What it’s like to be a Northerner at university.

You’ve done it! You’ve defied the odds and gotten into university despite being a Northerner! Pat yourself on the back and take a moment to enjoy this achievement. Are you done? Good, because if you’re heading to a university that has a student population predominantly from the south then that sense of self worth you currently have will have left you by the end of freshers, where you’ll be crying yourself to sleep over the taunts you’ve received regarding your accent and the fact you’re not rich.

Of course, I’m joking. However, it’s impossible to deny that being a Northerner at a university dominated by Southerners isn’t an experience. I survived it though, and enjoyed it, but there are some things my dear Northerners should be prepared for before arriving at university:

1) Apparently you sound like you’re from ”the ghetto”

Where I sound like I’m from.

Well, I apparently sound like I’m from the ghetto, and this wasn’t just an offhand comment from one person, this was said to me by quite a few people so by the end of it I was thinking ”I get it guys, ok, I get it! I’m Northern ghetto trash! LEAVE ME AND MY ACCENT ALONE!” Me and my Sheffield friends who are also at university tried to figure out why I sounded ”ghetto” and they didn’t and we established it’s because I talk slower than them, which doesn’t help matters because it means I have a dopey voice.

2) Your accent gets mimicked a lot

What you feel like doing when someone mocks your accent.

If you’re fortunate enough not to get called ghetto, don’t think you’ll escape getting your accent mimicked. After the first week or so at university, when people realised I was speaking English and not in Gorilla, the mocking comments came, and they came so thick and fast that I had northern slang beaten out of me by Christmas. The most upsetting thing for me was that it wasn’t just Southerners and Midlanders mocking me, I even had a fellow Northerner laugh at something I said once (I must REALLY sound ghetto). Basically, there’s nothing you can do, except take it! If you’re at a university dominated by southerners, there’s nothing you can do because you’re in the minority. If you’re at a northern dominated university, start a revolution or something.

3) You find out that the ”thick northerner” stereotype is wrong.

What I looked like when someone said Loughborough is in the North.

Since being at university, I’ve discovered that the geography of the country is debatable. For example, I’ve heard Loughborough described as ”a great Northern university” and that threw me. Surely everybody knows that Loughborough is in the midlands!? Apparently not. I’ve also encountered people who say ”Anything above London is North” which is a very bold if inaccurate statement. Basically, I found out that whilst Northerners have a reputation for being a little dim, we have better geographical knowledge of the UK than quite a few of our Southern counterparts who seem a little fuzzy on the boundaries between North and South.

4) You don’t feel ”cold”

My winter wardrobe.

Being from the Yorkshire moors, I’m used to tempestuous weather so when I moved to Loughborough the only thing I noticed was that it rained less. Consequently, my winter wardrobe was my summer clothes with tights, knitwear and a coat, and believe me I heard a lot of ”Aren’t you cold!?” The answer was no because I’m from Yorkshire so this is like the Bahamas for me, also the South particularly London is warmer than the North due to pollution so it’s no wonder the (midland) wilderness that is Leicestershire is a shock to some people.

5) You begin to feel slightly ashamed of the North

Sheffield, glorious Sheffield.

When you spend a lot of time with people from the south, you begin to forge this image of Northerners that’s similar to the people you see on Jeremy Kyle. It’s like you’ve been brainwashed and it got to the point when I thought of Sheffield I conjured up images of someone in a Sheffield United top shouting ”UP THE BLADES”, grim. Saying that, the North is a lovely place, but everything is so London orientated these days that you begin to resent living in the North because there aren’t as many opportunities here. Perhaps it’s more apt to say that rather than being ashamed of the North, I’m more indifferent because there’s a big wide world out there and if you want to see it you have to move out of the North.


107 thoughts on “What it’s like to be a Northerner at university.

  1. I got a lot of “where you from?” when I worked in London for a bit and being from Rotherham they’d never heard of it, then also got a few arguments as to whether its “dinner” “tea” “supper” or “lunch” and when it is and what they mean. Also breadcakes, “baps” “buns” whaaaat? lol

  2. It happens the other way round too – I went to the University of Sheffield and met Geordies who thought that Sheffield was ‘in the South’!

