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Women and pubs -- then vs. now, England & Wales vs. Ireland

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I'm curious about Fodorites' perceptions of differences, and changes, in one aspect of pub culture.

When I lived in England in the early/mid-80s, women didn't go to pubs by themselves.

Oh, there were exceptions -- country pubs at midday, for example, the kind that tended to double as the main local lunch spot. And going into my "local," where I was likely to meet up with people I knew, was different. And I'm sure that some on this board will have had different experiences.

But in general, in your ordinary town pub, even in the kind of ordinary town pub that was not automatically hostile to all strangers (and there certainly was one of those on my street!), I'd say it would've been very unusual circa 1984 for a woman who was a stranger to the place to come in by herself because she fancied a pint (or a purportedly ladylike half-pint). I remember a chill wet December evening in Norwich, too late for afternoon tea, too early for dinner, shops all closing, when if I'd been a guy I'd likely have gone to a pub; as it was, I spent a memorable hour or so sitting in the beautiful St. Peter Mancroft church.

In Ireland in 2000, I felt fine going into pubs by myself. That included pubs in non-touristy towns, and pubs without music or food. Sometimes I'd talk to people. Sometimes not. All was fine. Part of the difference, of course, is the confidence of age and travel experience, and the decay of age: a middle-aged woman generally attracts less attention than a twentysomething. But there was also, plainly, a different pub culture than in 80's England. (I'll omit Scotland, since I've never been there alone.)

In September 2008, I was in England for the first time since the late 80s. Because I was with friends and only in London and the Cotswolds, I didn't get to road-test random pub culture by myself. My sense, though, from what I did see and from what I've read is that it's changed substantially.

I'm thinking of wandering around southern Wales. My perception is that nobody's going to bat an eyelid if I go spend an evening in a Swansea pub over a pint or two of Brain's. My guess is that I & my American accent are less likely to wind up chatting to strangers than in Ireland, but maybe more likely than in England. (As my surname is very Welsh, there's a natural hook for any "why are you here?" overture.) Comments?

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