Thursday, 10 June 2010

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me

I wasn't going to write this post. Or not yet, anyway, but with the bloody World Cup coming up, I can't avoid it any longer.

Why don't the Scots like the English?  Why does Clinically fed up write this, and Dear Scotland write this?  Why is it acceptable to write off an entire nation, just because they're, well, English.

This isn't about football, or not really.  I appreciate that anyone has a right to support whomever they like, and actually I don't give a monkeys about the football.  In fact, there's a part of me that agrees with pretty much everything Mrs W and Billy Williamson say so well.  To be honest I don't really want England to win either. Can you imagine how unbearable it'd be to have to live with the knowledge of Sir Ashley Cole and Sir Wayne Rooney for the next thirty years?.

Now, I clearly have no way of knowing what Mrs W and Billy Williamson think about the English, other than the eleven members of the football team. For all I know, they are absolute Anglophiles in all aspects of their lives other than their sporting allegiance and their loathing (which I share) of the tabloid press.  But my biggest worry when we made the choice to move North of the Border was that I might find that I was disliked, and in some cases hated, because of the geographical accident of my birth, and it concerns me that this attitude may in some cases be the acceptable face of an anti-English feeling that goes deeper than just football.

Because you don't choose who to support.  You feel it.  And a significant number of Scots feel that they can't and won't support England.  Anyone but England. 

But why? And does that say something about how they feel about England and the English in general? 

Because people don't do this with other countries do they?  If I said I hated all the Germans, I'd be told to get over myself and reminded that the war ended nearly seventy years ago. If I said I hated all the Ethiopians I'd be told I was racist.  But not the Scots and the English.

It seems particularly silly when you think how few of us are probably actually fully Scottish, or English or Welsh, or whatever. One of the great things about this collection of islands is, surely, how we're all just a bunch of mongrels, a mish-mash of different nationalities, races and tribes.  Take me:  My four grandparents were a mixture of German, French, Scottish and English. Oh, and two of them were Jewish, if you want to muddy the waters further.

So what does that make me?  Well, British.  But if pressed, I say I'm English, despite the fact that I'm no more English than I am German, by blood anyway. But my parents were born in England, I was born in England and I've lived in England for most of my life.  So I'm English.  For want, surely, only of any other obvious definition.  What about those Scots who hate the English?  How many of them can honestly say they haven't got a secret English Granny hiding skeletally in their closet? 

And what about living somewhere? I lived in Russia for a while.  I haven't been back since and I only have one Russian friend with whom I'm still in touch. But I feel a fondness for the country and the people, so if Russia were playing, say, Japan.  I'd support Russia.  In the same match, B, who briefly studied Japanese and had a good holiday there about seven years ago, would probably support Japan.  So why then, don't Scottish people living in England, or who have lived in England, support England?

Every now and then I get told "my best friend/granny/sister-in-law's auntie is English, and I like her, so it's not all the English, I just hate the rest of them"  and it's true to say I have not once since we moved here felt anything but welcome, and in all the years I've been with B, I've only once had someone throw my Englishness in my face.  But then all the more reason that that argument won't wash. If you hold one person up as an exemplar of things that are good about the English and you're capable of being pleasant to the English people you meet, then surely that should lead you to give the rest of the country the benefit of the doubt too. After all, if all the English people you know are nice, then surely we must all be nice?  I've only ever known one Norwegian. He was lovely.  I sort of expect all other Norwegians to be the same.  Tall, not-as blonde as you might think, speaking perfect English, and nice.  It's nonsense.  I know it's nonsense, but that's how the human mind works.  Except for the English.

To the untrained eye this could look like chippiness by the Scots, or jealousy.  Or a small and oppressed country sticking one up to its cruel neighbour.  But while that might have been necessary five hundred years ago, it just isn't now.   Scotland's not oppressed and it doesn't need to be jealous.  I'm not talking about funding, because yes, it is true that England funds Scotland, but only to the extent that Greater London funds the whole of the rest of the UK.  You might as well whinge because Kensington and Chelsea funds Devon.  It does, but no-one complains about it.  This isn't about money. This is about power and influence.  And the Scots have those in spades.  Scottish people are very proud of the fact that the Scots invented everything from the telephone to tarmac, but it's more than that. It's more than historical. The Scots are great now.  Scots make up less than 10% of the population of the UK, but they are everywhere in power: in government, in industry, in the arts. The Scots are amazing.  They don't need to be chippy. 