  3. I’m from Manchester and went to drama school in London, back in the day – well, not really THAT long ago… me, a bunch of random Norwegians and super posh Home Counties folk who grew up with ponies. Northerners win the North South divide at any time with 2 words, Stone Roses. Get it onto music and the South will always lose. Ha. Britain remains class obsessed huh? Did the Olympics instate any sense of British pride? I live in Thailand now.

  4. Basically, people are silly snobs everywhere! I live in the U.S., near NYC, and the snobbery is insane and intense if you did not attend an “Ivy League” college for undergrad and grad (because only fools don’t go to grad school.) I once met a man in his 40s who asked me, then also that age, where I had gone to school — just as a silly sorting mechanism. As a Canadian, I also run around here in less clothing than New Yorkers who consider “winter” quite differently than I do.

    Have a great time and laugh them all off.

  5. Great post, some of my best uni mates are “northerners” (as if I need to classify them in that way) and I enjoyed the friendly mocking, especially getting a lot in return being welsh.

    One thing you might not have got but we did was ‘oh you’re from Wales, you must know Dave’…cracked me up every time.

    Congrats on being pressed, was an entertaining read.

  6. It’s amazing how much of a difference in geography there is between regions in the U.K. Though the accent thing is understandable β€” even parts of the same city have different accents.

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  8. I’m a Southerner, and I promise you that in many ways I actually do feel your pain. Perhaps not on the accent side of things, but certainly in terms of class and such. I studied at the University Of Greenwich, and found that most of the people in my classes were very middle class, and I ended up being made to feel like I wasn’t as good as the rest of them, because my background, however hidden by my accent, is very working class indeed.

    I realise my example isn’t actually that similar to your predicament at all, but I hope it makes you feel better that even Southerners actually still in the south can still feel singled out. Well done for such a funny and entertaining read. πŸ™‚

      • I’m from Hertfordshire which some might consider to be the epitome of the home counties and the middles classes, but for me it’s the other way around. I chose to go to school in the next town along, St Albans where the standard of education is a lot better but everyone is hideously rich. I kind of fitted in there with a posh accent that came from some unknown place and the ability to hold my own in intellectual discussion. However, in my actual town (with the highest teen pregnancy rate in Hertfordshire and one of the highest in the country) I feel like a complete outsider. At work I would be mocked profusely for my accent and never really found any common ground to make real friends despite desperate attempts. Generally, people were quite mean because I was different.
        Then on another front, I’m afraid for the opposite next year when I go to university in Exeter where everyone is dreadfully rich and daddy owns lots of polo ponies. When visiting, everyone I met was from private school and while discussing our GCSE results, one girl from Leeds actually remarked ‘do Southern people even get B’s?!’ Like you said, a lot of it comes down to class more than anything.
        Also, as a Southerner, if you’re from Middlesborough or something, I’m sure plenty would argue that Sheffield is Midlands.. though I’m from Hertfordshire so what do I know?

  9. This is so funny! I’m a Midlander and am terrible with accents, so I genuinely don’t harbor any grudges for anyone with an accent because I have no idea what it says about a person (except for the fact that I myself am terrible at geography… and accents, and such). While I was living in Leicester I had several people ask me if I was from Australia, which was wonderfully absurd as I was born and bred in Derby. Must have been the way I dressed as a kangaroo in lectures, or some shiz.

  10. Northerners for the win! haha. I get what you mean, but I guess it’s just like any other stereotype. I live in Preston so Londoners would tend to think that they’re better because they speak more promptly/posher.

  11. Waves of sympathy, being from Essex I’m constantly asked if I’ve got garish LED lights under my 1992 Ford Cortina or ever got paralytic at the ‘Sugar Hut’. Although I have I still find it incredibly presumptuous.

