Your Definitive Guide to the North/South Divide
Spoiler alert: Completely void of any references to pies.
The north/south divide is hardly a rare premise for an article for a student publication. This is understandable, as every year, swathes of home counties Jack Wills models close in on Durham and York and a similar number of Geordie scallies descend upon Bristol, London and Southampton in a nationwide torrent of cheap beer, disregard for locals and an impressive range of quasi-homophobic insults.
However, too often these student think pieces end up with the same conclusion: ‘Haha aren’t Northerners funny! They eat pies for breakfast!’ and ‘Haha aren’t southerners soft! They can’t handle sub-zero temperatures without appropriate winter clothing!’
Having lived in the Northeast, London and the Southwest, I feel out of all the Buzzfeed generation I am as good a judge as anyone of the real difference between the North and the South. So here is my guide: it’s far from conclusive, it’s far from objective, but at least the conclusion isn’t ‘the North’s betta cos wor lasses like shaggin’ more than them southern’uns’.
Ironically for a woman who claimed there ‘was no such thing as society’, Margaret Thatcher is still just about the most important figure in ours. Her ‘every one for themselves and their family’ ideology might have had a big impact in the City of London, but County Durham didn’t get the memo.
My school experience taught me that your affiliation to your estate was as important as your loyalty to your parents, and you should trust the man in the local corner shop more than yourself with your house keys, bank details and newborn child.
While, amongst other things, this failure to adopt Ayn Rand as their queen has left the North with very little to shout about economically in the past thirty years, it does mean the bus ride to work or school is more of a social event than a necessity, and someone sitting next to you is less an affront than an invitation to friendship.
As with any wild generalisation, there are always going to be exceptions, and none more so than your likelihood to get stabbed waiting for the night bus home. Never would I be more furtive in my actions than venturing through Elephant & Castle, but in general the south is a pretty safe place to be in regard to personal safety.
I’ve never fully explored Liverpool or Salford, but I’ve heard they are pretty dangerous places to go. Where I have been is a Northeast satellite town, and I can confirm it has a much greater potential for hostility than its Somerset equivalent.
Whereas a South-western youth is caught up in their own little world, still marvelling at the discovery of dubstep, a sixteen-year old Northerner more likely has a head full of happy hardcore, a stomach full of eccies and an eye to ‘stoving your head in’.
Colonialism in its traditional sense may have had its day, but white people across the globe still have their ways of alienating minorities, stealing their things and keeping them in their place.
America has its gun laws, France has its Parisian ghettos and southern Britain, far more cunningly, has white people with dreadlocks. It’s clearly not a conscious thing, as most of the people listening to reggae are hyper-liberal hippies who hate nothing more than capitalism and American imperialism.
Yet having a poster of Bob Marley on the bedroom wall of your parents’ five-bed detached suburban home and claiming you ‘get’ his struggle is at best patronising, at worst colonial. As much as they’d hate to admit it, it makes them look a lot like this guy.
No such problems up north! Anyone listening to ‘goth music’ or sporting a zany haircut was bullied into submission long before they reached adulthood. This obviously brought its own more overt problems, but I personally cringe much less at a conforming Ben Sherman-clad hooligan in Sunderland than the son of a Suffolk middle manager with aspirations to be a bashment producer.
Ultimately, the North and the South have one defining difference: the North is a part of people’s identity, whereas the South is just a place where people live. Interaction with complete strangers is much more common in the north, whether that be an impromptu commuter’s conversation or a bludgeoning.
In the south life is economically easier, safer from crime and fairly peaceful, but without anything like the northern attachment to your home, town or region.
This is where London comes through as the shining light in a divided nation. It offers the greatest example of a mix of the two, incorporating community, affluence and stabbings into just the destinations on the District Line. It’s not perfect, but it’s as good as we’ve got in Britain, so if we could address some of the economic, social and political issues making the north and the south virtually different states, we’d be far richer for it.