Since arriving in Ireland, we have experienced several cultural differences from what we are used to back home. For me, the most significant difference between home and Dublin is the pub culture. This is primarily due to the fact that until a few months ago I was not allowed to drink or go to bars in the U.S. Having this new social outlet becoming available has opened my eyes to an interesting idea of the ‘third place’.
The idea of the ‘third place’ is prevalent in modern societies because it serves the role as a place for someone to go that is not work and not home. The need to sort of escape the problems at home and work creates the need for a third place where one could go to meet up with friendly people and have a good time. This makes the pub more than just a place to drink. A pub is a place that is neutral, meaning that no one is neither the host nor the guest, rather everyone in attendance is equal which allows for broader interactions. A pub is also a leveler, meaning that there is no criteria for inclusion, and everyone is of equal social status when inside. Another key aspect of pubs is that they are centered around conversation being the main activity. In a world overrun by social media and technology, it can sometimes be difficult to appreciate the value of face-to-face interaction, so to have a place whose premise is centered on conversing is essential. Pubs are also easily accessible, meaning they can be found just about anywhere and, perhaps most importantly, within walking distance. A traditional pub is low profile while remaining playful. Too much flair can be distracting to the conversational aspect; however too little can leave the patrons with a dull experience. All of these factors combine to make the pub a home away from home for a lot of Irish people.
Individuals who attend pubs are exposed to cultural novelty, they are able to gain perspective on their lives, they are socially stimulated and reinvigorated after a long day at work or trouble at home, and perhaps most importantly they form casual friendships. So why is there so much negative light surrounding modern day pub culture in Ireland? This is simply due to the fact that the central role that pubs and drinking has within Irish culture has caused serious implications such as alcoholism and drunk driving. Currently it is estimated that 1.5 million Irish people drink irresponsibly, which costs Ireland about €3.7 billion per year in alcohol related accidents. This is causing political tension in the Irish government to try and reduce these numbers through increasing taxes, regulating alcohol, and educating adults. Drunk driving is a serious issue in Ireland as well, with much stricter regulations than in the U.S. In Ireland the blood alcohol concentration limit for experienced drivers is 0.05, while the limit for new and professional drivers is 0.02. This means that two, or sometimes even one, drinks can put someone over the limit. Drunk driving is responsible for about €526 million worth of road damage, and a staggering one out of every three fatal car accidents being alcohol related.
Despite these facts, I do not believe that we will see a significant reduction in alcohol consumption or pub attendance anytime soon. The social benefits and the central role of pubs and alcohol on Irish society form part of the Irish identity itself, and I do not believe that the Irish will give up this 1000 year old tradition so easily. In order to convince the government of this, pubs must continue to be presented positively as an essential and beneficial third place. As political and sociological views of pubs evolve, the fact remains that pubs and drink are here to stay.