As my summer break, which felt like an eternity, is almost over I am slowly allowing myself to get excited about going back to Scotland again. Slowly allowing myself to get excited basically stands for telling everyone who wants to hear it, and probably a lot of people who don’t, about how excited I am and how much I’ve missed it all while shoving my phone in their face with pictures of Scotland showing them how beautiful it is. But oh well.. Anyways I wanted to share a bit of my excitement here today too, just you know because.
When I meet up with friends and family here back in Germany some of the most frequently asked questions that I get asked include various stereotypes associated with Scottish people and as someone who has lived there for about two years now I think I can answer some questions as to whether they are true or not, so here it goes.
As my hair colour is what you apparently call ‘Strawberry Blonde’ (Fancy for my hair isn’t quite blonde but neither is it fully ginger) I get asked quite a lot whether I even stand out or if I just mingle along in all the gingerness found in Scotland. But no, it’s not like the Weasley’s moved to Scotland and spread all their gingerness across the country. To be fair, I have seen a lot more ginger people than I have here in Germany, but it is still very few people. According to a friend of mine another typical Scottish thing is to have really dark hair, fair skin and light eyes and I have to say I have seen people with that combination a lot as well, but then again it’s just another stereotype.
I have been asked about this a lot too. Especially because people know that I am not a big meat eater and struggle with everything that involves any type of organ, but if done properly Haggis can actually be quite nice. But again it is not a thing that you have everyday for tea. It usually is reserved for special occasions, like I had it at our Sports Ball, or when your friend works part time for a food company and brings home leftovers (she also brought home vegetarian haggis which was awesome and we were all ready to cry when we ran out).
Well here we go. People ask me about this all the time, like do guys actually wear kilts, do they wear something underneath and so on and so forth. Honestly, yeah they still do wear kilts. I mean only to special and fancy occasions like weddings, graduation, ceilidhs (Scottish dancing events) or other formal events. It also looks better than I thought it would and somehow in a kilt a guy can even look attractive in a skirt. But there is one thing that I have say about kilts that I had no idea about before I went there. A kilt is not just a skirt that you put on. It involves a lot more than that and it takes quite a while. First of all there are also the kilt hose, which are eventually knee high socks. Then there are the shoes whose laces have to be tied around the leg. Also there are many accessories such as the sporran, which is the little bag worn on a chain or leather strap around your hips, a kilt pin to hold it all together and the sgin dubh which is a little knife that is worn at the top of the hose. So to put it all on takes a while.
Also while most boys have worn a kilt at some point in their lives they do not all own ones. Many of them rent them, however if they own one many of them pay attention to whether the tartan pattern fits into their family tree.
Bagpipes and throwing tree logs
These two stereotypes often come along with the whole kilt things and then you all picture someone in some valley somewhere playing the bagpipes maybe interrupting that to just do something proper Scottish and throwing a tree log.
While yes tree log throwing exists it is part of the highland games and I have not met anyone personally who has ever participated in anything like this.
Bagpipes however seem to be around like kilts. Used for special occasions or at touristy spots in the bigger cities. I have met a couple of people who actually do know how to play them but very few do.
It is nice though sometimes when it’s a nice sunny day (YES THOSE EXIST!) and you walk over your campus and can hear someone play the bagpipes in their room.
Well I think most people have heard of Scottish Whiskey and as it is famous around the world, many peope believe the Scottish people to basically be fueled by Whiskey and to drink it like water. I am sorry to disappoint but nope that is not true. Scottish people drink a lot and that is coming from a German person. Like I am still impressed by how much some of them drink. But then it is most of the time not whiskey but beer, cider or anything else. Especially for us at uni we are not as classy as to drink a nice whiskey as most of us either don’t like it or don’t have the money for it.
Now this is something else I get asked about quite frequently: How am I able to understand them. Well to be honest it’s not that bad. Sure there are some people where you have to listen very carefully but most of the time it is actually okay to understand. What I have learned is that it highly depends on where you are like people from Edinburgh do usually not have very thick accents while in some areas of Glasgow they could potentially be speaking another language. But it all also depends on how used to it you are. I made a friend very early on that has a very thick accent and speaks incredibly fast so after I got used to her accent nothing else seemed that bad.
In addition to the accent thought there are some words that are used quite frequently in their everyday lives that I had never heard of before moving there like wee. It is used for everything and it basically means little. There is also braw which means nice, aye is commonly used instead of yes, ken means know, you quite frequently go for a bevy (drink) and some sometimes need to leave to use a fag (cigarette). But all of these you can easily figure out.
Here’s a Scottish guy talking with a Scottish Accent about Scottish Stereotypes:
Swear a lot
A fucking hell yes to that. I have always took some pride in not swearing a lot. I never really felt the need to do so, but I am now proud to say that since living in Scotland my swearing vocabulary in English without even trying has grown extensively. It doesn’t really matter where you are but you learn to know how some people will show their affection (NO SARCASM, I MEAN IT) by lovingly calling you cunt, dick, or twat. How some people manage to make sentences where every second word is a swear word and you are thinking about having a swear jar in the sports hall to cut down the ‘for fucks sake’s on court.
However it is equally fascinating how quickly the actual swearing turns into a light version as soon as children are around. I think my favourite replacement word is still ‘sugar cubes’.
Hate the English
Well this is a very common stereotype I want to finish this post with. And while there is often not a lot of appreciation for the English, especially the government (if I had been given a pound for everytime someone called David Cameron a cunt, in a not loving way, I’d be rich now), they do not necessarily hate them. What they have is an incredibly strong national pride which kind of rebels against the idea of being British and having to subordinate the needs of the Scottish pride underneath the British one.
One little piece of advice though is to never ever call someone who is Scottish English because no matter how not against the English they are it is an absolute no go to be said to be one.
Anyways I am super excited to get back to my ginger, kilt-wearing, haggis-eating, back pipe-playing, tree log -throwing, whiskey drinking Scottish people!
Love you lots,