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Dear Travelers to Wales, Please Don't Visit Until You've Understood These Things

by Kiki Rees-Stavros Nov 30, 2016

1. Sheep shagger jokes aren’t funny.

Yeah we get it, we have a lot of sheep and let’s face it, a pretty unattractive human population, but seriously, in what other country would it be socially acceptable to crack bestiality jokes at the expense of somebody you just met?

2. In all seriousness though, sheep are everywhere.

And they basically have right of way. You may think they’re playing chicken with your car, but they’re genuinely not going to get out of your way. You think beeping and revving is gonna scare them? Your car is gonna come out of this worse than they are.

3. We’re not all from the valleys.

If I had a pound for every time someone told me ‘you don’t sound like you’re from Wales though’ I could probably buy Wales, or at least the north. We don’t all sound like Nessa off Gavin and Stacey, and I never actually heard someone use the phrase ‘what’s occurin’?’ until it aired. In fact we have such a range of accents that in my hometown I can tell straight away if someone is from a different town which is barely ten miles away.

4. Welsh is not a ‘dialect of English.’

It dates back to the 6th century, when it emerged from a Celtic language called British, which was spoken in what is now the UK before the Anglo-Saxons (ie. the English) even turned up. Our language is called Cymraeg, and the word ‘Welsh’ actually comes from the anglo-saxon term for ‘foreign speech.’

5. Welsh is not a dead language, despite the efforts of the English which included banning its use in schools with a punishment called the Welsh Not.

The Welsh Not was a piece of wood engraved with WN, which children had to hang around their neck if they were caught speaking Welsh (which would have been pretty often considering that in the 19th century their knowledge of English would have been basic at best) The child who was caught wearing the WN at the end of the day would be beaten or whipped by the teacher. Recently there have been movements and measures introduced to protect the Welsh language, including giving it official status, and it is now compulsory in schools in Wales up until the age of 16. Rather than being a dead language it is actually on the rise.

6. We don’t all hate the English, although if you haven’t guessed by now, we kind of have a good reason to.

Just like Ireland and Scotland, many people consider Wales one of England’s first colonies. While most people in England are ignorant to this fact, we learn our history extensively at school, which tends to breed a common sense of injustice. Incidents like the ‘drowning’ of Tryweryn, (where an entire Welsh village was forced to leave their homes and land in order to build a dam to supply Liverpool with water, only to see it abandoned a few years later) are part of our national identity. Having said that, Welsh people tend to hate the English more as an idea/matter of principle than out of personal hostility, and are perfectly welcoming to individuals who respect our culture and language. We don’t even burn holiday homes down any more!

7. People may turn around, go quiet, and stare at you when you walk into the pub.

But most of the time it is genuinely because they’re interested to know who you are, how you came to be there, and who your grandparents were.

8. Araf (slow) is not pronounced as it is spelt, so don’t try to impress me with that one word you learnt.

In Welsh one f is pronounced like v, and the stress is on the first syllable.

9. Wales is so much more than just rain, castles and sheep.

While holidays to Wales in the past have been of the distinctly pensioner variety (think railways and tours of mines) these days Wales is making a name for itself as an adventure paradise. In my home town alone (Blaenau Ffestiniog) we have underground obstacle courses, including via ferrata and ziplining through abandoned slate-mines, six down-hill mountain biking trails with the best bike uplift service in the UK, a six-tier trampoline in a cavern twice the size of St.Pauls cathedral and the largest Zip-lining area in Europe (over 8000m) And that’s just the organised fun! You can also climb, hike, cave and canoe to your heart’s content.

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