Things you shouldn’t say to someone from Guernsey

No, we aren’t all here to evade tax


Fresh sea air, scenic surroundings and having everything a mere ten minutes away: life on Guernsey is a dream.

However there are a few misconceptions my friends and I have had to correct countless times since moving to the mainland.

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Always a beautiful view

If you get a sarcastic response from a Guern, do not take it literally – we have to entertain ourselves when we get asked if we have bread, internet or live in wattle and daub houses for the hundredth time.

To avoid such replies, here are a few things not to say to an islander.

‘I haven’t been to Guernsey, but I’ve been to Jersey!’

Same goes for “I haven’t met anyone from Guernsey, but my friend is from Jersey”.

The competition is real, and far fiercer than any varsity you have experienced. While both are islands in the English Channel, the similarities stop there.

For starters, Jersey has fast food chains, while Guerns get excited every October/November at the concept of getting an entire meal for £10 with the tennerfest deal. We don’t say, “I’ve never been to Leeds, but I’ve been to Norwich” – please don’t do the same to us.

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Photo: Oliver & Co.

‘Your English is so good’

I have never been as mortified as I was when my manager asked me to serve a group of French exchange students while at university because he assumed I was fluent.

If anything, Guernsey French is more alive on the island than French, with all our road signs and Sunday morning radio in Patois. Either way, our first language is English, meaning that both our accent and vocabulary are as good as yours.

‘Bet you’re so rich with all that tax avoidance’

Being the most common joke made, it gets tiresome explaining that we do pay taxes – just not VAT. Despite being a full-time student, I still pay Social Security and we all still fill out tax returns.

The amount of tax we pay is also smaller due to tight budgets, as well as the fact we are a smaller place that doesn’t have to fund services such as the NHS.

Sometimes the jokes extend further to being counted as an “immigrant stealing jobs”. While it’s arguably clever the first time, when it is being said for the third time in an interview it doesn’t go down quite as well. We are British Crown dependents after all.

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‘So, are you going out with your cousin?’

This may be the second most popular joke made at a Channel Islanders expense. Yes, two of my close friends may be distantly related, but the booming economy and picturesque surroundings draw in many families every year from the mainland and that maintains a healthy, diverse gene pool.

‘Do you even have clubs?’

Yes, we have clubs. Whether they are good or not largely depends on whom you know there that night – it’s like a Wednesday sport social at Pryzm, but every night. What’s not to enjoy?

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Photo: Barbados  Beach Club

‘What do you mean there isn’t a Nando’s?’

I never fully understood how important Nando’s was to people on the mainland. After saying countless times that we had no famous fast food corporations or chain restaurants – yes, including Nando’s – the horror I saw on my peers’ faces was like they’d seen a ghost.

As much as I love a cheeky Nando’s,  I love returning home where I can eat out without the temptation to go to KFC or Burger King.

Life without fast food is not as awful as you may think – plus there are always friends flying back from England who can pick you up a McDonalds at the airport.

‘I’d get so bored there, how do you not run out of stuff to do?’

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Possibly the most offensive yet most frequent comment islanders hear. However, we take pride in our ability to entertain ourselves and find enjoyment in the small things.

There’s a strong “café culture”, similar to that in France, where people go out and socialise after work as they’re only minutes away from home. Finish work at 5? You can be changed and having a pint by the beach by half past.

Plus, our misfortune from the lack of shopping malls, lazer quests and every other way to spend time has created games for our English counterparts.

To quote my friend Rebecca, there’s “What to do in Guernsey sevens”: “You count up in a group, and every time you hit a multiple of seven you have to say something to do in Guernsey. For them the only answer is to go to the beach or die of old age’.

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The countless jokes can get tiresome, but I wouldn’t trade living here for a question free life elsewhere. Although having everyone know when you drunkenly fall out a car and your mum has to pick you up at 11:30 isn’t great, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

They say it’s not what you know, but who you know – and in Guernsey it is likely you’ll know everyone through someone.

Only a 45 minute flight away from Gatwick and links across the UK, there’s nothing like the ability to escape the hustle and bustle of life in England – especially to a serene beach with beautiful views and the old community spirit of Britain 60 years ago. It’s a luxury I’ll never take for granted.