open the doors to students from other majors. Claire loves travel, food, wine and Spanish but not necessarily in that order!


  1. We don’t have pub culture in the United States. We have bars – a bar scene is somehow different. I remember visiting my cousins in Germany and in their small village there were several pubs that, like the ones you visited in Ireland, were a part of town life. It wasn’t just about drinking (although that was def. a major activity) – it’s about communing and catching up, sharing your day, eating with your family, etc. I think that because drinking isn’t seen as a mortal sin, you can be in a pub with your family and the place becomes like a second home. Whereas in the States, there tends to be this separation between the two – making bars this place you go out to after dark. Oh, and your dad sounds like my kinda guy!

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