Through the streets of London we (the students) marched - some in groups and some alone - but we all ventured forth in a state of anticipatory purpose and suspense towards the Pembroke Pub – the chosen venue in which to view the UEFA’s final football match of 2012 between the competing teams of Spain and Italy. Reaching the pub, we scattered throughout the space, finding seats or places to stand, and as we waited for the match to start we each, individually, took in the scene.
I will admit, here at the start that I was a little lost in this venue as I have never been one who voluntarily ventured (at least in the States) toward places in which the general expectation for me by others was to drink as much alcohol as possible for the sole purpose of getting drunk. That sort of mindset is not one that I have ever been able to identify with because it has always seemed to me to be rather purposeless, and having had a few of these experiences in being dragged out back at home, I held a general fear that the pubs here in London might be imbued with that same sort of demanding expectation.
But I was wrong.
The most striking difference was the atmosphere. This pub was not a place in which the people moved lazily about the room with the goal of finding a partner to take back home (as is the atmosphere of the bars in America) but a place in which friends could gather together to have a drink; to wind down at the end of the day and to just enjoy being in each other’s company as they watch the football match. There was no tension in the air between separate groups - not even during the game. While the pub was filled with supporters for both teams, Spain and Italy, tension never erupted between these opposing sides. Often times in America there have been instances of sports rivalry erupting in bars that have led to physical violence, but not here. Never once was there any disparaging remarks made or gestures given that might instigate a brawl. There was only a sense of calm, neighborly competition that broadcast a sense of acceptance and belonging to a community in which differences are not judged and everyone is given the opportunity to cheer for their own team.
By the end of the night, I was glad to see that my apprehension towards delving into the pub life experience here in London had all been for naught. The sense of community pervading the air is not one that I shall soon forget as it is a feeling that I have long desired to experience in my own life - and now, I have. Here, at Pembroke Pub, I was welcomed into this community. It did not matter that I was a foreigner from across the pond. I was still accepted because the differences just did not matter.
This feeling of belonging is one that I hope I can take back home with me.