Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Englishwoman in North Wales

I've been here nearly 3 weeks now and everything is still peachy. Perhaps I'm still in holiday mode and my brain hasn't quite clicked that I will have to suffer the good and the bad that North Wales chucks at me. So far, I've been able to handle it.

One thing that I am starting to understand is the rather tenuous relationship between those resident in North Wales and the tourists.

When I lived in Twickenham there were a few tourists, mainly because of the excellent pubs and the historical nature of nearby towns Kingston and Richmond. They tended to blend in though, dressed for the towns rather than the beach and tended to speak very good English (and sometimes better than the locals). There was no tourism to speak of in the part of Sunbury I lived in, as all it has going for it is the motorway that took me out of there. You did get a lot of European students who would take the same bus to college as the one that took me to work, and, to misquote Adrian Mole, if you closed your eyes you could imagine you were abroad with the way they went on.

It is of course, very very different in a coastal town. Tourists bring in Euros and Dollars and is, so we're told, very good for the economy and Wales needs all the money it can get (along with most of the rest of the UK). But after waiting an hour in our favourite cafe to get fed, along with a few of the aging locals, you can understand why a lot of locals, before the 3rd week in June, are actually praying for October so that they can have a teacake and coffee in peace.

I've heard many stories of English persons visiting Wales, where most of the population can speak perfect English, and walking into a pub have found that the locals abruptly change from speaking in English to Welsh. I have had no such problem and have (for the most part) found the Welsh the friendliest people in the UK. I am undergoing a transition from percieved 'visitor' (shopkeepers a bit abrupt, thinking, 'another tourist to litter the hills and valleys); incomer (shopkeepers a lot more friendly and start smiling - some even ask after your health, cos they realise after 3 weeks you're no longer a tourist, you're working for the good of Wales); perceived permanent resident - this one will take longer and it doesn't help that I sound like Sarah Ferguson. I could either adopt a scouse or Welsh accent but nothing will take away the fact that I was born at the heart of BBC english.

I don't want a dialect, but I'm stuck with one. So I will do the best that I can for where I live, try not to piss anyone off (too much) and respect local knowledge. In other words, act like a resident and not a tourist.

In the mean time, what and ho for jolly ol' blighty.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Friendly advice - learn as much Welsh as you can. :)