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Wales is not England: Yukoner’s TikTok gaffe prompts personal invite from Welsh leader

A slip-of-the-tongue in a light-hearted 28-second TikTok video has led to a planned 11-day educational visit to Wales for a Yukon woman, at the personal invitation of the country’s first minister.

“I will say that not often am I surprised, but I was very astonished to see how far the reach of that social media went,” said Pavlina Livingstone-Sudrich of Whitehorse, who posted the video a couple of months ago, never expecting the explosive reaction it set off.

“You do have to be careful, because when you put something out there you completely lose control of it.”

Livingstone-Sudrich started posting videos to TikTok a couple of years ago and now has more than 193,000 followers. She’s an avid hunter and outdoorsperson and her videos are often comical little snapshots of her life in the North and her adventures out on the land.

The 28-second video she made in November is fairly typical. In it, she shows off a new piece of gear she’s excited about — a wool hot-water-bottle harness to wear under her winter clothes and keep her extra-cosy outside.

Then comes the fateful gaffe: Livingstone-Sudrich says the contraption was handmade by a woman “in Wales, England.”

She had no idea what kind of nerve that would hit. Wales is part of the U.K., as is England, but they are very much two separate countries.

“I knew at the moment I had made an error,” Livingstone-Sudrich recalled, about making the video.

“But I thought, you know, sometimes you just have to go with the first take … of course I had meant the U.K., but it was a slip of the tongue.”

Still, she went ahead and posted the video.

By the next morning, it had exploded, “primarily driven by very angry Welsh people,” she said.

Livingstone-Sudrich was mortified at the idea that she had insulted Welsh national pride. Coming from Yukon, she said, she had a deep respect for concepts of self-government, devolution, and political autonomy.

A close-up of a smiling woman's face, standing on a grassy hill with a rifle on her back.
‘I knew at the moment I had made an error,’ said Livingstone-Sudrich. (Submitted by Pavlina Livingstone-Sudrich)

On top of that, she had to face her mother, a former journalist.

“I got the facts wrong, and she was livid,” Livingstone-Sudrich said.

Livingstone-Sudrich also got a gentle razzing from some guy she bumped into while walking to work one day: outgoing Yukon Premier Sandy Silver.

“He said ‘wow, you’ve really struck a nerve with the Welsh.'”

Sudrich quickly realized she had to make an apology. She even managed to enlist Silver to help out.

In that video, posted to TikTok a week after the original offending video, Sudrich delivers her apology — in Welsh, and English — in a mock-formal manner from Silver’s desk, before the premier himself shows up to eject her from his office. But first, Silver — a former school teacher — gamely offers her a lesson to explain the difference between England, Wales, and … whales.

That might have been the end of the whole affair, but Livingstone-Sudrich went a step further in her apology video: addressing Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford by name, she suggested the Welsh leader should invite her to visit his country so she could “experience first-hand what your country has to offer — I think we’d get along great.”

As with the first video, Sudrich woke the next morning to a surprise: a video from Drakeford himself, showing him watching Livingstone-Sudrich’s apology video, and then responding to her directly.

“We’re really keen to make sure that all of you know just what a different place Wales is, just what it is we stand for, and how keen we are for you to know more about us,” Drakeford said in the video.

“And to do that, of course, it would be fantastic if you could come here to Wales.”

Now, Livingstone-Sudrich and her boyfriend are planning an 11-day visit next month, organized by the Welsh government. An itinerary is being worked out for them, and Livingstone-Sudrich is happy that it won’t just be about looking at old castles.

Instead, it’s being organized to “learn all about Welsh sovereignty, the language, their devolution, their efforts in language revitalization, their countryside, their landscape. They’ve asked me to come and see it all,” she said.

“I made that offer kind of in jest, and they absolutely picked up on it and then we started to talk about what opportunities could come out of this — and it’s been amazing.”

Livingstone-Sudrich is grateful for the chance to turn an embarrassing gaffe into a meaningful cross-cultural connection. 

“In a time when a mistake results in you being cancelled, this was a demonstration of a real generosity of spirit of the Welsh,” she said.

“I can’t say enough how impressive that attitude is, and hopefully it results in some good.”

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