  12. Ha very funny and scarily all true, been there and experienced all of it (Im a Geordie – about as ‘northern’ as you can get and everyone’s Geordie accent attempts are rubbish BTW). I have to say, it doesn’t get any easier post uni, I get so bored by being the only northerner in meetings in London and having various ‘geordie squadie’ boring jokes thrown at me, snore…please, everyone, don’t try to do a Geordie accent, it really doesn’t sound right

  13. I love that there is a similar discussion in every country about mannerisms, idioms and all the funny nicknames for things. Funny post that reminded me of my teen years. Thanks for the memories. You nailed it! Congrats on FP!

  14. Well put! I guess it is difficult to go to school in another region no matter what continent you are from. My sister didn’t have the best experience moving from Illinois to South Carolina to attend university, so I stayed at home all during my college years. I ended up majoring in Spanish only about a mile or so from where I first heard Spanish spoken! There are problems with that approach too of couse. By sophmore year, I was just dying to get out of the state.

  15. This is sort of embarrassing to admit, but I thought you were talking about the United States until you mentioned Loughborough! Oddly enough a lot of the same stereotypes apply in the US as well. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

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  17. Great post! I’ve written my version of events in response to this. A English Southerner, surrounded by Northerners at a Scottish University. Found similar things to you but from the reverse angle. I also studied English, good luck with it all πŸ™‚

  18. It’s strange about the ‘thick northerner” stereotype (which I’ve found to definitely be true), especially as Yorkshire was recently voted the most intelligent sounding accent. Being from Sheffield though you can usually convince a few people that you’re related to an Arctic Monkey…

  19. I’m American and I wasn’t sure what country was being used in this blog post… but the tip off was in the title. Most Americans say “college” when we refer to “uni” (which we also don’t say) so I assumed this wasn’t about the US. We have Northern/Southern stereotypes here too and debates where the north/south actually begins (though I’m talking about the East Coast here, I have no idea about the West Coast).

    But those debates don’t frustrate me as much as the Upstate/Downstate debate in New York State. This is going to sound stupid because it is stupid. New York City is at the very most southeastern point of the entire state. People from NYC who think the world revolves around their city think everything outside of NYC is “upstate/north.” I live only 40 minutes away from Manhattan and I always get hugely offended by this because “upstate” implies countryside, tractors, farmland, and cows… which there is none of where I live. Then you have the idiots on Long Island who claim they are not upstate either and think of as the rest of New York State as “upstate/north.” But the rest of New York State likes to pretend Long Island doesn’t exist anyway.

    And to make matters even more amusing, in the very northern tippy top of New York State (as in the region near the Canadian border), the locals call that area the “North Country.” It’s all in relation to where you live I guess. Good to know these stupid geographic debates exist in other countries!

  20. I’m from the West Coast of Canada – British Columbia – the northern end of Vancouver Island and I want to assure you that going to University down south – Victoria or Vancouver is a similiar experience – you sound and look ghetto and the only topic of research anyone thinks you will be interested in has to do with comparing the rural-urban divide. Loved this blog.

  21. There is also stereotyping within the South. Being from TN, I didn’t think too much about it when I went to school in Alabama. But apparently I was a Yankee too since I was from the geographic North. I guess there’s degrees of being southern.

  22. Hey ! In the US, Northerners are sterotyped as smart-ass, rude, crass and usually in a hurry and the women are thought of as more with “the times” in regard to thought and style. Southerners are “typed” as slow thinkers and slow drivers with howdy doody hospitality and twangy accents and the women are thought of as adorable southern belles.

    These perceptions are just that–perceptions with little regard to facts. I am a well-traveled person, and see much of the same variances in people wherever I go. And so, these people who feel that they must make a joke out of your origins are basically ignorant and don’t know any better.

    This post is incredible. I loved reading it! ~Sonya

  23. Can I just say: Leicestershire is not in the South! Yes, it is south of Yorkshire, but not that far south! There may have been a lot of people from the South at Loughborough, but that’s not the same thing…

  24. I can relate, except I’m from Cornwall and went to Nottingham. A south-westerner (which is different from a Southerner apparently) hanging out with Midlanders and Northerners – hows that for an accent piss-take. They made me say tomatoes and potatoes, bananas, pyjamas and half-past four as a party-trick.

