As foreigners in Wroclaw, we can sometimes be guilty of trying to find our own and commiserate about being expats. The location to meet is usually near the market square in one of the higher end pubs, where we hope to blend in or stand out (depending on your intentions). While there's no harm in doing that from time to time, I'd try not to make a habit of it. Instead, try frequenting the pubs near your home – the locals might just surprise you.
All too often, we fail to stop and consider if we are making a connection with the local residents. How much of an effort are we making to ensure we are understood and more importantly welcomed? I know it can prove too difficult to make that connection in the market square, since there are sometimes simply too many people and way too many tourists.
Perhaps we should therefore consider those so called 'dive bars' in local neighbourhoods, and see what they offer that the city centre haunts do not. With that in mind, I paid a visit to Anomalia pub, a small place off the Astra tram stop on Legnicka street. This is a simple local bar that serves pub grub, broadcasts live sport and has a billiard table. Besides having a beer, nibbling on some toast and playing a game of pool, there's not too much else to do. Still, it is not the pub itself that is of the upmost importance – it is the people who frequent it that should be considered.
What about the punters in pub Anomalia then? Well, allow me to explain via a short anecdote: As I checked my email on my phone, a young man with cerebral palsy walked in. He seemed to be a regular patron based on the familiarity with the barman. He orders his beer and the bartender greets him with small talk, as you would expect in a local pub. Witout delay and in mid-sentence, the barkeep then pours his beer from tap, a Warka, and provides a straw. He slurs his speech as he makes conversation. They seem to be discussing the upcoming match – and then it hit me, every so often you have faith in human beings restored from a random act of kindness … and this was it for me. As he slurred his words he began to drool a little. Without interrupting his conversation, the barman wiped his drool and placed the napkin in front of him in a manner so natural you could tell he had done it many times before.
With that simple gesture, I came to realize that there are local pubs out there which deserve recognition for acts of kindness. Of course, that's exactly the way it should be – without question. In reality however, it isn't always the case and from that day forward, i became a regular patron.
Later, I had the privilege of meeting the married couple who run the bar. I spoke in the best Polish I could possibly muster and they greeted me affably. They even gave me the remote control to select whatever TV program I could watch. This is how they get a lot of local patrons, providing a big screen TV for all sporting events to create a meeting place for people who live in the district. As I zapped away, the locals soon began to roll in. It did not take long for them, one by one, to recognize that I was 'not one of them', but then they simply walked up to me and introduced themselves. There was no drama nor any formalities, just a handshake and a welcome. I felt at home even if it was not my home. Indeed, I felt welcomed. I was even invited to go fishing with the owner and his friend… if you fish, then you realize, I have been welcomed into the club. A genuine feeling of being welcomed with open arms and that they want get to know you. How often has that happened to us in a pub in the market square?
Sometimes, that is all we want to feel of course, welcomed. A place where everyone knows your name. They know my name. And I know theirs. A local Pub where everybody knows your name. How I miss the TV show Cheers. Cue the opening theme song …