I’ve decided to take a small break from moaning about the Conservative party or writing of trying to survive as an Englishman in Madrid. So, I’ve decided to embark upon a series of something I consider myself to be a connoisseur and expert on. Drinking establishments.
Far away from the Spanish jammon franchises and American fast food restaurants stands the cornerstone of every town in Spain, with a population of over one thousand, the Irish bar. These marvellous contraptions stand not as a sign of globalisation, but more as a of a sign of world friendliness.
Many ‘authentic immigrants’ will still stick two fingers up to these establishments, as they want to hang around with real local people, and do as they do. Well I say embrace your roots and enjoy the overpriced warm lager.
I was very much of the same opinion when I first moved abroad, however I saw the tissues and chicken bones on the floor of my local Spanish restaurant, and decided that I preferred Heineken pints with big heads.
After my first gruellingly hot month, in September in Madrid, trying to complete a month long intensive English teaching course, I was dying for a pub night. In I entered to one of Madrids most loved Irish bars, it was a musty smelling, dark long room made even darker by the badly wood stained furniture. They had more TV screens than the local electrical shop. One thing that did hit me was the astonishing range of accents, at one point I thought I was in a cheap nightclub in Ibiza, but I wasn’t, it was the traditional city of Madrid. Most of these bars have the same decorations and ambience.
That’s the thing with Irish pubs, you feel a sense of security and familiarity. You enter on a hot bright sunny day, you sit with friends and drink pint after pint. The thing I love most about this is the banter with your fellow friends that the Spaniards just struggle to keep up with. Many Spanish friends are unable to tell when I’m being serious or crude, but worst of all is they don’t understand it’s all a joke. I’ve had to explain many times, if an Englishman is being nice to you then he probably hates you. If he’s not talking to you he probably wants to be your friend.
As you get up to leave your eyes are accustomed to the darkness, and then as you leave you are woken up by the sounds and smells of the Spanish High Street.
I once asked Irish friend “why are all of these pubs called Irish pubs? “And he told me it was because they are perceived as more friendly and open. He then went on to say if you called it an English pub would anyone go? I can see his point.
When I finished my month long course I felt that I needed a roast dinner. This was my first port of call and it did not disappoint. I have gone onto enjoy many sausage and mash dinners here. Always in times of comfort, it’s like visiting family member that would always cook you your favourite food.
The people that you meet in Irish pubs are also another attraction. You often find businessmen living away on their own, trying to have a night out to play. But they end up spending most the night on the phone to the Mrs or answering emails.
You also find groups of tourists that just cannot be bothered to try and order in Spanish or just need that fix of Anglo food after 4 days away. Last time, I heard a woman from Birkenhead comment that she was proud they had brown sauce for her fry up.
One very common site is the single male English teacher taking out one of his students and giving her a private lesson on how things work where he is from. Several hours later, you often see him half cut, chatting to the barmaid like she understands him, she doesn’t it’s because he’s slurring.
Football day is a completely different league, excuse the pun. You see rafts of Spanish, American, English, Scottish and believe it or not some Irish people, out to see the football. Things can get messy, but they are nothing compared to Spanish fans in a Spanish bar watching Real Madrid versus Atletico Madrid! You just can’t find a seat.
The beer in these pubs is often questionable. The Heineken sometimes taste like it has been brewed in the back of the pub, and the Guinness is not even worth a comment. However, you can get some rather delightful local craft beer which just hits the spot. At five euros a pint it is rather expensive compared to the rest of Madrid, but then you don’t go to an Irish pub to have half a pint.
These are truly international pubs, they hold intercambio nights, quizzes, show all matters of sport, staff often speak several languages and are from all over. But best of all, they are welcoming and a break from your new country. Which sometimes we all need.
I have continued to go to these pubs and I will continue to advocate for them to fellow immigrants. They are a hub of community, political discourse, drunken ramblings and bloody good food. Even though quite often the bar staff have never been to Ireland.
So don’t turn your nose up at them, enjoy the environment and don’t go on football night.