Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Take a drink with me! But can I take a drink with you?

September 14, 2009 · 3 Comments

Pub life in London. It has potential to be the great equalizer. A place where anyone over a certain age can enjoy a pint (or a glass of wine, or a mixed drink, or more than a pint…) of the drink of their choice and just chat with people inside the establishment. In the less tourist-filled places, pub life has the potential to really be a place where communities can come together. After a day at work, what could be better than grabbing some food and a drink with your neighbors while chatting with your co-workers and a friendly bartender? It sounds like an ideal way to cap off a day.

If only everyone really did enjoy it. Yes, the pub is open any and every one. But those who really are a part of the ‘authentic’ pub culture are, to this observer, those who hold on to the old British identity. Upon entering a pub, you’re sure to see a few men in suits in the corner getting drinks before heading home, a few young people on dates and chatting with friends, and a couple regulars in brown leather jackets who are talking with the bartenders about intimate details of their lives. Who isn’t there? The large Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Indian populations, the tourists (they won’t be in until about 9 or 10 because they don’t quite realize the time that pub life really peaks over here), and the women who stay at home all aren’t present.  I don’t think there are any fingers to point here. The pubs are open, anyone can come who wishes to, and the beverages offered all the same for all who walk through the door. Still, it’s a little disheartening that it is such a homogeneous group that composes such a recognizable part of British life. When you think pub, you think England. How frustrating that when you think pub culture, the image that pops up is that of such an un-diversified crowd.

That being said, I have thoroughly enjoyed all of my experiences with pubs. The food has always been great (though a bit pricey), the drinks have always been delicious, and I have always gotten some satisfaction out of asking for a pint. It seems like such a grown-up thing to do. And while I have always gone to pubs as a part of a large group of students who are all clearly tourists, I will say that I haven’t really gotten to interact with the ‘authentic’ British people present at the pubs. Yes, we are noisy tourists that are intruding on their pint time but I still am disappointed in the lack of experience I have with chatting with the locals at the pubs. That’s something I definitely want to enjoy in Norwich. I think that I’ll have to find myself in a group of people with natural accents for that to happen rather than a group of people in which the fake accents increase in strength in correlation with how many drinks they have. I’m guilty of the fake accent-ing just as much as anyone else on the trip. But I think that’s definitely a handicap in really getting to experience pub culture (if that’s even possible for a twenty-year old female to do- I’m not convinced that that’s a group that’s really accepted into ‘authentic’ pub culture. I’m interested to find out though). So, cheers for now and we’ll find out more in Norwich.

Categories: Audrey · Pubs
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3 responses so far ↓

  •   abarron76 // Sep 14th 2009 at 10:54

    Why would the Muslim Bengalis and Pakistanis go to a pub? They aren’t permitted to drink! And I have seen plenty of (ostensibly non-Islamic) Indians drinking right next to their white compatriots. Pub culture was paved by working class white folks who needed a couple drinks to wind down after a hard day’s labor. They came home to wives who were too busy cooking and caring for the children to join their spouses for a pint. It is dangerous to make generalizations, but perhaps contemporary pub culture hasn’t evolved much over the years. Even in today’s era of empowered, working women, men are a much more common sight in pubs. So your assumption that pub culture is homogeneous seems to religiously and historically grounded. Who knows, if the world continues to become more and more egalitarian, maybe women will be just as commonplace as men. As for the Muslims, I think they prefer to stay home.

  •   fitzgerald // Sep 14th 2009 at 15:11

    I have to agree with Barron on this one. Practicing Muslim Bengalis and Pakistanis are not permitted to drink. So to see any in pubs would mean they aren’t true followers. Another reason for their lack of appearance in pubs is that, as we have learned, they tend to stick together in their own communities. As for women, I would assume that pub life has always been male dominated. Of course, this doesn’t mean that won’t change as I have seen a number of women in groups at pubs.

  •   Karl // Sep 15th 2009 at 06:06

    I’m a bit troubled by the sweeping generalizations in the comments (“I think they prefer to stay at home”). How many of you went to a pub in Southall, Whitechapel, etc. Most Christian sects preach temperance, but we have seen plenty of drunks. Judaism has strict laws on food, but many Jews are not above a cheeseburger or hot dog. Fitzgerald begins to make this point when he talks about “practicing” Muslims. The truly devout of course won’t drink. It doesn’t mean they can’t go to a pub. Several students in our group don’t drink, yet they go to the pub. Many Muslims are selective in their practices (haven’t we seen this in our readings). Go into their neighborhoods, or even to the City where S. Asians are making inroad in the banking and insurance industry, and then let me know if your views change. Place and space matters.

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