Irish pubs can be found in every corner of the world. Most major capitals in the west will have at least a few. Even in South America and the Far East one can enjoy a pint of stout while listening to traditional Irish music. Are these bars opened to serve homesick Irish expats living abroad? With a population of about 4 million, Ireland could hardly provide enough expats to keep a fraction of them up and running. It is owing to the reputation of Irish pubs, and Irish drinking culture in general, that they can be found wherever there are large communities of Americans and Europeans.
'Fun, music and drink'; this is a sign commonly seen on Irish pubs and it indicates the kind of atmosphere that these bars aim to create. The key to a successful bar is the atmosphere it exudes. Many of the Irish theme bars found abroad strive to recreate the ambience of bars in Ireland by playing Irish music and decorating the interiors with Irish paraphernalia.
What is so special about Irish pubs? Roughly speaking, there are two kinds of bars in Ireland. The most common bar is known as the local pub and it is this type that has influenced the theme bars found in foreign countries. The word 'pub' stands for 'public house' and that's exactly what the local pub is. Every community in Ireland, both urban and rural, will have a few local pubs. (Most areas have more than a few). Not unlike the teahouses of old Sichuan, the local pub acts as a recreation centre for the community.
During daylight one can eat lunch in a local pub, read a newspaper, chat with other customers and generally enjoy a respite from the daily grind. At night the bar will fill up with residents from the area ending their day by catching up on the local gossip, discussing politics and sport, and getting tipsy in the process. In many pubs, those who want privacy can find it in a snug. A snug is a little room blocked off from the rest of the bar by a wooden screen.
Needless to say, Ireland also has a wide array of trendy modern bars aimed at younger customers and these are mostly situated in city and town areas. Nonetheless, the more traditional bar is still going strong and continues to appeal to locals and foreigners alike. It is rooted in a drinking culture that has a long history. In Ireland, whiskey has long been known as 'the water of life' and throughout the centuries bars have been places where marriages were arranged, business deals clinched and revolutions hatched. Many of the bars themselves have long histories. There are a few bars in Ireland today that first started serving drinkers in the early 17th century.
As Chinese restaurants abroad differ significantly from restaurants in China, Irish pubs outside Ireland are very different to their counterparts in Ireland. Some say that this is due to the management lacking the requisite Celtic spirit to be able to forge a real Irish bar. The fact that many Irish theme bars are run by Irish people discounts that theory. More than likely, it is because the customers an Irish bar aims for are not actually Irish. The bar has to appeal to foreign perceptions of what an Irish bar should be. Regardless of which, Irish theme bars are lucrative businesses that are very popular with drinkers from a wide range of cultures.