Where in the World is Guernsey?

Guernsey Farmhouse

Guernsey Farmhouse  by Guernsey Kestrel (CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0)

To date, my WordPress blog has received visitors from over 70 countries. Some hail from Japan, Peru, Mauritius, Brazil, Sweden, South Korea, Kuwait, Argentina, Malta, Trinidad and Tobago, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, Australia, and Armenia. Although I am acquainted with the names of many of them, Guernsey certainly stands out as an exception.

Where in the world is Guernsey, you ask? Unlike Liechtenstein and the Vatican, it’s not a country. Unlike Singapore, it’s not a city-state, either. Lacking a princedom, it’s not a principality like Monaco. But like the Isle of Man, the Bailiwick of Guernsey is a British Crown Dependency.

Bailiwick is one of 25-50 words that I’ve always been meaning to look up, but never have. After running to the dictionary to retrieve its definition, I have learned that the Bailiwick of Guernsey–one of two Channel Islands (the Bailiwick of Jersey being the other)–is a self-governing state of the British Crown, with its own flag, currency, legislature, educational system (there are colleges, but no universities), public services, and culture.

According to its Wikipedia profile, Guernsey is 78 km2 in area (the 24th smallest place/dependency in the world)1 and has 65,345 inhabitants (per its 2012 estimate).2 Some of the Gulf Islands on the Canadian West Coast are bigger than Guernsey (as an example, Saltspring Island boasts a 182.7 km2 land area and just 10,234 inhabitants).3

For someone who lives in the largest country in the Americas (and the second-largest in the world) with a national population that can be crammed into the state of California, it’s hard to fathom such a small and densified living space. It’s like knowing everyone in your neighbourhood, as opposed to just your next-door neighbours.

English: Blue telephone boxes in St Peter Port...

Blue telephone boxes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like Canada, Guernsey has English and French as its two official languages–courtesy of a joint British and Norman heritage. Although multi-culturalism has added many more tongues to Canada’s linguistic tapestry, I am fairly certain that Guernésiais, Sercquiasis, and Auregnais are not not among the more common ones spoken in the home.

Like Vancouver, the weather in Guernsey is temperate all year long, with mild winters that seldom see snow (although we had 3 consecutive days of heavy snowfall about a month ago) and cool-to-warm (but tolerable) summers, thanks to its coastal proximity.

English telephone boxes (even I know what the TARDIS machine looks like, even if I’ve only watched a handful of Dr. Who episodes) are a familiar sight in Guernsey. Guernsey uses the pound sterling, but prints and distributes its own currency (banknotes and coins) as well. It is not part of the European Union, but is treated as a member. What I find enviable about Guernsey is that it has no national (or should that be island) debt.

A Guernsey Cow

A Guernsey Cow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guernsey has the distinct honour of having the smallest chapel in the world (which turned 100 years old earlier this year)4. Its coastline offers the adventurous soul many opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities like boating, fishing, sailing, diving, kayaking, and cycling (which sounds very much like Vancouver).

The stamp of history is in everything and everywhere you look. Guernsey’s castles, tombs, ruins, and forts speak of a rich, ancient and strategically significant maritime heritage that dates back thousands of years to ancient times.

The mild climate is conducive to a large variety of fresh, local produce from land and sea (tomatoes, grapes, asparagus, pork, veal, lobster, crab, cod, scallops — yum!!) Sound sustainability practices and an independent spirit have contributed to the economic self-sufficiency of the island.

Football (soccer to Canadians), as in many European countries, is the main sports craze in Guernsey. Other sports played in Guernsey include table tennis (which gets two thumbs up from this table tennis player), softball, golf, and cricket.

Here’s an interesting point of association between Canada and Guernsey: the adaptable, amiable Golden Guernsey cows (who, thanks to bad weather in the late 19th century, made unexpected landfall in Nova Scotia, and have been popular ever since in Canada as cattle)5. There’s even a Canadian Guernsey Association that breeds Guernsey cows for their characteristically golden-hued, creamy milk, yellow-fatted beef, and specialty cheeses.

Guernsey certainly sounds like a fascinating, friendly and beautiful place to visit. Thanks to the Guernseyian visitor (or visitors) for bringing this remarkable place to my attention!

Guernsey landscape 2

Guernsey landscape 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Information/statistics have been sourced from:
Countries, dependencies by area (en.wikipedia.org)
Guernsey Wikipedia profile (en.wikipedia.org)
Salt Spring Island Wikipedia profile (en.wikipedia.org)
Smallest Chapel in the World celebrates 100 years (visitguernsey.com)
Canadian Guernsey Association (guernseycanada.ca)

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28 thoughts on “Where in the World is Guernsey?

  1. I’ve never visited, but I hear it is very beautiful and I have met a few locals when travelling – all friendly. I hear it is a tax haven… but that may be a rumour 😉

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    • I believe they have very light corporate taxes. 🙂

      I guess that living in within a 25 sq km radius of everyone else engenders a kind of (for the lack of a better description) “small town” feel and camaraderie (I have found that to be the case in the small towns I’ve visited 🙂 ).

      It was very nice to read that honesty boxes are put out for home-grown businesses on the island, and no one takes anything without paying for it first. 🙂

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  2. Wonderful post! I was telling my husband about Gurnsey the other day and how during the war, all of the trees were used for firewood. I had read “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” some time ago. The novel is set on the island during WWII and describes how the residents coped with the German occupation. I’d recommend the book not only as a compelling read, but informative, too.

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Your comments are like chocolate for my soul ... I can never get enough of them! Bonus brownie points for witty comments! I love a good turn of phrase. :)

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