Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Wales, a country apart

As I am home for the week, I thought it would be a good opportunity to talk about Wales.

Wales is a country and not a principality of England as a lot of people think. It is part of the Great Britain along with England and Scotland and part of the United Kingdom with Northern Ireland included. Wales has a population of about 3 milliom people (Great Britain has a population of about 60 million).



The Welsh Flag

There are two official languages of Wales - English and Welsh. About 20% of the population speak Welsh. Contrary to belief, the Welsh language doesn't look anything like English. For example, Bora Da means Hello and Dioch means Thank you.
We have our own governement but ultimate control is in the hands of the UK government, power held in London, England.

Our national sport is rugby. We have won the six nations rugby tournement twice in recent years.

The following celebrities (dead or alive) are Welsh:

Catherine Zeta Jones
Ryan Giggs
Anthony Hopkins
Shirley Bassey
Tom Jones
Roald Dahl
Richard Burton
Dylan Thomas

The Welsh are known for their singing. Aside from Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and other bands such as Stereophonics, there is a strong tradition of Male Voice Choirs which frankly puts the hairs on the back of my neck on end when I hear them sing.

Our National Anthem (children singing it) is sung in the Welsh language and translates as 'The Land of my Fathers'. This is another video of our anthem sung by a male voice choir. Ok, I'm getting carried away - here's Katherine Jenkins singing it. The English translation is here. You might notice I'm quite proud of the anthem. Most Welsh people will say that it stirs something inside them. It gives me goosebumps when I hear it.

Our National Day is on March 1st where we celebrate our patron saint, David and induldge in our traditions.

Traditional food from Wales include Lamb (there are about 11 million sheep in Wales - they outnumber humans 4 to 1), Beef, Welsh Rarebit, Bara brith Cake.

Wales is famed for having the longest place name in the world. Its full name is Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch which means The Church of St Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the rapid whirlpool and the church of St Tysilio near a red cave. No joke. Locals usually shorten it to Llanfairpwll or Llanfair PG which is much easier to say. People come from all over the world to have their photo taken next to its signpost.



France and Wales

Having lived in France for three years now, I have a pretty acurate opinion of how the French 'see' the Welsh, or not as the case may be. Firstly, practically no one knows where it is. Then, they genuinely believe it's part of England. They are taught in school that Wales is a county (or region) of England, the French, as many other nationalities, call the UK 'England' so what hope do the Welsh have to be recognised? I've even seen Wales written as 'Whales' in a school text book.

I am introduced to practically everyone as 'anglaise' (English). So much so, that I have started to say it also. Saying that I am 'galloise' just leaves most people with a look of 'what the hell is she talking about' so I prefer to avoid this insult. I can introduce myself as Britannique but then they will usually follow that up with 'where in England do you live?'. Yes, Britain and England are interchangable. Sorry Wales and Scotland. I can't even imagine how Northern Ireland manage.

In a lot of restaurants in France you can order 'Le Welsh' which is our Welsh Rarebit in French form. Imagine my horror when on one menu it was described as 'an English dish that......' I mean, I give up.

I honestly don't think it'll ever change. It's hard enough keeping hold of my idenitity being in France, but when no one recognises your country, what I am supposed to do? Whenever it is brought up, I always point out that Belgium in 'just a region' of France. That usually brings them to their senses....if only for a little while.


Cymru am byth - Wales forever

8 comments:

Frankofile said...

I've just voted on your poll (came here via Jennie en France) so it's only polite to comment. I should perhaps have voted as an 'other' - I teach, but via the Internet and telephone, in the UK while generally sitting in France. I can't recommend it as a way of meeting people...

An earlier post of yours I've just read has me wondering if you've got friends (besides Frenchie)? For me, cultivating friendships here has been crucial.

snoezig said...

Emma

I'am not Welsh but I study at a Welsh uni (but am currently living in France). I too have quit trying to explain to people that I study in Wales and just say that I study in England to avoid confusion. The French are really convinced that Wales is in England and sometimes nothing I say can convince them otherwise. It drives me crazy sometimes.

Jennie said...

I would love to go to Wales someday. Maybe I can visit you there next time you go home? :)

dveillon22 said...

There is this wonderful part of France that sticks it 's great big dragon head out into the Atlantic ocean, spitting fire (it's true have a look at a map !) called Brittany, ever hear of it ? Bretons also have their own language, similar to Welsh, even though everyone speaks French as well. No Breton man, woman or child would ever think of calling Wales anything other than "Pays de Galles"in French or "Bro-Gembre" in Breton.
I am American, I teach English (see poll...) in a Breton medium secondary school in France. I've lived here for twenty years and I have rarely met a people more open and welcoming than the ones living in this part of France ! Hwyl !

Der said...

Haha, I had to crack up at the Welsh thing because I understand how bizarre these conversations can be. As a Scot in France I've had a few awkward moments.

The latest involved an elderly lady who insisted that I was English. After explaining the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland no less than SIX times, and reassuring her again that not one hair on my head was English, and on my passport I am deemed BRITISH, she finally gave up quite annoyed and scathingly announced..."Oh dear my young man, you're going to have problems here!"

Hahaha! But honestly, it's not my fault that there is a lack of geo-political education and I feel empowered to explain it to everyone who asks. After all, I'm sure an Englishman would object to being called an Irishman, or a Scotsman, or a Welshman.

I have also noticed it tends to be older generations who don't understand the difference, whilst young folk seem to be a bit more with it.

Der said...

Haha, I had to crack up at the Welsh thing because I understand how bizarre these conversations can be. As a Scot in France I've had a few awkward moments.

The latest involved an elderly lady who insisted that I was English. After explaining the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland no less than SIX times, and reassuring her again that not one hair on my head was English, and on my passport I am deemed BRITISH, she finally gave up quite annoyed and she scathingly announced..."Oh dear my young man, you're going to have problems here!"

Hahaha! But honestly, it's not my fault that there is a lack of geo-political education and I feel empowered to explain it to everyone who asks. After all, I'm sure an Englishman would object to being called an Irishman, or a Scotsman, or a Welshman.

I have also noticed it tends to be older generations who don't understand the difference, whilst young folk seem to be a bit more with it.

rhys said...

bore da means good morning not hello

Emmy said...

oops, so it does Rhys. Think I've been in Frogland too long and am starting to frenchify even welsh words as Bonjour is a hello as well as good morning.

Thanks for putting me straight. :o)

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