The thing is that neither of us is a great country any more.  Today, we're two little countries in a backwater of western Europe, struggling to make our voices heard on a large stage.  Isn't it time for a little bit of unity, three centuries after the Act that made us one? Aren't we better, more powerful, more influential, more civilised, artistic and fun when we're together?  And isn't supporting each other in our endeavours, and yes, that includes football, a good place to start?


15th June.  I have edited this post to make it clear that I am in no way suggesting that either of the authors of the posts I mention holds any of these attitudes. I'm sure they're both perfectly lovely. They just made me think...


  1. Well said, but it's not just the Scots that hate us. Everyone hates us. Look at the Eurovision Song Contest. We don't get many votes even when (rarely) we put in a decent song.
    I was in Martin Place in Sydney, watching the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympics on a massive screen. As each country came out with their flag they were cheered. We were booed.
    If Scotland were in the World Cup instead of England, I'd support them.
    Not sure where this is going... probably into a post of its own!

  2. I can't start on this. All I want to say is almost all the Bosnian Muslims I know are going to be supporting Serbia in the World Cup. 15 years ago they were at war and inflicting really hideous things on each other. But they know they have more in common with each other than they do with France or Ivory Coast or anyone else. So the Scots can stick that in their pipe and smoke it. And incidentally, they make such a big deal of the anyone but England thing that the English don't even particularly care who the Scots support.

    Funnily enough I just wrote a post touching on this theme too.

  3. Jealousy! We're there, they are not. Simple.

  4. It is quite sad that we two countries, so close and with so much in common, can't get along. It's strange really, if it were Scotland playing and not England I would support them and feel proud that they had done so well.

  5. Ooh you're a brave woman raising this! My husband is Scottish, so I've come across it too, but don't take it all that seriously. To be honest I don't think too many intelligent Scots do either, sometimes I think it's a bit of a game they enjoy playing. Yes, there is some resentment, for sound historical reasons, but the bashing does go both ways sometimes, you only have to read the papers to see that. As a northener, I rationalise it as a more extreme version of the north/south divide. I personally feel resentful of the very southern bias which is always apparent in the media who seem to believe that civilisation stops outside of the south-east (don't get me started on that one). But that's not to say that I hate everyone in the south-east!

  6. Fifa should insist that we played as the UK. I mean, Belgium doesn't compete as Wallonia and ... can't remember what the other half is called. Canada doesn't compete as French-speaking and English-speaking. Germany doesn't compete as the former East and the former West.

    There. Solved.

    At the World Cup in 2006, my 9 year old son (English) was in a Scottish school. He had to deal with all his friends saying they supported whoever was playing against England that day. I mentioned it to his teacher, who denied that it happened, though did say "of course I can't promise I hear everything that is said in the playground". I was rather proud of my son, who just thought everyone was being pathetic, and cheered for England in spite of them all, and said "at least we qualified" if pushed. But I thought it was telling that the teacher didn't want to get involved.

    I think the "I know one English person and she's nice so it's not all of them" argument is offensive, personally. I mean, how would it sound if I said "I know a Muslim, and she's nice, so they can't all be bad..." Pretty racist, huh?

    I've got to go and self-flagellate now, for browsing the blogosphere when I'm meant to be on a break.

  7. I've just popped in quickly and realised that this is a post which could turn out to be quite fiery from some folk about the Scots -v- English.

    Having just come back from Edinburgh where my son married a Scot, I think I will remain silent. All the tribalism which sport seems to engender can be so destructive, instead of it being a force for unity and celebration.

  8. As a non-Brit, I look at the whole thing with interest. I'm married to a Scot who will fiercely support England. We both did last time, but I'm not bothered about the world cup right now so not sure.

    I'm also German and as a German living in the UK, I have come across many instances of strong anti-German feeling from mainly England (it doesn't happen in Scotland). Don't get me wrong, most of my friends in Scotland are English and would never partake in the silly stuff that the media regurgitates, they are critical of it as well. But it's there in the media. And 1966 is always always brought up, and war terminology is always used and I so hope we won't have a Germany-England match because I can't bear it anymore. It's as if 1966 is proof that England is superior to Germany. Is this need felt because of economic competition? Or does it go back to the war and unresolved attitudes? I don't know the answer, all I know is that the Germans love the English and it hurts to get that sort of media coverage.

