Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Wednesday, 5 September, 2001, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
What symbolises Wales?
Welsh Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan is in California hoping to woo Stateside businesses and tourists to invest their money here.

But, as our special correspondent Caroline Evans, discovered he may find it an uphill task as ex-pats cling to clichéd images that Wales is trying to discard.

Read Caroline Evans's report

Whether you live in Wales or elsewhere, how important is it to hold on to icons like traditional Welsh costume and male choirs? If we change symbols like these, what messages do we replace them with?

Are the old images actually causing harm to Wales's earning power abroad, or are they harmless hiraeth?

So, what do you think? What are the images that Wales should be trying to portray to the rest of the world?


It is very important that we hold on to the images of Wales because that is our country. Go to any Welsh pub and there will be Welsh choir members in there having a 'sing-song'! These are some of the things make us Welsh unique, and should be promoted to keep us so. To answer the comments made by Jonathan Warburton - you are exactly why our politicians make the comments that they do. Our country is already half filled with people like you, and that is why the Assembly vote result was what it was, and exactly why the old fashioned concept of a United Kingdom should be abolished.

Melanie, South West Wales

Growing up in Monmouthshire on the hill between the Rhymney and Sirhowy valleys of mixed Scots and Welsh parentage I am proud of my descent. We here often have to point out that Wales and Scotland are part of Britain not England. As a people we worry to much about our language and not enough about our achievements in many fields.The arts, science even as soldiers and entrepreneurs. We should take pride in our achievements and abilities and remember we are Cymru.
William McKendrick, Canada

I promote Wales whenever I can - its language, music, love-spoons, poetry, rugby, anything which makes it different from England

Alan Hart, Japan

Here in Japan I do as much as possible to raise the profile of Wales, by giving talks about the country and its culture, and even wearing Welsh costume. However, there is one thing that would be of great help in raising Wales' profile over here - a Hollywood film. You mention Scotland and people here have almost all heard of Braveheart - what about a film about Llewellyn the Great or Owain Glyndwr (without Hollywood's glaring factual errors, if possible).
Eleanor Oguma, Japan

I was born in Wales of mixed ancestry. Increasingly as I get older, I am proud of my Welsh roots. What it is to be Welsh is a difficult question as many who live in Wales know little of Wales. I promote Wales whenever I can - its language, music, love-spoons, poetry, rugby, anything which makes it different from England.
Alan Hart, Japan

Every country has its traditional icons and Wales is no different. However, the worldwide image of Wales I'm sorry to say is non-existent. Americans particularly, but also many Europeans (including an astounding number of English people) do not know that Wales, Scotland and Ireland are not parts of England. They think the Welsh language is an English dialect without ever hearing it spoken. Upon realizing their error they have a much greater respect for our country. Wales desperatley needs promotion.
David Peters, Cymru

Y Ddraig Goch A Ddyry Cychwyn. Welsh male voice choirs are the best in the world. That and the costumes identify Wales. Being half Welsh and a past Saint David's president I recognize what being Welsh is all about. As a businessman I also recognize that in order to attract commerce and industry, Wales had better bag the socialist non-sense and Mr. Blair. Most businesses in the US are sick and tired of high taxes and onerous regulation. If Wales truly wants business, it must act like it believes in the free market economy and capitalism. The entrenched Labour, Liberal, and Plaid Cymru parties are certainly no incentives for investment.
George C. Horwatt, Pennsylvania, USA

I have lived in Wales for 20 years and have enjoyed its delightful rural environment. However I am concerned about recent political developments which may be the views of a vocal minority. Remember how the voters of wales hardly managed to say 'yes' to the Assembly? I fear for the future of society in Wales if political speakers continue to insult and make racist comments against so-called incomers.

We live in an increasingly multi-racial world and with Europe seemingly heading towards unification and reductions in nationalist identities I wonder how far Wales can move forward in world affairs if it continues to beat the drum of historic separation. I agree with others that many of the people of Wales are very warm and decent people with whom I enjoy sharing this life, but I hope that they are not in danger of being dragged into a political and cultural vaccuum.
Jonathan Warburton, Wales UK.

Long Live Leeks, the Welsh Dragon and Dylan Thomas! I agree that there is not enough of a solid image worldwide of Wales. I am a first generation Welsh-Canadian-French (France) born of a welsh father and a french mother. I grew up in Newfoundland where people are proud of their heritage (being mainly Irish, French, Scottish and English, and a tiny bit of Welsh). We know quite a bit about culture and language, and the importance of these in a national identity. National symbols reflect the history and culture of a people, they just need to be seen more by a wider audience. Unfortunately, due to history, N.Ireland, Scotland and Wales have had their individual cultures and symbols suppressed by England, which is why many people worldwide know England, but not Wales.
Llewellyn Thomas, Newfoundland, Canada

What a depressingly cynical article on your website today from Caroline Evans about Rhodri Morgan's trip to California and the Festival of Wales!

