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The pros and cons of the pub crawl

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 31, 2008 in Commentary |

On a pub crawl, things can often get ... out of hand.

On a pub crawl, things can often get ... out of hand.

There seems to be two sides to the backpacker culture that Chris and I are weaving in and out of.  On one hand you have a group of young, open minded travelers attempting to absorb a culture that is unlike their own.   On the other, you have an international group of under 20-year-old with a nearly limitless amount of free time and a little bit of discretionary spending at their disposal.

In many hostels we have stayed, the latter half of the backpacker culture often manifests itself in the form of the pub crawl/tour combo offered by local companies.  If you never have had the privilege, a pub crawl is when a group of people are led from one drinking establishment to another often receiving discounts and free entry.  In most cities, Chris and I would glance at the flyers and not think twice.  However, in Berlin we decided to change our routine up a bit and tag along with NewBerlin’s pub crawl.  The change in routine had several pros and cons:

Pros

1. You get to meet more travelers. In many hostel environments (especially those without common rooms) it is often difficult to really introduce yourself to anyone who is not in your room.  The pub crawl allows you to tap into the temporary travel network that exists in the city you are visiting.

2. A cheap night out. A night out in any city can cost a pretty penny and Europe is no exception.  Many pub crawls will ask for a modest fee, in our case it was €12. In return  they will give you a period of time where the drinks are free.  Some even offer free shots or two-for-one drink specials that would cost significantly more money than if you tried to go it alone.

3. You get a cross section of the local nightlife. When you arrive in a new city you often have to rely on guides and anecdotes from other travelers to give you a picture of the local nightlife.  When on a pub crawl, you can put your night in the hands of people who have done it all before.

Cons

1. When it comes to nightlife, you are often just doing the very same thing you could be doing at home: drinking.  While alcohol is certainly part of any culture, the bars you will visit on a crawl can be lacking in character and are just the same thing in a different part of the world.

2. Pub Crawls disrupt the neighborhood.  On the pub crawl we participated in, the noise level quickly got out of hand.  As the NewBerlin employee attempted to lead 70-some travelers (many past their limit) down residential streets, we could see members of the neighborhood looking visibly upset at the noise level.  Tourists often get a reputation for not having any concern for the place they are visiting.  Most times, that statement is false, but a pub crawl can bring out the worst in travelers.  In our case, the disruption our group caused was deplorable.

3. You often only meet English-speaking travelers. When socializing with other travelers you are getting an international expierence, just not in the country you are visiting.  Our pub crawl was mostly Australians with a handful of othe English speaking nations sprinkled throughout.  While it can be entertaining and educational to learn about Australian culture, that is not the reason we are in Europe.

Conclusion

Like any activity involving alcohol moderation is the key to the pub crawl.  Yes, they are fun.  And yes, you do meet a lot of new people.  But care should be taken with the city that is welcoming you as a guest.  If your plan is to take tours during the day and get obnoxiously drunk at night, you will be doing young travelers everywhere a disservice.  As Americans, we also must take it upon ourselves to prove wrong the “loud and obnoxious” stereotype we have unfairly been labeled with, and having too much drink does not help the cause.

For those city visits where you are only there for a few days, you may want to save the crawl for a longer stay.  In most cases, the crawl will not be reflective of the city you are in.  And we all know how hard it is to wake up early and do the tourist thing if you were up until 6 a.m.

Am I advocating you just sit on your hands all night?  Certainly not.  Just have a good time without disrupting the city you are in.  We recommend asking the staff of your hostel about the different pub crawls.  Try and fine one where the focus is more on exploring the city rather than rehashing Girls Gone Wild.  That way you will learn more about the city you are visiting, meet some new people, and have a good time without being distructive.

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2 Comments

zeke wuchina
Nov 3, 2008 at 11:42 am

as one of the few people that can actually rightfully claim to having helped establish and bring a pub crawl to prague, i take offense at a lot of your assertations. the first is you claim that only english speakers come for the tour, which is completely false. throughout the entire summer season, about 60 percent of our clientelle were native spanish speakers. english happens to be the most widely spoken language on the planet and is an almost universal form of communication. i’ve found that in most cases, our tourists speak english because of the inability of native english speakers that are too stupid to learn at least a few phrases of another language. so you have to remember back to when you actually went on the pub crawl and try to determine which people were native and non-native english speakers. with the vastly superior education systems throughout continental europe and scandanavia, it is hard to distinguish between someone that struggles with communicating and someone who has been learning and speaking english since they were born(which is the case in most european cities). another one of your assertations that are completely false is the age group you’ve attached to the “pub crawl” culture. i can personally attest that all of our groups ranged in ages from 18-50. and as far as noise and being disrespectful to the community, again you are wrong. as prague has noise ordinances, we make a concerted effort to reduce noise as much as possible. when you have 70 people walking and talking, even in a normal tone, it gets loud just because of the volume of noise. besides, i have personally witnessed stag parties of drunken brits, irish and americans that with 7-12 people can cause far more noise than the entire 70 person group combined. and unfortunately the spread of american culture has caused everything to look and feel the same as “home”. try to find a european city without a mcdonald’s or kfc. so stop talking down a legitimate way to meet new people from all over the world(every week we consistently have guests from every continent) maybe you’ll come to the realization that there are other places in the world besides america. and if you want to complain about how everything looks the same, well you can blame americans for that too. and another thing, destruction of property tends to be something quite popular amongst americans and brits. two classless, cultureless societies, that’s why they choose to impose their lack of culture on others. or just bomb/kill them.


 
Sean Blanda
Nov 3, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Whoa buddy.

While I apologize for using general language referring to every pub crawl (that was not my intention) please don’t make those same blanket statements you criticize about an entire group of language speakers. If there is one thing I’ve learned thus far on our trip it’s that no one group of people shares a common attribute. For example, not all Kiwis like rugby as they are as unique as the people in my country. Or yours.

If you want to pick apart my reasoning on the basis of your experience with pub crawls, fine. But please don’t turn this into some misguided culture war.


 

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