‘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 in front of the next Mansel Davies tanker that passes you by. 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 as you may 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 tons of words.
You will almost certainly get them wrong at first, but there’s always a friendly Welshie on hand to advise you. Just give it a try. I can assure you there’s nothing better than nailing the pronunciation of ‘Machynlleth’ or ‘Pwllheli’. Being able to spell them without pausing is also worthy of joy.
Referring to Wales as ‘The Valleys’
No, no, no, people. It amazes me 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. You can even live in Wales and never *see* a valley. Shocking, I know.
The Valleys, to which everyone refers, is 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 really be without actually leaving the country.
Suggesting that Wales is just all sheep and choirs
Ask someone who knows bugger all about Wales and they’ll mention two things: there are tons of sheep and every single person in the nation is in 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 was a sheep. His name was Buddy and he lived on the farm next door to me. He used to pop into my garden for a little visit to steal my grass. Buddy was so friendly that he used to let me pat his little head. He was the best sheep friend I’ve ever had. He’s dead now, he is. I daren’t ask the farmer why. Moving on…
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 roadblock. I’m not even kidding. Some sheep are absolutely mental. Also: they have a very poor grasp of the highway code. So, although there are shit tons of sheep here, there’s no more than back in Scotland.
In terms of choirs; there are certainly many of them, but not everyone’s in one. It’s not like the law or anything. Welsh people don’t give birth to babies only to have them snatched away in the dead of the night by the local choirmaster. It’s a choice. To be fair, if you could sing like the Welsh people I’ve heard singing, you’d have joined your local singing group, 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 everyone would sound like Nessa from Gavin and Stacey, or Alex from The One Show. This was the Welsh 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 was, in fact, born and raised in Wales and has never lived anywhere else. When I first visited Bala and Wrexham, I was sure everyone I met was from Liverpool. To my untrained ear, there was a more than a hint of Scouse in their speech. Now, I hear things very differently.
There are many accents in Wales; not all of them with that Welsh lilt that we so associate with Welsh people. And 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’re often 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 Welsh 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 Welsh people not to speak Welsh.
Questioning the merits of half and half
I can’t emphasise this one enough and am ashamed to admit that I’ve 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 mildly surprised to be asked what I wanted with it. I assumed, wrongly, that curry was served solely with rice. Not so.
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.
Disclaimer: No Welsh people were harmed in the writing of this post.