The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Nya Patton who spending the second half of her Gap Year in Northern Ireland.

Disclaimer: The drinking age in Ireland is 18 years of age. 

In all countries there are specific, usually regional, places in which local people come to socialize, connect, and destress. In the states, these places are much less obvious. As malls, which used to provide this social function, continue to close, the number of places where we can come to connect also decreases and further isolates us. However in Ireland, the birthplace of pub culture, these spaces are very obvious and easy to find. Going into an Irish pub is an experience that really challenges how one thinks of local gathering spaces all around the world. In the states, most places where people go drinking are filled with televisions, tables, and booths. Yet pubs in Ireland completely juxtapose these; they are very small and tight spaces, encourage conversation and closeness between people, have no televisions, and barely have any tables. Since the 10th century, they have represented a space where people could come together, listen to traditional Irish music, and communicate with each other. It was at pubs where Irish lore and mythology were passed down, and it is in many ways the reason why we still have access to those kinds of stories today.

My first experience at a pub was with a couple of friends; we all decided to go out to a place called Maddens, in Belfast NI, after a night of eating fish and chips and listening to live music at a free festival. When I first entered Maddens, I was surprised by how small it was, it was quaint and warm, and cozy, yet filled to the brim with people who were drinking Guinness and chatting away. There was Irish music playing in the background and there was barely any space to move around the building or even find a seat. So we stood, and ended up in a conversation with Belfast locals about where we were from and what we were doing there. It ended up being a night of good craic (fun) that made me fall in love with pub culture and taught me that the pub is not, “ just a place to grab a pint. It’s the heart of the community, where family and friends come together – It’s where local stories flourish and grow, where legends come to life, and where the craic flows freely,” as Sarah Dee, Marketing Head of Ireland Tourism says.