I’ve been to more cafes than pubs, but I’ve not been to many of either.

When I came to Edinburgh, I had a certain image in my head of a particular lifestyle ubiquitous to all I would meet, and a key feature of that lifestyle was frequenting pubs. I imagined I would fall into this lifestyle mainly because I love pubs and it seems like the proper Scottish thing to do. When in Scotland, right? I have found that being a student with classes and homework is hardly an excuse to not go out and visits to the local bar or pub are normal for any night of the week, except perhaps Sunday (because the week of class begins on Monday for most).

While I have found that for many this rings true – the Quidditch team, for example, loves to go out to pubs and clubs, regardless of day of the week or time in the semester – I have also found that it remains as untrue for myself here as it did in the States. I am not a late night person, nor do I find a drink and dancing a normal part of my routine. I still love the pub atmosphere and thoroughly enjoy the music, camaraderie, and all-around raucousness, but it has not yet become my go-to if I decide to go out.

The alternative many have turned to is the cafe, the sort of hipster counterpart to the traditional pub. With specialty drinks and sweet and savory complements, many students I know prefer the caffeine hit during the day and late at night to help with studying. Of course, this is not to say those same students aren’t also the ones in the pubs and clubs, but coffee shops are ‘acceptable’ to frequent at just about any time of day – a pub, a little less so. Or at least, so it seems. Like pubs, cafes carry a certain expectation of drinking coffee and buying snacks, neither of which I am big on doing (especially coffee). The cafe business relies on a specifically consumerist mentality that accepts purchased caffeination as necessary. I love the atmosphere of a cafe, just as with pubs (though for different aesthetic reasons), but the consumer mentality does not fit my lifestyle. I am, again, more inclined to cook for myself and find a free public, or perhaps private, space in which to spend my time.

The problem with studying more ‘mainstream’ public culture is that you have to get out into it to really understand it and if, like me, you seem more inclined to stay in or go to a friend’s flat, both the pub and cafe can seem rather alien. I’ve been in more cafes than pubs, but I’ve really not been in very many of either.


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