When you are an outsider living in England*, you quickly learn that if you want to fit in, you have to do some pretending when it comes to issues of geography.
You must pretend London is not the centre of everything
The largest city in Europe, London has around 8.4 million residents. It is the seat of Government for Britain. The financial capital. The media capital. The cultural capital. The favourite destination for tourists, with uncountable museums, restaurants and historical attractions. Basically, everything important that happens in the UK is probably happening in London.
Here’s a list of the five next most populous cities in England, followed by several interesting facts about each of them:
Despite this, media outlets are obsessed with what they call “regional diversity” and “regional accents” which means that television programmes are randomly stacked with people from the provinces with stubby fingers and thick, impenetrable accents.
The BBC recently even moved several of its key departments from London to a suburb of Manchester, just to prove to the country that they weren’t a bunch of London-centric snobs. Now the nation’s most famous broadcaster specialises mostly in programmes about the virtues of cold weather and ship-building.
You have to pretend that English counties aren’t all the same place
Basically England falls into London and NotLondon. When you visit NotLondon, you’ll be amazed at how not different the different parts of NotLondon are from each other. Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Berkshire, Shireshire… British people talk about them as if they were parallel universes where every aspect of life was wildly different. “Dogs have 9 legs in Shropshire, but in Lancashire, they drive the buses!”
And when you go to visit Northhamptonshire or Herefordshire, you discover it’s exactly just like every other county in NotLondonshire. It’s cloudy, there are pubs, Tesco shops and rolling green hills with a few trees in between every town. But don’t say anything! You must play along with the shared delusion that these two locations 15 miles away from each other are terribly terribly diverse. Instead, go ahead and make some noises about how Leicestershire or Oxfordshire are very beautiful, and the people are so different, and so much nicer than in London. They’ll love you for it, and they may even tell you so. But you may not even understand them if they do- because the only things that are truly different from one county to the next are the accents.