Pub Politics: Six Thoughts on America from an Ex-Expat

Meet our bartender at Trinity College, an Irish pub where we stopped one afternoon for refreshment and a glimpse of the Roland Garros match on TV. His slim frame was overshadowed by curly, slicked back hair and his deft hands never ceased working, wiping counters, preparing drinks, or peeling a peach for his own snack. Greeting us with a playful smile, he conversed with us for the entire duration of our stay.

He did not, however, share with us his name, nor where he was from. “I don’t like labels. I wish to be nameless,” he said, immediately pushing our questions aside.

He continued, quoting an Italian philosopher whose name I couldn’t decipher. “When you label someone, you immediately detract from who they actually are.”

For someone who told us so little about himself, he had a lot to say about everything else. Upon learning we were American (obvious from the moment we walked in, bulky Canons and Nikons dangling from our necks), he informed us he had lived for a year in San Diego. However, his expat days were brief. He gave us the short list of his opinions on American issues, as seen by an ex-expat. While remaining humorous, he spoke with passion, conviction, and astute observation.

1. Health is down the drain: Food is rampant with GMO’s, misleadingly labeled as natural, and utterly artificial. “I am surprised you girls are not fat,” he says with a chuckle.

2. Traffic laws are a menace: from parking facing the wrong way, to switching lanes at the wrong time, to turning too fast, our bartender received a ticket for everything on the books during his time in America. True to Roman disregard for traffic laws, he didn’t take kindly to it.

3. Americans have a distorted view of normal alcohol consumption: “Americans drink too much. I do not drink. I care about my liver,” he tells us. Gesturing to the beer taps he was tending, we reply, “You would not have a job if people did not drink.” “I would happily give up my job if everyone else would give up drinking,” he replied without hesitation.

4. Wifi addiction is real: “Seeing as you are Americans, I assume you will need the wifi password,” he said, immediately upon seating us.

5. Freedom of speech is a myth: “In America, you do not have freedom of speech. You think that you do, but you do not. In Italy, at least we know that we do not have it.”

6. Censorship clouds true journalism: Upon learning we were studying journalism he asked us what our favorite documentaries were. We couldn’t think of many. “You don’t watch documentaries??” he asked. “What kind of journalists are you?” He had a point. In an era where Buzzfeed articles and slideshows of kittens pass for journalism, the endeavor was greatly diminished. He wrote a list of documentaries on a napkin for us, noting that “Most will be blocked in America.”

While our nameless bartender had a lot to say, he also had an ear to listen. He asked us what issues we found most pressing in Italy, and was happy to talk honestly about what issues he saw himself. He conceded happily the stereotypical generalizations of his remarks. All the while he adorned cocktails for other patrons, chatted with his coworkers, and listened keenly to our own conversations. He playfully attempted to guess our heritage, quickly determining mine to be French, struggling to guess my friend’s to be Jordanian, and laughing at the suggestion that our blonde friend’s was anything other than American (though it was, in fact, German). He was jovial, interested, and eager to talk to other young people about where the world was headed.

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