But then I suppose that we're just the "successful business people living in modern and affluent San Jose" and of course all over the rest of North America, a fact Caroline seems to have missed. Could it be that, after living and working here for many years, we know something about life and business in the US that Caroline wasn't able to fathom out on her "whirlwind tour" Or could it be that it was all so "strange" and "bewildering" that she didn't have enough time to figure it out by talking to people who know and care about Wales, North America and especially Silicon Valley

Howard Thomas, California, USA

The people who don't see the importance of the Welsh language to the Welsh are the same people who think it is just incidental that the English speak English. The Irish have far less native speakers of their Celtic language than the Welsh do. Could this perhaps be because it is more important to the Welsh to speak Welsh?
Simon, Belgium

It is important to inform people of our heritage. Scotland and Ireland have done a very good job through Hollywood and various TV series. Now let us push Wales, ancient and modern. Remember the importance of tourism.
Gwyn Howells, Colorado, USA

I am proud to be half Welsh. The culture of Wales must never be lost. The language and the musical traditions are an important part of the history of the UK. The costume is symbolic, like the Red Dragon - if we have symbols that identify the country, they should be retained.
I miss no opportunity to promote Wales as an individual country that is part of the UK. All those of Welsh blood should show their pride in their home country wherever and whenever they can.
Mark, England

There is a danger that Wales will be remembered for burning homes owned by English people and stupid comments by politicians

Gerry, Scotland
I have been to Wales several times and have found the people to be wonderfully warm and the country beautiful. However, there is a danger that Wales will now be remembered, instead, for burning homes owned by English people and stupid comments by politicians.
Gerry, Scotland

The problem with some people abroad - especially the Americans - is they still think Wales (also Scotland) is part of England. They don't realise that they are completely different countries. Maybe they should be made aware of that.
Sunjay Bhogal, London UK

To be Welsh is to identify with Wales and to want to play a part in building its future. Issues of language, ethnicity etc. are secondary to that commitment.
Martin Morgan, Russia

The problem with some people abroad is they still think Wales is part of England

Sunjay Bhogal, London
In the outside world, something that Welsh people know so very little about, Wales is practically unheard of and, on my travels spanning 30 or more countries, I've come to understand that the majority of foreign languages don't even have a word for Wales - therefore, England has to be used.
As for those who have heard it, nobody has the faintest idea where it is.
Leo Roberts, France

I don't think the average American business person would give a hoot where or what Wales is - they would care only if it made economic sense. From a business point of view they regard Wales as just another bit of the U.K. right? And why should they think otherwise? The history and traditions may be 'cute' but are certainly no foundation on which to base economic decisions.
Trevor Crocker, Canada

As one of the Welsh Americans Ms Evans was supposedly reporting about, I am outraged by her poor report. A number of us met her while she was in San Jose and her report is incomplete and wholly biased. What it means to be Welsh or of Welsh descent involves culture and language - otherwise, what would there be to tell us apart from the English? And Ms Evans, dw i'n medru siarad Cymraeg. I don't think you'll find us, nor Cymry Cymraeg, supporting a "new Wales" that is little different than England or the United States.
Llewelyn Thomas, USA

the Welsh, as a nation, have done precious little to promote here any Welsh image whatever

John Norton, Washington DC
While much of what Caroline Evans had to say rings true, I am surprised that she doesn't seem to realise that the Welsh have been fairly invisible in this country (ie. Welsh artists are mostly thought of as "English" or "British").
As a Welsh American and a quite good Welsh speaker, I am distressed that Ms Evans can fault the Americans when the Welsh, as a nation, have done precious little to promote here any Welsh image whatever. Isn't clichéd slightly better than non-existent?
John Norton,
Washington, DC, USA

I must say that the Festival of Wales 2001 in San Jose was very good. I took my first trip to Wales in March of this year and fell in love with the country. I try and tell all that I know that this is the unspoiled country.
I stayed in Glyn Ceiriog for two weeks and travelled around to see as much as I could see. I plan on being back in Wales next April. The people are so very friendly and the countryside is just fantastic. If I could find a job over there, I would move in a heartbeat. Give me Wales over the USA anytime.
Kristi Cornell, USA

As a first-generation Welsh-American (parents from Merthyr Tydfil), I think the traditional symbols of Wales should be preserved and cherished. However, they shouldn't be the only things that represent Wales around the world. Modern Welsh achievements in industry, education, politics and culture also need to be celebrated and promoted internationally. I think the Festival of Wales was a great step in helping that to happen, and I hope that there will be more such events in the future
Jayne Williams, USA

Send us your comments:

Your E-mail Address:



Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
See also:

Links to more Talking Point stories