I recently came back from an extended trip to England, where my wife and I spent some time in Northern England with Mike Grehan. Mike is incredibly passionate about living in Newcastle, and should be knighted as an evangelist for Northeastern England. Visiting Mike’s pub was probably the most enjoyable experience I had. Not in the least of which was the glorious fish ‘n chips and sticky pudding. It was one of the best meals I had that week.newcastlepub

The people are very proud of their city and their way of life, of which I admit a profound jealousy. I think we let life get to busy for us here in America, and we typically feel out of control. We lose touch with those that live across the street, or on our block, and we long for simpler lives, but can’t find the time to make it happen.

The English pub is nothing as it is imagined in the States. Many of my observations about the pub were remarkably similar to the concept of Social Media. Of course, this could just be the nerd in me, contrasting every “real” experience with online behavior.

1. No TV’s, no juke boxes.
The typical distractions are removed. I loved that there were no barstools. As Mike explained, “in the US, I have to get my drink over some guy’s head.”

Observation: You can hear the conversation without the pounding of music or the distraction of sports on the television. It’s focused on developing a relaxed atmosphere for conversation.

2. Focus on conversation
Areas of chairs and table were scattered about, depending on what type of visit you were making (drinking, drinking+ eating, or sitting). However, I immediately noticed that there were no barstools. We got the large over-stuffed chairs next to the fire. We intended to stay for a while and have some great conversation. Later we moved to a larger table for dinner, but the conversation kept going.

Observation: There is more emphasis on leaving the bar and sitting with people. You can still get drunk if you want, but you’ll be having fun with everyone else while you do it.

3. Sense of Ownership
Mike kept saying, “my pub.” Mike’s son, Joe, explained the three priorities in life: “football, the pub, the wife. In that order.” The pub is a local meeting house and is located near your home. Everyone who lives near it calls it “their pub.” What’s interesting is we also passed by his brother’s pub and his mother’s pub. Everyone knows where THEIR pub is.

Observation: Ownership is vital to a sense of community. Unless you feel a sense of pride in what is being built and a sense of participation in the success, then you don’t have a true investment in the community.

4. Sense of Belonging
You belong because you live nearby. Everyone knows each other, and you can meet your neighbors at the pub. Because it’s the pub from your area, you care about it and want to be a part of the success.

Observation: Similar to the sense of ownership, the sense of belonging. It is a vital part of the community and everyone is welcome. Even is you choose to site near the fire and read the newspaper, you still belong. You are still part of the conversation.

5. Sense of Priority
See #3. Even though football is higher than the pub in priority, very few pubs offered televisions. I was surprised that the local football team was in a very important match that night, but they did not have it on television, there were no televisions available. I know it drove Joe nuts, but his friend kept texting him the score.

Observation: Even the priority of football in Newcastle didn’t supersede the priority of the pub. It didn’t replace the conversation of the community pub, even though it was of vital importance. There was a place to go if you wanted to watch the match, but it wasn’t being watched at the pub.

6. Sense of Community
Conversation with your friends is to be valued. If everyone knows who you are, then you are accountable. You have to be friendly. Mike pointed out the history of the pub as coming from the concept of Public Houses, where homes were opened up to the community for socializing. They grew into the pub, where the concept of community and socializing is lived out today.

Observation: If you want to get something out of the community, you have to contribute. Those that contribute the most are rewarded the most.

7. Old stuff is Cool
Sometimes, you don’t need technology. The best times are with people, and technology only keeps us unsatisfied. Taking time away to invest with people, rather than pursuing “what’s next” is very rewarding and fulfilling to one’s soul. We went to the Durham Cathedral, completed in 1096. It’s old. I haven’t felt a sense of awe like that for a very long time… I think we get so caught up in the “new” that we forget that there is still quality to be found in the “old”.

Observation: I was struck that conversation with people is what lasts. Friends that I made on forums ten years ago are still friends today. The forum helped to develop conversations both on a public and private level. Meeting people afterwards in “real life” simply cemented those friendships. You don’t build relationships like that by gaming Digg.

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