    Interestingly you also chose the example of England - Germany; while you say it would be unacceptable, it's still the first pairing on your mind. Now I'm glad you think it's unacceptable, but it's happening a lot and will again during the world cup.

    Bottom line is, I'd much rather follow the world cup with media coverage other than the UK's. So until I don't get anti-German media stunts any more, I won't criticise the Scots for being anti-English. I'm glad though that there is this discussion and that you've raised it, because it is a very interesting phenomenon and I think some of the comments have touched on the possible reasons for it.

    (sorry this was so long...)

  9. I'm English and went to Uni in Glasgow for four years. When we arrived, we were given colour-coded maps for areas that we shouldn't go to as English students, and I had friends who ironically WERE Scots but had public school English accents, who were regularly chased and attacked on nights out.

    My family is Scottish and I love Scotland, having spent huge parts of my childhood there. I didn't really come across such hostility in Edinburgh or the borders, both areas where I've spent a lot of time.

    But in Glasgow it really was a different story - there is huge hostility in deprived parts of Scotland, and a feeling that the English have spent Centuries sucking the wealth from Scottish resources and using it to prop up English cities. Even in 2001, I would regularly have to listen to lectures about Bannockburn.

    I personally think it's no more acceptable than the Catholic/Protestant hatred in the city, and just as horrible as an English person in London making remarks about any ethnic minority.

    I don't like Scots making lazy "I hate the English" rants - it's racism. End of.

  10. Reference my post "my names henrietta and I'm prejudiced" every one of us judges on something superficial though we try to pretend we don't. Great post.

  11. @iota - the fact that England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland all have separate FAs is a quirk of history. I think FIFA would much prefer it if there was a GB team! It's often used by people like the Republika Srpska and territories hoping for independence to try to justify a separate FA of their own.

  12. First of all I would say it is actually usually quite good natured- it's our sense of humour- we're a horrible lot on the surface but we're usually winking to the camera. All the same I would say that I am not supporting England for the simple reason (same as you) that I think the English media would become unbearable. Everytime a Scots athlete wins anything he/she's British, when they lose they are Scottish.

    Scots don't hate the English- but they do hate BBC/ITV sports pundits. That's what's really behind this.My sister in law is English and in Euro whatever it was was Scots nationalist dad decorated the living room in St George flags for her when she visited on the day of an England game.

    take it with a pinch of salt, I say.

  13. I should say i always support Brazil when Scotland aren't in a tournament(which let's face it is most times these days- yes in reply to your earlier commenter we ARE jealous!)- cos I lived in Brazil as a kid.

    However, I'm also supporting Cameron as I got them on the work sweepstake- C'mon the lads!

  14. I'm with you on this. As an English woman living in Scotland I've written about this too. It was an attempt to put my finger on an issue that makes me feel very uncomfortable. Pundits do get carried away, but that's their job surely. Do you think there's more to it?

  15. Oh dear.. I hate to say but I do think these things run deep. Some of it is downright sectarianism and some of it is bog standard chippiness... As an Irishwoman I will let you in on a little secret.. it is all taught in schools, from the age of 5 we are taught Irish history and it is all pretty ant-english. Bet the scots are the same ( in fact you may want to check your daughters history books!!). It's like the Jesuits say- get em young- you have them for life!
    PS bearing in mind your lovely post though I am going to try and break the habit of a lifetime and support England. Good luck!

  16. Definitely brave to be posting this! I also agree with Sandy, everyone hates us. It kind of feels like we're the new Germany, or France. If our own neighbours wont stand by us, who will?
    It does irritate me that the Scots bash us so much, but they think they're still oppressed, they want independence. It's political at the end of the day, we could be a nation of Mother Theresa's and they'd still hate us for our politics!

  17. Sandy Calico; does England enter the Eurovision song contest? You have just summed it up for us Scots, to the English the UK is England and England is the UK.

  18. Conan, you're absolutely right. My bad. We're all hated then!

  19. I actually take umbrage at the suggestion my post in any way describes or promotes a hatred of the English - it does nothing of the sort and I made it perfectly clear that my issue is with the English sporting media - if YOU chose to project that onto a whole nation you're the one with an issue - not me. And it IS about football - you can try and politicise and racialise it all you want - it's about football and it's about sporting commentary end of.

