For freshers, York may well be your first experience of Yorkshire, or in fact your first experience of the north at all. The majority of University of York students are from the south of England. So, strangely, although you may have moved north you will in fact find yourself in a very southern environment.
The north-south divide is an age-old concern. No one is really sure what it is or where it begins and ends but generally it seems to be the cultural and economic differences between the north and the south of the UK.
As a Northerner myself I have to say this divide seems to be more of an issue to Southerners than it is to us. For example, we all know what a northern stereotype is, a weird man with an unintelligible accent talking about eating tea (instead of dinner) and consuming large amounts of mushy peas and gravy. But when it comes to the southern stereotype I am at a bit of a loss – a businessman looking grumpy?
I’d like to disregard the northern stereotype straight off, but there are a few etiquette tips that might help you along. For one, taxi drivers prefer northerners, but be warned, if you can maintain a particularly convincing accent they may talk to you about mines (take it from experience) and unless you scrub up on your Yorkshire history you might be at a bit of a loss. Also if a local is blunt with you this is not necessarily rudeness but just the brutal honesty to which Northerners are accustomed. Equally if a granny talks to you at the bus stop be polite back, we all like to have a good chin wag
But on a serious note, the north-south divide is actually a load of rubbish. Ok, so we might pronounce “bath” a bit differently and find it easier to cope in the cold but fundamentally there is little difference. And as much as it might be funny to annoy your northern housemates by mocking the local dialect, it is stupid to dwell on the supposed “divide”.
University is a place that brings together the most diverse groups of people. The University of York is home to students from all over the UK, as well as all over the world. This will be one of the only times in your life when you will get to spend extended periods of time with so many diverse cultures all at once, especially living in student accommodation. During my first year I learned how to cook a multitude of new dishes, I read new books, watched unseen films, listened to novel music and tried new sports all because of the different people I’d met at university.
The wide array of student-developed societies represent the variety of interests held by students at York. But diversity can also be appreciated over the kitchen table and in the lecture theatres. Staying open minded is imperative to our development as people, especially when we arrive at university. Dismissing different opinions and people could stop us from appreciating a new train of academic thought or discovering a new hobby.
Of course, we have to be aware of those few students that like to attempt a personality transformation. But student accommodation holds no secrets and “Mr Maverick’s” stories of extravagant escapades eventually fall flat when he gets caught out in his Peter Rabbit PJs. It is only so long you can maintain an illusion and after a year of living in close proximity you really learn to appreciate people for all their fun and faults.
Regardless of whether there is a distinction between the north and the south or whether Mr X’s way of cooking eggs is better than Mr Y’s, all these divides are disregarded at university. So, it is about time we stopped focusing on prejudiced stereotypes and enjoyed learning from the different people around us.