Explaining Geordies to Germans
In 1977, as part of the Voyager program, NASA sent a golden phonograph record into space. This record contained sounds and images intended to explain earth to any extraterrestrials that may encounter it along the way. The record contained works by Beethoven, Stravinsky, Chuck Berry as well as images of humans and the wildlife that inhabit earth. The responsibility for selecting the contents of the record was given to a team led by professor Carl Sagan, and by selecting the best parts of humanity we hoped to fool E.T into thinking we were half way decent. At the very least they might not blow us to smithereens at the point of first contact, which gives us all some hope. The reason I bring up the record is that I've always considered this to be Earth's first attempt at interstellar public relations. I mean, who (or what) wouldn’t want to meet the human race after listening to Chuck Berry? Living in Germany, In my own way, I'm a PR guy of sorts. Thankfully, I don't have to travel to the outer reaches of space to make contact, I just leave my house. To all extents and purposes, I am the Geordie ambassador to Germany, I have been able to project a fairly positive image of my home city, Newcastle upon Tyne, whenever people have asked about where I come from. That was until recently, when one of my friends told me he had seen something that would interest me. 'There was an advert on TV last night for a documentary about Newcastle' he said 'I think it's called Geordie Shore…’
For the uninitiated, Geordie Shore is a structured reality show that airs on MTV and if I could tell you what the point of it was, I would. I considered writing a whole blog about how the show was a travesty blah, blah, blah, blah. Who am I to judge? If you like it, fine. If you don't, even better. The problem I have is that the show is increasingly colouring the opinions of people I know, giving them the impression that Newcastle is populated by posturing, perma-tanned haircuts, that screech like harridans and spend an inordinate amount of time in hot tubs. There surely is some truth in that image, but it is far from the whole story. So, being proactive I will attempt, like a northern David Attenborough, to explain Geordies to both the Germans and anyone else whose reading.
Newcastle upon Tyne is situated in the north east of England, and is the last major city before you reach the Scottish border. As such, it is the responsibility of the citizens of Newcastle to prevent the Scottish from stealing English sheep, which we have done with varying degrees of success for the last thousand or so years. The job today mostly consists of corralling stag and hen parties from across the border, which is basically the same job with added Jäger-bombs. Geordie is the nickname given to the residents of the city and, depending on who you believe, is derived from a fondness for King George I or a fondness for a certain mining lamp designed by George Stephenson. Despite the name of the city being New-castle the actual castle was built by the Normans in the 11th century. Having finished the construction, the Normans named the city after it. The Normans were not well known for their originality.
The people of Newcastle are generally a friendly bunch, depending on whether you’re attempting to steal our cattle or happen to be a police horse. One of the common stereotypes associated with Geordies is our desire to remove our t-shirts at any moment and our lack of clothing on a night out. The reason for this aversion to proper dress codes can be attributed to our descent from the original package holidaymakers, the Vikings. The DNA of our Scandinavian ancestors has given us a fine oily layer over our skin and as such means we are near impervious to even the coldest of temperatures. Although this is quite obviously a lie, I will say that I have only ever heard of a coat warning being issued on the local weather report in Newcastle. On a particularly cold February a few years back the weatherman explained that the temperatures were to hit at least -10 and advised all those going out to remember to wear a coat. Despite that warning, I still saw plenty of my brethren in t-shirts, entirely oblivious to the sub-zero temperatures. The only reason I can give for this bizarre behaviour is that since we have this peculiar stereotype around the UK, it creates a positive feedback loop that forces Geordies to insist on not wearing coats.
Who fancies some bridges?
One of the most famous parts of Newcastle is along the river Tyne or more to the point over the river Tyne. Geordies like bridges, lots of bridges; it's programmed into our DNA. From an early age, Geordie children are compelled by their genetics to build bridges from whatever materials are to hand. As you will see from the picture, there are quite a few. One in particular may be familiar to you. The Tyne Bridge is similar to the Sydney harbour bridge in many ways, because they were built by the same company. At least that's what the history books would have you believe. Actually what really happened was we lent our bridge to Australia for a couple of weeks and they have steadfastly refused to give it back. No matter how many times we phone them to ask for it to be returned, they always have an excuse like 'we're using it' or 'we can't find it, I think it's in the garage somewhere'. We wouldn't mind so much but every time Australia is in the news, they dust off our bridge and pretend it's theirs. Well I for one have had enough, give us back our bridge or we take the kangaroos and possibly the Koalas.
Although there are plenty of options when it comes to food in Newcastle, there is one staple that must be sampled if you visit. Greggs the baker can be found in practically every street in Newcastle. I believe from my research that the company was founded by Sir Gregg de Steak Bake in 1326. Explaining what Greggs is can be complicated, especially when talking to a German. This is mainly due to the fact I doubt there is a German word or words for Sausage Roll. The concept of Greggs is further perplexing for Germans as they are so used to their own bakeries. Introducing them to a Chicken Tika pasty might actually blow their minds. I mean, the concept of Indian food wrapped in pastry sounds like it should have a health warning but I have yet to meet someone who hasn't instantly cured a hangover thanks to the power of the pasty. The company is so popular that they even have a 24 hour bakery in the city centre, replete with its own doorman. This might sound like madness but it's a helpful gauge for how drunk you are. Should you find yourself standing in the queue, it’s time to go home.
Last of all we come to the sporting fulcrum of my fine city, Newcastle United. Despite being owned by a maniacal lunatic billionaire, United still manage to pack their stadium with almost 50,000 fans every home game. Being a fan of the "Toon" requires that you have both the finest heart surgeon and the best psychologists on speed dial being as at least once a week something mental can and will happen. Thankfully this is the easiest aspect to explain to most Germans as they know most of the teams in the Premier League. Sadly, the Toon were relegated last season, but are currently on track for promotion at the end of this season, sitting pretty in 1st place. This is sometimes difficult for German football fans to understand, as the 2nd Bundesliga is not comparable to the English Championship. For some reason they assume relegation is a step down, when actually in many ways it's a step up. With exotic trips to Barnsley and Rotherham to look forward to, Newcastle fans are currently happier than they have ever been.
Well I hope that was in some way enlightening and should you ever get the chance to visit my home city, please ask for the 40% German discount available at all good tourist locations. Enjoy and remember: don't you dare try and steal our sheep, I've counted them and I have eyes everywhere...like the NSA but with a more interesting accent.