Young people encounter so many things for the first time when at university; whether this be leaving their hometown, parents and friends, or having to fend for themselves financially and practically. Equally, for many students it’s their first opportunity to meet people from all around the country. Areas that students had previously only seen on a map like ‘Kingston Upon Hull’ or ‘Bournemouth’ will soon become well-known as the hometowns of some of their closest friends. They may even end up visiting these places, God forbid!
Before students even get to know each other, however, the accent debacle will inevitably take place.
“Say that again! How funny, you sound so northern!” is a comment commonly thrown around during Fresher’s week. Pre-drinks soon turns into a quiz, “What do you call dinner up North?”
Alice, a student from Yorkshire studying in Exeter said she hadn’t noticed just how much her accent had altered down South, until she went home and her family were taken aback. She’s slowly trying to get back to her old Northern roots out of fear that her family will reject her!
While students are very good at distinguishing people’s accents, they are less certain on whereabouts the ‘North’ and the ‘South’ actually lie on a map. Don’t even mention the Midlands in all of this debate, it will only cause more confusion and simply be classified as Birmingham.
It appears, however, that only certain areas are caught up in this North vs. South war. For instance, Colchester and York feel no rivalry, but between Mancunians and Londoners there are clear tensions. This ‘war,’ therefore, could be just as much a countryside vs. city division as a North and South rivalry.
Let’s see what three students from across the country have to say on the matter.
NORTH: James, studies at Warwick University, from Rotherham
“In my experience of Warwick, there are so many more southerners than northerners. So much so that there is even a ‘Northern Society’ as if it was some obscure minority group because people feel the need to stick together! Those down South seem to have stereotyped the North like some sort of grim concrete jungle where everyone loves pie and gravy. They also presume that we are going to start chatting to people on the bus and be able to cope in sub-zero climates. They also appear to have no concept that the Midlands exists because everything north of the M25 is simply the ‘North.’ I’ve been introduced to some new slang like ‘piff’ ‘peng’ ‘jarring’ and ‘peak’ which my Northern friends find hilarious.”
MIDLANDS: Katie, studies at Manchester University, from Stoke-on-Trent
“To be honest, I think the ‘war’ is all a bit of a banter. It’s a bit like football teams, and defending where you come from is about pride rather than about a rivalrywith other areas. As someone from the Midlands it can sometimes be really irritating because both northerners and southerners insist that you are either ‘Northern’ or ‘Southern,’ but then neither will accept you into their group! I would say the stereotypes are generally true, I’m a real defender that people from the North are usually chattier and more likeable.”
SOUTH: Dan, studies at Leeds University, from London
“On a serious note, the North and South divide is extremely prominent in Britain and it will only get bigger after Brexit, from an economic view. At uni, however, it is all fun and games! It is about people’s sense of humour and food. For instance, Londoners are amazed at cheesy chips, the word ‘bap’ or that someone would say thanks on a bus. Simple things did confuse me at first. Like when I got to Leeds, I was confused to find that there was more than one bus company because in London all the busses are owned by TFL. As a Londoner, I would say that the divide is more London vs. North than South vs. North because Londoners don’t really have much common ground with places like Suffolk or Devon.”
So there you have it, a short low-down on the ‘North v South’ war. It seems like ‘war’ is too harsh a term, maybe it is all a bit of harmless banter. A lot of people argue that it is only because of articles like this one that the divide is reinforced, so I think I’ll stop just here.