Are you a Northerner or Southerner? | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Are you a Northerner or Southerner?

Food Editor Caitlin Dickinson examines the North-South divide, and how Northern stereotypes have affected her time at a Southern-dominated university

Are you a Northerner or Southerner? Depending on where you believe the North-South divide to be would place you in one of the categories. Most claim the divide is around the Midlands, for obvious reasons dividing the UK in half, but many have now begun to claim that the North-South divide is just above Watford. The divide is perceived to be so low in the country that it makes around 70% of the UK the North. I am no geographical expert, but in my opinion, this is just fundamentally flawed. Basic directions always put a 50/50 split on North and South on a compass, which is why I believe the North to start around the West Midlands.

From hearing the stories of those older than me who have been to university, and experienced what the whole ‘uni life’ was like, I never really picked up on the fact that each person would claim they were ridiculed for their accent. From pronouncing the phoneme ‘a’ differently to reducing the preposition ‘the’ to just a ‘t’ mumble, us Northerner’s have it hard with speaking how we were brought up to speak. With the gift of hindsight, I am now able to make a correlation between the fact that the more south you go as a Northerner, the more likely you are to be mocked for these language traits.

The lack of awareness of the North that I see from Southern students every day is not helped by the apparent insufficient amount of literature on our lives.

It may seem ridiculous that this could be an issue to us ‘Northerners’, as surely Southerners could claim they feel just as alienated by their accent when they travel more north? But I just cannot believe that is the case. In the North, Southern accents get regarded as more ‘posh’, or perceive the individual speaking to be a tourist, or residing student.

I come from the Ribble Valley in East Lancashire, which if you do not know is just one county away from Scotland, so as Northern as you can possibly get. What surprises people, is that I study English, which for many is ironic as I ‘do not speak correctly’ to study a subject which is comprehensive in what undoubtedly premises itself on using correctly language and grammar. Through studying English, I have also received a shock about the lack of ‘Northern’-based texts and critiques actually available for academic study. I have actually only this year been introduced to a text that is set in Manchester, and about the deprivation and poverty the North has unfortunately been subjected to throughout the years. The lack of awareness of the North that I see from Southern students every day is not helped by the apparent insufficient amount of literature on our lives.

It seems that from the day I moved into halls, and to the current moment, the way I speak and the habits that I have (such as enjoying chips with gravy) have singled me out as being someone who is radically different from her Southern counterparts, despite studying at the same university. What amuses me most about being a Northerner, in a predominantly Southern student dominated university, is that I get asked ‘Is the North as scary as what I have heard?’, ‘Is it really dirty up North?’, and ‘I thought all Northerner’s were stupid, how did you get into uni?’. These questions shocked me when they were first asked, and still to this day I wonder where the stereotypes have come from. You may argue from Benefits Street, or character’s from Benidorm are where they originate from, but if this is the case then why do caricatures of Southerner’s not exist to this extreme form?

I do admit that a smaller proportion of Northerners go to university, but in my opinion, this is due to lack of social mobility and opportunity given to Northern teenagers. In actual fact more international students get admitted to Russel Group Universities that students from the North of England do. If this does not highlight the lack of opportunity then I do not know what does.

The way I speak and the habits that I have (such as enjoying chips with gravy) have singled me out as being someone who is radically different from her Southern counterparts

There is a ‘cultural barrier’ that a lot of Northern students wanting to study in the south will have to apprehend before they locate there. To be able to ‘fit in’ is a big thing for students at university, especially when you can be so far away from friends and family at home. This is not made easier when the first time you open your mouth at university you are met with an imitation game of who can do the best Northern accent. I remember that most people I met quoted Peter Kay lines at me, or Andy Tate football commentary lines. Trust me, I have heard it a thousand times. What is worse is that I was occasionally met individuals that just completely missed the point with me being from Lancashire and started asking if I was Scottish or a Scouser. Believe it or not, Northern people do not homogenise into one Scouse accent! I frequently got told I sound so broad with my accent, but I believe mine to be quite mild in comparison to the mock accents I have been faced with whilst at university.

To prove that what I am proclaiming is not just a personal qualm of mine, it is proven that 49% of those who live in the north of the country are more likely to die between the ages of 35- 44 if they reside in the North. It has been a common fact that the North of England citizens have a poorer quality of life; schools get funded less, 15 out of 20 of the worst areas of social care are in the North and life expectancy is at 77.9 compared to Londoners at 80.5. The North of England has been 59 billion pounds worse off on public transport compared to London in the last 10 years. There is no doubt therefore that Oxbridge only accepted 800 Northern undergraduates compared to the South-East and London accepting 2,700 undergraduates.

 

Despite promises to build up a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ by Theresa May and her Conservative government and invest up to £556 million into Northern industry, this has not yet been seen or felt by the North of England. Experts predict that to bridge the gap between the North and South there is an estimated £700 million needed for social mobility. Unfortunately, the fact still remains that Southern privilege continues despite failed ‘efforts’ by the government to create social equality for all within England.

Although the North for many may seem like a decaying, dangerous and dark place, it is still my home. It still baffles me that the South charges over a quid for a pint, and they do not like chips and gravy, Lancashire hotpot or pie sandwiches. But the solid facts still remain for me, I come from God’s own country and love a good cuppa with my tea (not dinner). Who wouldn’t want that for their home?

 

 

English Literature BA Undergraduate and Redbrick Food&Drink Editor. (@caitlinabby)



Published

18th February 2018 at 9:00 am



Images from

Ribble Valley View

and

Brilliant Maps



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