mist covered road on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

14 things you absolutely should not do when visiting Scotland

A few years ago I wrote a post about some of the Scottish stereotypes people like to perpetuate (and why you shouldn’t believe them…), and, as that post remains popular to this day, I figured it was about time for a follow up.  Without further rambling, then, here are 14 random things you absolutely should not do if you’re visiting Scotland: mostly because Scottish people hate them – trust me on this…

14 things Scottish people wish you wouldn’t do when visiting Scotland:

Mountain in Glencoe, Scotland: from 'Things Scottish People Hate'by Forever AmberWear tartan to “blend in”.

Honestly, you’d be better off just hanging a sign round your neck saying, “HELLO, I’M A TOURIST!” 

While some Scottish men do wear kilts to things like weddings, or other formal events, if you’re wandering round Edinburgh or Glasgow, say, you’re not going to see hoards of Scottish people heading to their office jobs all decked out in kilts, tartan dresses, or those tartan hats with the pom poms on top that are always being attributed to us. Nuh-uh.

You will, however, see a lot of tourists in tartan and sporrans, all thinking they’re blending in perfectly: I mean, it’s cute, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re hoping to be mistaken for a local, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed…

(If you DO see a Scotsman in a kilt, meanwhile, please don’t ask him what’s under it, and under NO circumstances try to check…) 

Ask us if we know your Auntie Janet, who visited the Orkney Islands in 1969, and has never been back since. 

Funnily enough, my two-year-old ALSO thinks I know everyone in the whole world, so that should tell you a lot about how the whole, “Oh, you’re Scottish? Well, you must know my neighbour’s sister’s daughter!” thing sounds to us.

It’s a small country, yes, but no-one knows 5.5 million people, surely? Imagine how hard it would be trying to remember all their names!

Make fun of our accents.

Yeah, we know you think Scottish people talk funny: we think you talk funny too. What we won’t find funny, though, is your hilarious attempt to mimic us by adopting a ‘Groundskeeper Willie’ accent to tell us, “There’s been a murdurrr!” or yell “FREEDUUUMMM!” at us. Just… don’t. (Also: “Och aye the noo,” is Not a Real Phrase. I repeat: Not a Real Phrase…)

Expect us to know what clan we’re supposedly part of. 

I mentioned this one in my last post on this subject, but, well, what can I say: I guess Outlander has a lot to answer for, hasn’t it? 

Only pack for one type of weather.

For a recent day out (At the end of July, no less…) I wore a pair of trousers with a t-shirt, and brought with me:

01. A thin sweater.

02. A lightweight jacket

03. A much warmer, waterproof jacket 

04. Sunglasses

I ended up wearing just the t-shirt and light jacket (And trousers, of course: never forget your trousers…), but any or all of these items could easily have had to be deployed – the weather is that changeable. Two things that all Scottish people know: 

01. Don’t trust the weather report.

02. LAYERS. Lots and lots of layers.

Ask someone which football team they support.

Because, if you do, you’ll actually be asking them what religion they are, and they probably won’t assume you’re asking out of innocent curiosity. Yes, it’s… complicated

Assume all Scottish people hate the English.

Sadly, there is a small minority of Scottish people who harbour ancient grudges against The English, but the majority of us are as repulsed by that as you probably are, so please don’t assume we’re all like that: while most of the items on this list are just mildly amusing rather than actively annoying, this one is really, really offensive to those of us who have friends and family in the south, and, well, who’re just not bigots

sunset over Loch Lomond : from 'Things Scottish people hate' by Forever AmberStart a conversation about Scottish independence.

They rarely end well: trust someone who only just made it through the referendum with all of her friendships intact…

Tell us all about how you’re Scottish too, because your great-great-grandfather’s sister’s cat’s cousin lived in Aberdeen.

Look, you’re either Scottish or you’re not: one-sixty-eighth Scottish is not a thing here, so when when you start earnestly explaining your Scottish heritage, which turns out to be some tenuous link from four hundred years ago, we will nod and smile politely, but every time you claim to be “Scottish”, we’ll be secretly thinking, “No you’re not, you’re from Kansas.”

Refer to Scottish people as “Scotch”.

Scotch is whisky (and no, the stuff we make doesn’t have an ‘E’ in its spelling…). Scottish people are… Scottish. We will only tell you this once.

Tell someone from Edinburgh that you like Glasgow better, or vice versa.

If asked, it’s safest just to say that both cities are awesome (which they are), and leave it at that. Even though Edinburgh is obviously better.

Speaking of Edinburgh…

Call it “Edinboro” rather than “Edinburgh”.

BURRR-UHH. Ed-in-BURR-UH. Say it with me…

Ask us if we’ve ever heard of Netflix / iPhones / the Internet / the round wheel etc.

My brother-in-law once sat next to an American gentleman on a flight to London: at one point, the man asked how my brother-in-law would be getting back to Scotland once they landed, and almost fell off his seat in astonishment when he learned we have airports here, that you can fly into in one of those newfangled flying machines: imagine!

Turned out he – like a lot of people, to be honest – had bought into the idea that Scotland is some kind of Land That Time Forgot, and that it’s still the 18th century here or something. The same brother-in-law, for instance, has also been asked if we have the internet here in Scotland, and I quite often get blog comments from people asking me if I’ve heard of really quite ordinary things, like Starbucks, or McDonalds, or whatever. Like I said, Outlander has a LOT to answer for…

Complain about how hot it is in your country.

