Located at the south-western edge of England is a little county called Cornwall. It’s predominantly rural with one very small city, and surrounded on three sides by the most incredible coastline in the world. That’s where I’m from. However, its people are a peculiar bunch. As a Cornish girl in Southampton, here are some of the things that have come up in conversations with non-Cornish students.
1. “Oh I’ve been to Cornwall before.” If you mean St Ives, Newquay, or any of the other tourist hotspots, then you haven’t been to Cornwall. The places where all the tourists go have been denounced by the rest of the county for being a caricature of Cornish identity wrapped up in hyper-consumerism. The shops that you find on the high streets of St Ives with brands such as Superdry and Jack Wills will not be found on proper Cornish highstreets, except maybe Truro, our one and only ‘city’. Moreover, we really don’t like tourists, referred to by locals as ‘Emmets’. Yes, for somewhere which is so heavily dependent on tourism to survive, the Cornish dislike of literally anyone who isn’t Cornish is actually quite ridiculous. This is a place that voted for Brexit when most investment in the county comes from the EU, so we have history with biting the hand that feeds us. But most of all, our most passionate dislike is for people from Devon. Don’t ask why, it’s just innate.
2. “Cornish Pasties” and Greggs. As someone who actually spent their gap year working in a local bakery selling pasties (yeah I know, that is aggressively Cornish), I have very strong opinions on this. Firstly, the phrase ‘Cornish pasty’, is incredibly annoying. It is JUST a pasty. By dint of being a pasty, made in Cornwall, it is Cornish, thus you don’t need to specify its origin. We also have very strong opinions on what a pasty should be, and anything produced by Ginsters, or pasties containing minced meat in, are frankly abominations. Despite the rest of the country seeming to have a love affair with Greggs, in Cornwall we have proper bakeries. The one shop that Greggs attempted to open in Cornwall was closed within a year. We also don’t have Nandos, Uber, IKEA or any other supposedly big things. For the most part, I don’t feel like I’ve been missing out on much though.
3. “But you don’t have the accent!” Honestly, nobody under the age of 50 in Cornwall really has the accent. That said, it can come out in my pronunciation of some words, and the Cornish have lots of their own unique words like ‘ansome’, ‘dreckly’ and ‘wasson’. We tend to lean on ‘a’ sounds and miss our ‘h’s, but otherwise the accent has been beaten out of us because it sounds ‘uneducated.’ Any depiction of Cornwall in film or TV will depict dumb locals with thick, heavy, indecipherable accents and more educated and refined characters as speaking ‘normally’. It’s actually pretty insulting, as is the ridicule which usually follows whenever my accent slips out a bit. Also, nobody really speaks the Cornish language either, because why would we?
All in all, Cornwall is a wonderful place, but its people are a little weird. We have very strong dislikes and a very strong identity. Even though I will probably never live in Cornwall again, I will always be Cornish, and it will always be home.