Adventures Abroad: Dublin pubs and alternative humor

Dubliners have a unique way of interacting with strangers: they f**k with them. It’s often a sort of jeering friendliness, a disingenuous niceness that seems a little off. They’re not necessarily being malicious. They just find your disarmed confusion incredibly amusing.

One particularly memorable example happened early in the semester. A small group of people from the Lewis & Clark program went to Arthur’s Pub, a local spot known for their blues and jazz music. We sat down at a large table near the bar, one end of which was occupied by a man in his mid-twenties. Hearing our accents, he jumped into the conversation.

“How about Donald Trump? He’s a wanker. You guys know what a wanker is?” He accompanied this with a hand gesture to ensure that we did, in fact, know what a wanker is. We, of course, agreed, and started chatting with him. He talked very quickly and had a sort of intense look in his eyes. He seemed friendly overall, but would occasionally slip things into conversation to deliberately irk us, like repeatedly saying that I was from Seattle despite my correcting him numerous times.

After a minute, his friend came back from the restroom and sat down next to him at the table. He had a similarly intense look, but talked a bit slower. He exchanged some quick, seemingly rehearsed banter with his buddy, stared at me for a second and said, “You look like the guy from Suits  … No! John Mayer. Definitely John Mayer.” Caught off guard, and slightly flattered, I thanked him. He continued to only refer to me as John Mayer, and it became clear that it was more mocking than complimentary.

After a few more similarly barbed comments aimed at the rest of the group, the two men realized it was likely in their best interest to leave. As they were getting up, one of the LC students, missing the herbal comforts of home, asked them if they knew where to find weed in Dublin. The first gave a vague answer. When he stopped speaking, the second put his hand on my friend’s shoulder.

“Sorry mate, I’m Guarda. You’re under arrest,” he said, half twisting his arm behind his back before letting go and laughing. Guarda is the name of the Irish police force. He relished the split second of panic in our eyes before we realized it was a joke.

A similar incident happened a few weeks later at a different bar. Two friends and I went to The Cobblestone, another local pub, on a Saturday night. It was crowded and there were no open tables, so we stood off to the side with our drinks. Again, a man in his mid twenties approached us.

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave, you can’t wear shorts in here,” he said, pointing at my friend’s exposed calves. The man clearly was not a bouncer, and the pint of beer in his hand made it clear that he was not a bar employee. Nevertheless, he continued to tell him to leave. Eventually he laughed and shook our hands, hanging around long enough to get in a few more veiled digs before scurrying off.

This doesn’t seem to only be a few isolated incidences of jerks in bars messing with Americans. Irish people outside of the capitol are significantly friendlier and hold a similar opinion of Dubliners. As a local man in Sligo, a city in the west of Ireland, so eloquently put it, “Dubliners are f**king a**holes.” A farmer from Mulagh, a rural town near Dublin, agreed, albeit in less strong words, saying that, “People are much friendlier outside of the city.” Even one of my professors, a native Dubliner, confirmed my suspicions, specifically saying that he often has a hard time telling when people are being genuine or just pulling his leg.

This is not to say that everyone in Dublin shares the same off-putting sense of humor; there are plenty of kind and polite people in the city. But if you’re looking for a pleasant conversation with a stranger in a bar, maybe go to Cork instead.

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