For a Spanish Experience, Avoid Irish Pubs

Irish Pubs in Madrid are not unique. One might initially think so but these “novelty pubs” are throughout the city and, in fact, throughout the world! I’m not even sure what all the mystique is about.

Is it the large wooden bar and rustic interior? Is it the old fashioned pub signs in English? Is it the Guinness Beer? Is it because of the movie scenes portraying such old fashioned, small town pubs and everyone knows your name? Or Is it the sensation that you get that you can be drunk as a skunk and, there, it’s socially acceptable?

For whatever reason, I avoid these places like the plague. (not that one can generally AVOID a plague – as it usually finds YOU!) Can a drinking establishment BE any LESS Spanish? Probably not.

I understand Spaniards wanting a change of pace by going NOT to a Spanish bar but rather to an Irish Pub. It’s something different. This I understand completely and it makes sense to me. For the same reasons I like(d) to go to Mexican restaurants in the United States.

But there’s something about me, a United Statesen, walking into an Irish Pub here in Madrid, Spain. Frankly, the notion – and the experience – makes my skin crawl. Maybe it’s because I simply LOVE Spanish bars and I LOVE being with other Spaniards!? This is probably the most likely reason. But I’d also venture to presume it’s also because I love Spain so much that I can’t imagine tainting “The Spanish Experience” – as internationally homogenized as it has become in the last 10 years – by going to a place where there will undoubtedly be dozens of Brits, Americans, and Australians swilling down pints and pints of beer and all speaking to each other in English – with the token Spaniard thrown in for color.

Some of my British and United Statesen friends always tell me, “Well sure. But it’s nice for a change to just speak in English and relax your brain for a couple hours.” I can – and can’t – agree with this. Unless you’re a United Statesen or British person working in a Spanish company and speaking Spanish nearly 24/7 you’re more likely like me where you’re still thinking in English, writing in English, and visiting English websites the majority of your waking time and you actually jump at the chance to speak Spanish, be with Spaniards, and see things… errr… SPANISH!!

An English friend of mine dragged me into an Irish pub a couple of times – and I went nearly kicking and screaming. I sat there on the stool, drank my Harp Beer, and listened to all the English language conversations going on about this, that, and – of course – the English soccer/rugby game being televised at any given moment. YECH! Blah! My stomach felt sick. “Is this REALLY Spain?” I asked myself. “Is THIS why I moved to Madrid?”

MANY Americans, English, and Australians visit (Madrid) Spain every year and MANY of them visit Irish Pubs while here. What’s up with that?? Didn’t they travel X,000 miles to have something of a Spanish Experience?? Aren’t they paying good, hard-earned money to eat Spanish food, drink Spanish drinks, and mingle with Spaniards? Then why in the world would they spend X hours in an Irish Pub? I guess for the same reasons they sometimes eat at McDonald’s or seek the nearest Taco Bell (which thankfully don’t exist here). It’s a taste of home. And some travelers have difficulty straying far from their homelands and homeland comforts and rituals.

I must admit, however, that I’m rather looking forward to trying the advertised “English Breakfast” by one or two of the Irish Pubs. An “English Breakfast”, as I understand it, is very much like “A Big American Breakfast” in that it contains eggs, sausage or ham, maybe potatoes, and other things you might find on the menu at Denny’s – minus the pancakes and waffles, that is. From time to time here in Spain I miss “A Big Breakfast” in the land of toast-and-coffee breakfasts. Sooooo.. having JUST admitted that I would go to an Irish Pub for their English Breakfast, HOW is that different from a Brit going to an Irish Pub for a pint of Guinness? Probably no difference whatsoever and I’m simply a hypocrite and am unable to diagnose my own psychosis.

But really, if you’re visiting Spain try to stick to the SPANISH food items, Spanish drinks, Spanish places, and BE with the Spanish people. It will make your stay much more memorable and definitely much more….. SPANISH! That’s what you’re paying for, afterall. You can surely go to an Irish Pub where you live! My decision to avoid non-Spanish places is a personal one. How will I assimilate properly if I don’t?

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1 Response to For a Spanish Experience, Avoid Irish Pubs

  1. Olav Lee says:

    I will tell you why many of us visit Irish pubs in Spain (and in other countries). We love the music! Many bars in Spain are too enlightened and not cosy at all and you only hear the other persons talking, no music in many of the bars.

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