Erasmus Diaries part 3: Nightclub wars: Ireland V Spain

In every student city, in any culture, the nightlife can be an essential part of the complete college experience.  I was intrigued to see what similar correlations the Spanish nightlife had in comparison to the Irish nightclub scene. Breaking down a typical night out was pretty simple. It generally has four key principles: style, consumption, behaviour and stamina. So, how do the Spanish nights out compare?


Coming from a predominantly feminine perspective, it’s often thought that a look could make or break a good night out. Generalising here, from years of observation, being fiercely glam goes hand in hand with an Irish night out. Heels at the ready, dress fitted, contour blended, hair straightened; ready to paint the town tanned. Although not always a participant in this fashion show it has become what I’m used to.

The look begets normality and being completely honest denotes some form of respect. In the below freezing temperatures of Galway at 3 am, shuffling back and forth just to keep the blood flowing, these women are truly patriotic to the style tradition. With heels thrown across ones shoulders like a white, surrendering flag and the loud cries of someone who just lost their best friend or dropped some chips, combines everything that an Irish night out is; messy.

Spain is a whole different story. Arriving in Oviedo I attended an Erasmus “Tapas Tuesday” event that followed with going to a nightclub. As I analysed the general look of the crowd I was wrong. Everyone was so, completely, unapologetically, chill. Befriending a group of women I was openly surprised by their looks. The majority had no makeup or possibly only a small lick of mascara. The clothing worn was comfortable, mostly jeans, runners and a plain tank top. Everything a lot of dressed up Irish people wouldn’t dream of going to a nightclub in. Can you imagine?

Having said this, It was a fresh sight. Including the men, everyone wore what they wanted and cared more about having fun and dancing than how perfect and precise their hair looked. At one point I’m pretty sure I saw a woman with a green Snuggie on and nobody cared. Its atmosphere was unfamiliar yet comforting.


Ah consumption, something us Irish people are famous for overindulging in, a real shame. In Ireland, most, if not everything on a night out revolves around drinking. We have pre-pre drinks, pre-drinks, drinks in the pub, drinks in the nightclub, possibly even more drinks if returning to a friends house. It’s true madness.

Spain’s drinking habits are a lot more mellow. Although you can buy a “cerveza” (beer) in about every shop and restaurant, it is rare to see people as intoxicated as the Irish. We sadly do live up to our reputation. From observation, the Spanish drink. They drink at any hour, any time of the day. But the quantity of consumption couldn’t be more different. When they say one or two, they mean one or two.

Something haunting about a night out in Ireland is the idea that you need to be drunk to have a good time; a notion that doesn’t exist in Spain. Even attending a festival in Oviedo,  there were no slurred words, no puking in the alleyway beside the chipper, no harassment from drunken strangers; it was comfortable, relaxed and real.


As we again live up to expectations, our behaviour around drinking is anything but glamorous. Although many find joy in the bewildered, intoxicated people that wander the streets late at night most likely attempting to steal a traffic cone and bring it back to their house in Gort na Coiribe, often it can just be downright embarrassing.

Enjoying yourself and having a good time is important but when this behaviour turns to harassment, property damage or violence; it’s really just not that funny anymore.

In Spain, because people are soberer, you can still feel the aura of self-consciousness. People were polite when sharing conversations in the smoking area and calmly reasonable with bouncers, it felt so real. This was what these people were like, alcohol or no alcohol.


Something about nightlife in Spain that I’ve yet to completely grasp is the timing. In Ireland most nights out start around nine o clock, the clubs close around half two and people stagger home sometime after that. Spain, the night barely even begins at 1 am. The clubs stay open until 5:30 am and past that people chill out in parks and watch the sunrise. Their willingness and ability to stay up till, as my mother would say, “all hours” is impressive, but for someone who’s used to being in bed by 3 am, something to get used to.