    I loved it though πŸ˜€
    I’m going to follow this blog!

    Have fun at uni I miss it so much! xx

  25. I was originally from London and went to uni in Nottingham many years ago. I remember feeling lucky having come from London as generally I felt I had more (urban) “life experience” than some of my fellow students from smaller towns and cities. I settled in Nottingham afterwards and have lived there longer than I lived in London. I liked the slower pace of life and easy access to the countryside. I remember thinking a lot of Londoners hardly ever leave the city. I now have a young daughter. But I’m thinking of moving back to London so that she can grow up in the rough and tumble of the big city, and nowadays the divide between London and the rest of the country is getting wider. The main reason I could go to London is my parents are still there. I would struggle to find accommodation, buy a house etc. because it’s so expensive.

  26. Though I am American, I feel I can relate. When I left my rural home for my only slightly less rural University, I was first told that there’s no letter ‘r’ in the word ‘wash,’ so there’s no need to pronounce it as such. I had no idea I had a ‘hick’ accent. I haven’t yet seen London (on my bucket list), except Heathrow, but I’m told the airport’s not representative of your country.
    Your post made me laugh – thanks. Congrats on being FP!!

  27. Congrats! After being Freshly Pressed you’ve officially ‘made it’ as a Northerner – those 3 years at Loughboro really paid off although unfortunately only in blog hits, likes & comments rather than tangible currency for yer bank gaffer hehe.

    As a midlander hailing from Hoodtown or Notts if you prefer, i find you can often be disowned by both North & South as you’re not enough of either & therefore the enemy (or at least fraternising therewith) to both. This is not to mention the stigma of ‘Shottingham’ or ‘Snottingham’ generally being full of ugly cavedwelling gangster brethren of Robin Hood who traded in their bow & arrows for mad stacks of knives & ammo perpetuated by mass media.

    Of course the whole thing’s utterly ridiculous, subjective and infantile if rather amusing in moderation though from my experience there is rather a lot of southern snobbery.

    • Ashamed to say that I’m from Derby and Nottingham is refered to as ‘shotingham’ quite often. Although it’s more in a joking manner than particularly serious as most people nip over to the land of Notts for shopping πŸ˜€ Btw, I agree being in the Midlands means you’re stuck in the middle of the North/South argument. I’m also right in the middle of the East/West midlands and Staffs/Derbyshire borders. Needless to say, I suck at geography πŸ˜€ lol

  28. Ha, great post. I’m a Sheffielder living in the USA, and they all prefer the Yorkshire accent to the southern. Apparently we have soulful voices, compared to the fruity ones down south.

  29. I go to a uni in the North west and I’m the one with the accent. I’m from the Midlands (which is considered south) and everyone else seems to have Liverpool or Manchester accents so I’m the odd one, apart from a friend who’s from Essex – needless to say she gets asked to say “shut up” in the TOWIE way a lot πŸ˜€

  30. I’m from Rotherham and you speak the absolute truth! Whenever I said ‘Eyup’ people looked at me like an alien.

  31. I’ve lived all over the country, and as a consequence my accent is such a hotchpotch of randomness that apparently I sound southern in the north, and northern in the south!! I can’t win wherever I am, lol. I love your positive attitude, it’s what I write about myself, keeping a good mindset. I might even have a way you can leave uni with an income too! Congrats on being FP.

  32. This post had me laughing from start to finish as it echoed my own experience of University; as a Lancashire lad I was regularly reminded that it was wrong of me to believe I could dismiss the word ‘the’ (i.e. “I’m going t’ shop”), I simply reminded people that my way is far more efficient and over the years I will surely save time by neglecting it. All of this, and I went to University in Liverpool, it does however get tiring reminding the Southerners that they are in fact ‘up north’.

