‘On the whole, the Welsh are a friendly lot, with cheeky humour and a real passion for their country. They remind me very much of Scots, which is probably why I like them so much…’
However, there are certain things that you should never say to Welsh people. This will help you avoid being spoken about in a language you don’t understand and then being thrown under the front of the next Mansel Davies tanker that passes. Please take heed…
Saying that Welsh is a difficult language
Yes, it is…if you don’t speak it. However, taking a wee bit of time to learn the basics lets you understand that it’s not quite as horrendous think. Yes, it can be a little light on vowels sometimes, but once you master the basics of the double L, the double D, the fact that an F is sometimes pronounced as a V, and that a W can be pronounced as a U, you can soon have a stab at lots of words.
You will almost certainly get them wrong at first, but there’s always a friendly Welshie on hand to advise you. Just try it out and you’ll find it’s easier than it looks.
Referring to Wales as ‘The Valleys’
No, people. Just no. It amazes me to find that people outside Wales know so little about it that they often refer to the whole nation as one area.
When we first moved to Wales, Les was asked by previous colleagues in Scotland how he was enjoying life in ‘The Valleys’. We don’t live in The Valleys. Wales isn’t one big valley that everyone *must* live in. Amazingly, you can reside in Wales and never even *see* a valley. Shocking, I know.
The Valleys, to which everyone refers, are a group of towns in South Wales. They run from eastern Carmarthenshire to western Monmouthshire and take in the edge of the Vale of Glamorgan and coastal plains near Swansea, Cardiff and Newport. They are not, in fact, the whole of Wales.
We live in North Wales, which is about as far from The Valleys as you can realistically be without crossing into England.
Suggesting that Wales is just all sheep and choirs
Ask someone who knows bugger all about Wales and they will mention two things: there are a ton of sheep here and that every single person in the nation is part of a choir.
I live in a very rural part of Wales and can confirm that sheep are *everywhere*. In fact, I even had a friend who is a sheep. His name is Buddy and he lives on the farm next door to me. He used to pop in to my garden and have a little visit. Buddy was so friendly that he used to let me pat his little head. He was the best sheep in all the land.
It’s also not unheard of in Wales to get stuck in a sheep traffic jam. I’ve been late for work on more than occasion due to a genuine sheep related road block. I’m not even kidding. Some sheep are absolutely mental. Also: they have a very poor grasp of the highway code.
Anyway, although there are shit tons of sheep here, there are no more than I’ve seen in Scotland. Or England, for that matter.
In terms of male voice choirs; there are certainly many of them, but not everyone’s in one. It’s not like the law or anything. You don’t name you child at the hospital and then have to sell them to the local choir master. It’s purely a choice. To be fair, if you could sing like the Welsh people I’ve heard singing, you’d have joined up to showcase your talents, too.
Asking a Welsh person why they don’t ‘sound Welsh’
I’ll be the first to admit that, when I moved here, I assumed that everyone would sound like Nessa from Gavin and Stacey, or Alex from The One Show. This was the Welsh accent that I knew from TV and, given it was the only representation I had, I thought everyone had the same accent.
I was very, very wrong. When I first met one of my work colleagues, I decided she was English because…well, she didn’t sound Welsh. She is, in fact, born and raised in Wales, and has never lived anywhere else. When I first visited the town of Bala in north Wales, I was sure everyone I met was from Liverpool because, to my untrained ear, there was a hint of Scouse in the accent.
There are many accents in Wales; not all of them with that Welsh lilt that we so associate with Welsh people. I have grown to learn that, while not everyone sounds the same, that doesn’t make them any less Welsh (or less proud) than anyone else.
Suggesting that Welsh people should ‘just speak English’
Never EVER suggest to a native Welsh speaker that they should communicate in English just to make your life easier. If you don’t speak Welsh; that’s fine, but don’t think it’s acceptable to ask them not to.
Welsh speakers often speak Welsh as a first language. They are raised speaking Welsh at home, they speak Welsh in school and they continue to speak Welsh throughout their lives. It’s what they do and they’re extremely proud of their language.
Not all Welsh people speak Welshm though, and no one expects them, or you, to speak it. Every Welsh speaker I know speaks to me in English and communicates with other Welsh speakers in Welsh. This is not offensive in any way and it seems bizarre to me that anyone would consider it such. But it happens.
No one would ever travel to Spain and get annoyed that people speak Spanish, so don’t travel to Wales and expect people not to speak Welsh.
Questioning the merits of half and half
I can’t emphasis this one enough and am ashamed to admit that I have fallen foul of this rule myself. I beg of you, people; don’t do it.
‘Half and half’ is when you order something from your local takeaway and get it with half a portion of rice and half a portion of chips. I have, on occasion, placed an order for chicken curry and been midly surprised to be asked what I wanted with it. I assumed, wrongly, that curry was served solely with rice.
I’m not sure quite how it developed, apart from a love of chips and rice, obviously, and the determination that they could and *should* be enjoyed in the same meal. Half and half is standard practice in Wales and you’d do well not to question it. Don’t even raise your eyebrows at the suggestion, you monster. Simply take your half and half and go back to where you came from.
Note: if you visit Wales and don’t have a half and half, your passport gets confiscated at the border and you’re not allowed back in. True story.
PS – No Welsh people were harmed in the writing of this post.