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How to be Welsh in Wales
by Neil Ferguson

I am in a strong position to give helpful advice to those who live in Wales but are not 100 percent Welsh. Perhaps you were born in England or have an English parent. In these unfortunate situations lying is the best policy but take care that a visiting relative is not overheard saying ‘Cor blimey mate, it ain’t as wet as this in Romford’. Claiming that your father was a miner from the Rhondda when he is a chartered accountant in Cheltenham is playing a dangerous game.  

Please remember that rugby in Wales is not a game: it’s part of Welsh culture apparently. It does not matter that you are overweight, middle-aged or so thin that the wind could blow you over, you should go to a supermarket on match days wearing a Welsh rugby shirt. Call for an assistant and demand to know the origin of the sprouts. The answer is likely to be Romania or Lithuania or somewhere you have never heard of. This gives you the opportunity to say in a loud voice, ‘Thank you. I just wanted to make sure they weren’t English’. If you can afford it, buy a shirt for every rugby-playing nation in the world except England and wear an appropriate one in the pub whenever the England team is playing. If you are not sure which continent or hemisphere your shirt is from don’t give this a second thought.  

Many Welsh people are fluent in two languages and in the National Botanic Gardens, the plants are labelled with their country of origin in English and Welsh. You will find a plaque with, for example, the word ‘Chile’ and underneath it will say ‘Chile’. The Welsh have gone to the expense of writing everything in two languages even when the words are the same. When confronted by baffled German tourists who want an explanation, you should not get involved. Just say, ‘Why don’t you ask the manager?’ 

It is difficult to learn the Welsh National Anthem. At rugby matches, you can employ delaying tactics until the crowd sings ‘Gwlad, gwlad pleidiol wyf I’m gwlad’ which you can sing with gusto. ‘My hen laid a haddock way under a tree’ is a fair approximation to the first line and will get you underway until you drop your programme so that you can search for it on the floor. Don’t let the television camera catch you singing “La La La” in one of the tricky bits.  

Before I left Swansea, I visited a Welsh friend. ‘Good luck Boyo,’ he said. ‘You’ll be raising the IQ of both nations.’ Do not counter clever anti-English jokes with crude comments about sheep and leisure centres.  It would be letting the side down. 

I asked a colleague if he ever thought of himself as British. His answer was, ‘Over my dead body!’  

It struck me that this might not be the best way to answer when the question is asked by the heavily armed men at a border post or the customs official with the rubber gloves. Telling them that you have supported their rugby team will not dissuade them from frog-marching you behind a screen.