  33. This is very true, I went to manchester uni and the southerners and northerners were always having a go at each other. Unfortunately they would then team up on me, the rural Irishman. I had a housemate who wrote a poem making fun of my accent, then he performed it at an open mic night. Easily the biggest laugh of the night!

  34. Oh man, I feel your pain! I go to university in Leicester but I’m actually from Shropshire – and it wasn’t until I moved here that I realised how few people actually know where Shropshire is. Average conversation:
    New acquaintence: So, where are you from?
    Me: Shropshire
    NA: *blank look*
    Me: OK, do you know where Birmingham is?
    NA: *looking relieved* Yes.
    Me: OK, drive in a straight line from Leicester to Birmingham, and keep going in a straight line out the other side. If you hit Wales you’ve gone too far.
    Alternatively, one of my friends who goes to university in Scotland, where even less people have heard of Shropshire, tells people we’re from where they make Muller yoghurts – which is true! This post made me chuckle a lot πŸ™‚

  35. Even though I am not British, I consider myself a Northener, and find myself fiercely defending the North. So I get stick for that, and for my accent too! (who knew a French accent was hilarious? I certainly didn’t).
    I really loved your post, nice to see someone from “round ‘ere” get freshly pressed!:-)

  36. Hehe, while it took me a bit of time to understand the post (From an american perspective “What’s he talking about, the northerner? He mean Canadians?”) But when I did, there was still one point I can relate to: People mocking the accent.
    I am half french, half american, and have an accent from neither place (Been told I have an English accent speaking french, and a German accent speaking English by one or three people, but lots of other stuff too.)
    And, it often happens that people imitate my accent (Though I have done that to other people too, so I know why.)

  37. Always good to find a decent read on FP, I think this is only the second one I can say I have enjoyed! I’m from Yorkshire too and went to university at Liverpool. Surprisingly (to me) there were a load of southerners there. Probably because we had medicine, vets, architecture that aren’t at all universities. Anyway, needless to state they all did ghastly take-offs of Yks accents (mine wasn’t that strong – I went to a posh school, even if it was West Riding) so it used to annoy me, which was obviously part of the fun for them. But it stops after university, or at least I don’t remember it continuing and I did work in London for a while.

    The good thing about having a Yks accent is that you can always recognise someone else from Ykshire wherever we are in the world. And we seem to get around a lot. I’m living in Gibraltar and know people from Scarborough (I’ve lived there too), Huddersfield (loads from there) and other places in Yks too. I met someone in Sydney who had worked for the same newspaper company as me (Yks Post).

    Enjoy the rest of your degree πŸ™‚

    • Sorry, forgot to say that all the southerners expected ‘The North’ to look like endless Coronation Streets. (well, this was a while ago before Heartbeat, All Creatures Great and Small etc). They didn’t realise there were nice buildings and pretty countryside…

  38. I also got my degree “up North”, in Lancashire, but it didnΒ΄t do me any harm being a Lancashire lass as I now live in southern Spain! ItΒ΄s all relative. To me now, London is “up North”!

  39. Hey! Great post! I’ve written my version of events in response to this. An English Southerner, surrounded by Northerners, at a Scottish University. Found similar things to you but from the reverse angle. I also studied English, good luck with it all πŸ™‚ If you need any help, I’m here!
    My blog is now on http://www.aliceandheraventures.wordpress.com so you can delete my other comment, thank you xx

  40. Hey! Great post! I’ve written my version of events in response to this. An English Southerner, surrounded by Northerners, at a Scottish University. Found similar things to you but from the reverse angle. I also studied English, good luck with it all If you need any help, I’m here!
    My blog is now on http://www.aliceandheradventures.wordpress.com so you can delete my other comments, thank you xx

  41. Reblogged this on tjladdy's Blog and commented:
    South has better people, more knowledge, kind, and more self-sufficient. Did I mention better looking? Only a joke of course but good post a like it. Some people may find this very helpful. πŸ™‚

  42. Funny! I actually went further North for uni – from Bradford area up to Central Scotland – and these things still go on! The most concerning incident was saying the word “Coke” and being thought to have said “cock”. It’s an unnerving experience.

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