Ask anyone from my college where I am from and they will immediately say ‘Doncaster’ or ‘the North’. This is partially down to my exceptionally strong accent, but also because I will not stop talking about my Northern roots. I have even tried, although admittedly half-heartedly, to start a Balliol ‘Northerners’ society’, although this does largely consist of me nostalgically posting pictures of Greggs in a Facebook group chat.
I have gradually discovered more differences between the North and South since coming to Oxford. At first my only real concern was the price of alcohol, after hearing repeated warnings from by Dad that I’ll ‘pay six quid for a pint down there’. This was certainly proven right in some places (*cough* the Bully). Fortunately, the cheap prices at Baliol bar were somewhat reminiscent of the £1 pints I could buy from my local on a Friday.
The price wasn’t the only difference I found when it came to booze down South. The drinking culture was also very different. I remember my close friend from London saying how she had been surprised at how much people drink in Oxford, and how she didn’t expect people to go out so often. Truth be told, in comparison to home it seemed a bit tame. Yes, when you consider the Oxford workload, students here as a whole do go out fairly frequently. The different lies in how much they drink. At home its quite common to see ambulances and police cars lining the streets on a Friday night, not to mention the numerous fights that erupt on the dancefloor. Going out in Oxford may not be ideal, though at least I can let my hair down without fear of having a drink thrown over it
People in Oxford are of course friendly. They are not ‘start up a conversation in the queue for the self-service checkout’ friendly however. This would be completely normal in the North, where I would probably find it strange if someone didn’t even say ‘hello’. As it would be to use affectionate and endearing names like ‘love’, ‘darling’ and ‘sweet’. If I was called any of these walking down Turl Street I would find it very strange. Obviously, I do have a narrow perception of the South, having only spent time in London or Oxford. From what I have heard from friends in small towns and villages in the South they are just as friendly as home. There is something about the welcoming attitudes of the bigger Northern cities like the exotic Manchester I miss though.
In contrast, the diversity and acceptance that I see in London and Oxford are truly refreshing. I recall being sat in a politics lecture where we were shown a graph of Brexit votes and the number of foreign-born people in certain cities and towns. Doncaster was right at the top- a town with the smallest number of foreign-born people and with nearly the highest rate of Leave voters. This is not surprising, there is a lack of diversity in Doncaster. I find it hard to accept the intolerance I see there, though also in the North more widely, especially when going home after spending months in Oxford. Of course I know nowhere is perfect, but I do feel that in this sense, Oxford is friendlier and more open and welcoming to people from different walks of life.
Missing home is inevitable, but I have come to embrace the South. I have learnt to love the best of both world. Cheesy chip wraps are now (unofficially) on the Hassan’s menu, my friends now know what ‘mardy’ means and I’ve acclimatised to the slightly warmer temperatures (who knows, I may een get a tan). Though arguably most importantly, I have given in to my love of Pret.