The wog is always further south

As a migrant to Australia, I discovered a new word: ‘wog’. The word, I learned, refers to “Southern Europeans” or “south eastern Europeans”. In Australia, that’s Italians and Greeks mainly, and potentially the Lebanese, Spaniards, Croatians, Serbians and Macedonians.

On the Wikipedia page about wogs, there is an English quote saying, “The wogs begin at Calais”. The border of civilisation ends with us. I noted the same thing through my early years.

People in northern France, where I grew up, thought of the Southern French as lazy oily garlicky dark-skinned sloths who parade around in convertible cars.

My father’s family comes from this oily southern France, but civilisation, in their eyes, ends just a bit further. They’re reliable, but the Italians, though pleasant, are unreliable, lazy, flashy, etc.

My grandmother, on my mother’s, is from northern Italy. Emilia-Romagna: fat, rich, middle-class Italy, where they put egg in the pasta, and pork in everything. I remember telling her I was going to Naples, and she would say “oh, Naples, oh, this is different. This is a different place altogether. We’re from Parma.” She was the daughter of a metal worker, cast away from Italy for his involvement in anarchist movement. But she had an extreme snobbism and superiority, towards the South Italian ‘wogs’

One of my dearest friends in Paris is Herakles, from the island of Zakinthos or Zante. This was a Venetian seaport, like Corfu, and never a part of the Ottoman Empire. One day, we were walking along the port, and pointing out at the sea, he would tell me: this is Peloponnesus, they were Turkish out there. He went to Athens for university, and his friend from the island, they would call the locals “barbarians”, and mock their Turkish sounding music.

So prejudice will make us perceive whoever lives across the border as somehow the first barbarians – and ‘us’ as the bulwarks of civilisation.

2 thoughts on “The wog is always further south

  1. Dear Julien,
    Your thoughts are very enlightening – and quite true for most parts of the world I know. I was born in Northern Germany, where nearly everybody knows that Rhinelanders or Bavarians are not to be trusted. And while we up north work all day long (and nights as well), the Southerners are bone lazy, boozy and superficial. Works in Scandinavia too: and Swede, Norwegian of Finn will assure you that Danes (Denmark being the most southern part of Scanland) are decadent, never work, are dishonest and so lazy that they drop all the consonants from their speech (which is true).

    It doesn‘t work between Denmark and Germany, though. The Danes hold us to be blunt, humourless, officious, hard working etc. . And we love to holiday in Denmark, because Danes are so jolly, relaxed, layed back, full of good spirit (and yes, they like their beer). This might have it‘s roots in history. Large parts of northern Germany were Danish once, like my hometown Oldenburg, the whole of Schleswig-Holstein and the western Part of Hamburg. So role models may have reversed?

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