Twin towns, sister cities: Dull, Bland and Boring?
Most of us are mildly aware of the existence of twin towns and sister cities thanks to a brief mention on the sign as we enter our hometowns, but how many of us actually understand what these relationships are or what they mean?
The concept is actually wonderful–they were intended to promote friendship and understanding in a postwar society, encouraging cultural and even commercial ties. They were set up across the UK from 1947 onwards, and agreements can be legal or social in nature.
It’s not always about cultural relationships, though. Voucherbox have explored the relationship between some of the UK’s twinned cities and have found Dull in Scotland paired with Bland in Australia, and Boring in the USA. Yes, these are all real places!
The cities all poke fun at their namesakes, creating a friendship that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. This in itself proves that in fact, they’re anything but! Whether the relationships that are fostered come from a dark place such as war, or something as light and jovial as a bit of comic relief, they’re all meaningful in their own respect.
Rob Self-Pierson for The Guardian wrote: “You and your twin share something. A history, some DNA. You’re twinned for a reason and that reason will be positive.” He fully understood and appreciated the fact that many of the relationships were designed to rebuild and repair broken trust, and as such he is an advocate for people actually getting out there and pulling themselves out their comfort zone in a new setting.
Choosing your twin town as a travel destination could indeed be a meaningful situation to find yourself in, as you bond over the similarities and differences and share with those who’ve probably been equally curious about you as you have been about them for your entire lives!
Of the 40 counties in the UK that have embarked on special relationships since the 1940s with another town in the world, some are more special than others. Glossop in Derbyshire for example provides exchange holidays through a charity for children affected by Chernobyl. And an article published by the BBC explores Leicester’s relationship with Krefeld in Germany (they compete in a friendly football match annually, and have even fundraised for each other in times of grief); in addition to Nottingham’s trade deals with its twin town (which resulted in additional help being given, and gratitude being expressed in the form of the Karlsruhe Friendship Bridge). Other prominent relationships allow for exchanges across the arts, music and more.
Of course, there are sceptics. The same BBC article questions whether these are “outdated, expensive and even pointless.” There is an argument that the cost is too high for little benefit and that, unfortunately, ties must be severed. Some suggest there’s no need to be twins as we are now on great terms in France and Germany and the fact our cultures are now so similar that there’s no benefit to learning about these new places. Others still cite Eurosceptism as a reason they no longer work.
Whether or not you still believe in them in 2016, one thing is clear–when they work well, they have served a fantastic purpose, and that can only ever be a good thing.
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