  20. I'm going to reply to all the comments individually, but B said something that made me think again about all this. He pointed out that perhaps it was the combination of the English rather wimpish attitude of "we're all in this together, live and let live, you do your thing I'll do mine, why can't we all be friends", and the Scottish determination to the point of bloody-mindedness that makes us so successsful together. Maybe therefore my fears and worries are just a result of that clash of cultures. I want to be liked, always, and the Scots aren't going to give up without a fight.

    Ironic therefore, that I've made at least one reader very cross. I've edited the post as you can see, and intended no offence.

  21. Now, if there were a team that supported anyone but the bX-47qz89 error on blogger I'd support them...

    Just replied to all these comments and it got lost. Trying again, but probably more briefly this time, if anyone wants to get into a full-on debate, you know where I am...

    Sandy C - Conan beat me to it - although I'd have had to check, not being a Eurovision fan... But he's right, and I know from my years living with a Scot that that's exactly what makes them support ABE....

    Pants with Names - I'm astonished and amazed by that, in a good way. I can't believe they can set that hideous a conflict behind them. Makes me want to support them too.

    Very Bored - well surely then they shouldn't be supporting anyone?

    Heather - that's exactly what upsets me. But then maybe it's an illustration of our need to like and be liked...

    Jude - I know. You're right. They don't really mean it. But somehow, while the first time you can raise a smile and the second and fifteenth you can ignore it, as is often the way, after a while it does start to hurt... A good point though that there are divides everywhere in these very small islands. Sad really.

    Iota - go and enjoy being in England and Scotland, stop reading about them!

    But apparently the FIFA thing is because each of the home nations currently has a seat on the FIFA board. If we played as GB or UK, three of them would have to give up those seats. So they won't vote for it. Turkeys and Christmas....

    Diney - mixed marriages rock!

    Cartside - very interesting. I have no idea why I picked Germany (it wasn't to do with 1966 because until you said it I wouldn't have known that was who came second - that's how little interest I have in football!) but I've clearly picked it up from somewhere.

    And you're right. It's probably the media. I apologise on their behalf, and I will be cringing with you each time they make some sort of snide remark, whether related to 1966 or 1945.

    Sally - that story about you in Glasgow is utterly terrifying, and exactly what I feared in moving here. Fortunately I've experienced nothing like that yet and hope very much never to do so.

    Henrietta - very true. Maybe I should examine my own prejudices.

    Missy M - I agree with you. Sports pundits are awful. But are those from other countries any better? Genuine question. I just kind of assumed that they were all like that, so to castigate the English for theirs was a bit like being cross with them because most of them have ten toes. Maybe not. In which case I need to start watching sport in a foreign language...

    Oh, and excellent reasons for supporting Brazil and Cameroon by the way. I would be too.

    Ellen - do I think there's more to it? I don't know, I hope not, but then I fear that in a very small number of cases there is. But it makes me horribly uncomfortable too. The fear that you'll be judged just as soon as you open your mouth...

    Northside mum - if it is history, isn't that just as silly? The wars between the two countries date back hundreds of years. If the Serbs and the Bosnians can get over it (see above) surely we should be able to too.

    Thanks for the support though!!!

    Livi - the thing is, I don't think it's just those who want independence. I'd sort of understand it better if it were....

    Conan - see above. But in this epic battle, I'm on your side!

    Mrs W. You know I'm sorry. I won't do it again.

  22. Hey, I left a dumb comment. I've held my hands up to that. It was late at night and I wasn't thinking straight after receiving some bad news.
    I have to say that your replies to Conan's and my comments have really upset me. I'm not the bad guy here. I think of myself as British and I would support any British team, where ever they were from. I find the whole ABE campaign offensive and divisive.

  23. Oh God! I've done it again. I'm so sorry. I knew when I wrote this post that some people might not like it but I never intended anyone to be personally offended or upset. I'm sorry. Like you, I was doing this too late, and in my case crossly because the first set of replies had vanished. I clearly didn't say what I meant to say, which was that had I not met B, I'd have done exactly the same thing (and in my case from a basis of no knowledge, which is worse), but that I get why that makes the Scots cross. So do you clearly, and actually I thought your speedy response to Conan was awesome.

    As for the "epic battle" bit, that was supposed to be a silly reference to his name. Nothing more. In this case it's my bad. Sorry again.

    I think I'm done with this post now.

  24. Thank you, I appreciate that x


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