Global Appeal of Irish Pubs – World Invasion One Pint at a Time

Everyone seems to lament the fact that there are few places in the world where a McDonalds or Starbucks doesn’t exist. I was particularly surprised to find a Starbucks in Vienna, heart of the European coffee culture. But you don’t often hear people talk about the impending global invasion of the Irish pub.

Almost everywhere I have traveled, I have been confronted with the wood paneling and copious mentions of Guinness that are the hallmarks of a traditional Irish pub. From Singapore to Tel Aviv and almost every major city in the U.S, I have found at least one Irish pub amongst the popular restaurants of the area.

It wasn’t until I was in Frankfurt recently, and espied yet another Celtic beverage center, that I began to wonder why there are so many of these institutions around the world. I’m sure the Irish like to travel, at least as much as most Europeans. But I wouldn’t call them prolific travelers, certainly not to the level of Australians or New Zealanders, who not only like to travel, but drink in prolific amounts. Why then must their pubs dot the globe in a diaspora of leprechauns and black and tans?

Irish pub in Jerusalem
Irish pub in Jerusalem

Don’t get me wrong, I love Irish pubs, everything about them. The clickety-clack of my shoes against the hardwood floors, the games of darts in the corner and of course, the beer and hearty food. But that doesn’t explain the sheer universality of the pub.

Ultimately, these pubs and restaurants serve a mixed crowd. I have always noticed a combination of expats and locals, all converging for their fix of unique surroundings and a taste of home. While Irish Pubs may be Irish in name, they are not always so in practice. The one I frequented in Jerusalem actually served as a popular haunt for Americans living abroad, mostly for the live telecasts of football games. (real football and not soccer)

That’s the real reason why Irish pubs are so popular. They’re not just about getting some stew and a pint, they’re about community. Pub culture both in Ireland and England has a long history, but at its core is fostering a sense of camaraderie and friendship. Ireland is home to more than 10,000 pubs. You don’t travel far to go for a pint and watch some sports, you go around the corner to commune with friends, neighbors and family. It’s all about creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere the focus of which is not getting drunk, but enjoying the simple pleasures of being welcomed. Hospitality is the real reason why Irish pubs are so popular, and ultimately why they span the globe.

I was born in the 1970s, grew up in the frenetic 1980s and came of age in the melancholy 1990s. My childhood was spent hundreds of miles away from extended family and with few exceptions, I have no idea who our neighbors were growing up. While this may be somewhat extreme, most of us live in a world that is extremely fast paced and where interpersonal connections are made via Facebook status updates. For many of us, the idea of spending time at a pub just a few paces from our home, where we know everyone is relegated to old episodes of Cheers.

The Irish pub though allows all of us, at least temporarily, to pretend that we live in a pub culture, a culture where everyone is friendly and where you can enjoy being yourself. In the US, these institutions are definitely all based on the concept rather than the reality, but overseas it is a different matter. That Irish pub in Jerusalem was as kitschy as it gets. But when the Sunday night football games came on, the bar was suddenly filled with expats, most of whom knew each other and were having a great evening. They were laughing, patting each other on the back and, at least for an evening, were reveling in images and sensations from home with their new friends. While it is most certainly accidental, the traditional Irish pub, and everything for which it stands, is best seen not in Dublin or County Cork, but in the side streets of Bangkok, Tokyo and Tel Aviv. It is in these leprechaun infested, Lord of the Dance playing, Guinness drinking institutions where everyone truly does know your name.

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

8 thoughts on “Global Appeal of Irish Pubs – World Invasion One Pint at a Time”

  1. I recognize the first photo – it’s from the Guinness Factory sky bar! Great place.

    While I doubt all of them are as authentic as they pretend to be (I’m not sure there’s as many Irish overseas as there are so-called authentic pubs), there’s just something about these pubs that make us feel right at home wherever we might be. Sometimes when you’re abroad, you just have to taste a little bit of your own home in order to appreciate a whole lot more what’s outside the wooden door, Guinness-fueled or not.

  2. I love Irish Pubs. They are often better than McDonalds when traveling because there is often a chance that someone will speak english.

    My “local” is Okellys in Freiburg. I am there a few times a month watching Rugby or doing the pub quiz with friends. I realized at one point that i have spent more time there over the years than any single other restaurant. I know the owner and we talk about travel and such. She is from Ireland so knows how the pub is supposed to run. It is such a great place to just hang out in.

    Weirdest one was in Italy. An irish Pub run by an Italian who didn’t speak any english serving a lot of German beer. And given the Italian schedule, it only started filling with people when I was ready to go home.

  3. Great post Matt! IMO, there’s nothing better than going to a great, dimly lit, dark-paneled Irish bar where the suds are flowing as fast as the conversations. Here in San Francisco, I love going to O’Reilly’s in North Beach…not sure how it compares to others around the world, but it works for me. Oh, and BTW, the first pint’s on me whenever you make it out here!

  4. Ha, earlier this week I wrote a post – I hate the Irish – for this crappy Irish hostel I was in. The truth is though, I have been in a few pubs along the way, sometimes they make me feel less homesick.

  5. I became aware of the global presence of Irish pubs when I read the hysterical McCarthy’s Bar, and that was only pubs called “McCarthy’s”-lol. I can only imagine the numbers when you go beyond that narrow criteria. But after all, the Irish are famous for their pubs.

  6. I really don’t understand why there is always this negative type of discussion when the irish pub is discussed (or maybe I do) Do we have this discussion about the English pub (of which there are many)
    I can understand the long running English mockery of the irish pub because it is based on pure jealousy as they think its their invention and how dare the Irish get credit for it.
    The Island Irish too get quite nasty about it and I think because they associate it with the Irish dispora and how dare they pretend to be Irish.
    Well the fact is the international irish pub is a creation of irish immigrants to other lands and their children. Irish traditional music in pubs was probably begun in an Irish pub in Canden Town London in the 1940’s. St Patricks Day parades were seen in 18th century New York.
    Its about time that it was accepted that so much of modern Irish culture was created by the sweat and imagination and love of Irish immigrants and their children and not by the Irish who stayed at home.
    The Irish abroad kept the Irish economy going with the money they sent back and helped shape Irelands political future by their support for Independence.
    So the Irish pub is just a rescent manifestation of the Irish immigrant and their chiliden and childrens childrens love of their culture and heritage.
    Time for the begrudgery to end.

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