Germany and the Love of the Irish
When people think of German drinking culture, their minds are whisked to beer halls such as the famous Hofbräuhaus of Munich. Others might conjure the image of the humble German traditionelle Wirtschaft, where men of a particular age swig from tall Weißbier glasses and discuss agriculture in indecipherable accents. Those who have visited Berlin might choose to remember the all night clubs, where German techno and house reverberate through warehouses and party-goers are more likely to be under the influence of industrial intoxicants than the humble German beer. All these images represent a wide variety of ways people can enjoy a night out in Germany, but despite having so many options for a good knees up, Germans are still drawn to bars named The Dubliner, The Samrock and Murphy’s. The Irish pub is a fixture within German culture and is one example of Germany’s love of all things Irish.
When the topic of Ireland comes up, most Germans will mention the word ‘Green’. At first glance, this is perhaps a less than nuanced understanding of Ireland, given that everyone and their marketing department are contractually obliged to use only shades of green where Ireland is concerned. However, when Germans talk about ‘Green’ they often simply mean the countryside. Obviously Germany’s landscape includes a variety of colours, green being one of them, but the countryside of Ireland is one of the biggest attractions for German visitors. When first time German visitors to Ireland were asked what makes the country such a unique place, the most common responses were ‘Nature’ and ‘Landscape’. Germans on average prefer to tour Ireland, giving them a chance to see more of the country and indulge in their passion for walking and climbing. The coast is also a major fascination for Germans, which should come as no surprise given that the majority of German tourists in Ireland come from the landlocked states of Bavaria, Baden Württemberg and Nordrhein-Westfalen. For Germans from these areas, the sea holds a mystical significance, with many becoming dewy eyed at the mere mention of large bodies of water.
Natural wonders aside, top of the list of places Germans hope to visit is the Irish capital of Dublin, with Irish pubs and the cities' heritage and culture being some of the biggest reasons for heading to the largest city in Ireland. Whether Germans love Irish pubs because of trips to Ireland or they love Ireland because of the pubs is not entirely clear, but one thing is for certain, they defiantly come for the Guinness.
Irish pubs in Germany are perhaps the reason that Germans wish to travel to Ireland and although they may look like a parody on what it means to be Irish, for the most part they are an excellent advertisement for the Irish tourist industry. One of the reasons that Germans enjoy drinking in Irish pubs is that they make an effort to replicate the atmosphere of good pubs throughout Ireland, giving Germans a first taste of the basic elements of Irish culture. A complaint levelled at many Irish bars is that atmosphere only extends to covering the walls with tat, but I can confirm that most Irish pubs I have visited are more than simply a limply hung Irish tricolour and a few faded Guinness adverts. Germany’s Irish pubs find space for a few trinkets from home, as well as some more quality pieces of Guinness memorabilia, but they will also look to hire bar staff that understand the importance of having a laugh with their customers. Germans especially enjoy this aspect of Irish pubs, given that most German bars won’t look to sarcastically make fun of customers. ‘The Crack’ is certainly an overused term when discussing Irish culture, but the caustic wit and a humorous back and forth of the bar staff is change from the usual norms of German bars.
Irish pubs can be a blessing to exapts, given that they often function as a sliver of familiarity for new arrivals and a potential chance at employment. When I first moved, it was to the Irish pubs that I turned when looking for quick employment. Although most will happily find a work for expats, it must be remembered that working in bars and pubs in Germany is not easy. Irish pubs themselves are often to be found in and around central points such as train stations, which guarantee a steady flow of customers, but also ensure that they are frequently some of the busiest pubs in any city. Hours are long, thanks to the irregular closing times of bars in Germany. Some may close before 2am, but it is not unknown for bars to remain open as long as there are paying customers to be served. Although the work can be tiring, they are also surprisingly a good place for newcomers to hone their German skills with colleagues and customers alike.
As I mentioned, the Irish pub is a basic introduction to Irish culture for their German clientele, but it does tend to dominate the German understanding of Ireland. I recently went shopping and found myself in the music section of a department store. Flicking through the CDs I came across a section marked “Irish Music” which included a range of different albums packed with songs that were simply acoustic tracks of pop music. Furthermore, the titles of these albums ranged from “Songs of the Irish Pub” to “Traditional Irish Pub Music” with little in between. I am no scholar of music, but I am not sure warbling ‘Barby Girl’ and strumming a guitar is technically classed as Irish folk music. Feel free to correct me, of course.
Whether they come for the music or the beer, Germans have welcomed the Irish pub into the landscape of their drinking culture. They may not fully represent the many aspects of Irish culture, but they do provide an entry level Irish experience, what is more they help promote Ireland and possibly persuade Germans to visit the island themselves. There they can learn that there is more to Ireland than pubs and Guinness and if they learn anything at all it is that Irish folk music does not resemble Danish pop circa 1997.