Even if you literally burst into flames every time you leave the house, you’ll get no sympathy here, sorry. Actually, we’ll just assume you’re trying to do some weird kind of stealth boast, and judge you for it. In general, Scottish people don’t tend to enthuse over cold, wet weather: it’s not really a novelty for us, unfortunately…

*

With all of that said, here’s a quick and tedious caveat to say that this post is supposed to be lighthearted, so if you’ve visited Scotland and done any of these things, don’t worry, Scottish people don’t ACTUALLY hate you for it: we might talk funny and have weather that will make you want to weep, but we do love our tourists – promise!

Fellow Scottish people: feel free to add to this list!

things Scottish people hate

RELATED: 

11 Scottish Stereotypes that are blatantly untrue

The Ultimate Guide to Outlander Filming Locations in Central Scotland

Our favourite lodges with hot tubs in Scotland

COMMENTS
  • Emerald

    REPLY

    15: On no account buy one of those Tam O’Shanter with the tufts of carrot hair attached. No explanation needed for this one!

    16: Say to someone “Call yourself Scottish and you don’t drink alcohol?” Heard the hell out of that. And if it comes up that my dad’s background is Irish…

    17: Make jokes about Scots being mean. This really riles me because someone would say that about my late grandfather, rather than attributing his being careful with growing up in the 1920s in a not exactly flush family. Hence he learnt to be financially careful (plus worked in a bank). Yes, there are tight people here – as there are everywhere!

    August 4, 2020
  • Amy

    REPLY

    I’ve only visited Glasgow once for a long weekend and I’m relieved to say I did none of the things on the list! I had a fab weekend with my local friend and I would love to go back again.

    August 4, 2020
  • Jennifer

    REPLY

    My daughter and I were on vacation in Scotland this time last year. I am relieved to realize we did none of these things! We had a wonderful time on our vacation and my daughter has now decided that when she grows up she is going to somehow move to Scotland. It is fine by me–then I can visit her.

    August 4, 2020
  • Ashlea Smalley

    REPLY

    Husband and I honeymooned in Scotland last year. Very relieved that we did none of these things 😂 We had such an amazing time, loved the weather, loved the people, the landscape, and the Scotch. Can’t wait to come back someday ❤️

    August 4, 2020
  • Brenda

    REPLY

    Lol! I could write up a very similar list for Canada. It’s amazing how many people think we are a nation of lumberjacks who live in Igloos – oh have you met my friend’s cousin’s friend, who lives in Toronto??? Anyway, I did go to Edinburgh a couple years ago and I did buy myself a beautiful tartan cashmere scarf, but I didn’t wear it there! Whew!? How could I resist when there is literally a cashmere shop on every corner!?!? I can’t wait to go back and explore more of the highlands and Glasgow is definitely on my list too.

    August 4, 2020
  • Mary Katherine

    REPLY

    Good stuff and a good chuckle! Can’t wait to visit Scotland again, and will bear this in mind.

    August 4, 2020
  • Dee

    REPLY

    Re. point 13: when I was at uni in Edinburgh I had a friend from the north-east of England whose mum would send her cash in the post because she didn’t think Scotland had banks for paying in cheques!

    August 4, 2020
  • Suz

    REPLY

    Assume that Scotland is SO small you can drive it in a day. The number of tourists I educated at accommodation across Scotland when I worked for VS was amazing. I once sat in a hotel in Portree and overheard: ‘We’re just going to pop down to Eilean Donan Castle, we’ll be back in a hour…’

    Eh, no you won’t. I know we’re not as big as the US, but it’ll still take you at least an hour just to *get* there. And that’s if that traffic’s ok and you’re not stuck behind a caravan.

    People are still amazed it takes me 6 hours to drive to West Lothian from North Wales. It’s a long way, folks!

    August 4, 2020
  • Claire

    REPLY

    This post really made me chuckle! I blame Outlander too for the way Americans view Scotland <3

    Claire, G is for Gingers

    August 5, 2020
  • Erin

    REPLY

    God I could totally see drunk, twenty year old me screaming “Freeeedummmmm” like an asshole. I have matured and promise not to do this or any of the above if Covid ever goes away and I can come to your lovely country.

    August 5, 2020
  • Maria

    REPLY

    That random Kansas mention made me chuckle but also hurt a little cause I used to live in Kansas 🙂 Didn’t meet anyone bragging about their Scottish heritage though…. Re the touristy purchases, every time I visit a new place, I always wonder what to buy. I want something unique and representative of the place, but not touristy as you mentioned. For some reason, it is very difficult to distinguish between the two. Perhaps you can write another post on what to get from Scotland? 🙂

    August 5, 2020
  • Steph

    REPLY

    Ha, I totally was that numpty who wore tartan when I went to Edinburgh! In my defense, I didn’t think I’d be blending in, I was just a bit obsessed with a new blackwatch tartan dress I had at the time and thought maybe it would be a bit kitsch. But then I actually spent the day feeling a bit stupid and stressed out that everyone hated me. And now I know the truth, nooooooooo!

    August 6, 2020
  • Rachael

    REPLY

    Your list made me laugh! I’ll make a note of not doing any of these thing when I evenutally get to come, was hoping to go to Edinburgh over winter last year and didn’t get chance.
    Helpless Whilst Drying

    August 10, 2020
  • Fiona

    REPLY

    Outlander has so much to answer for. I’m in a couple of Facebook groups – joined as I read all the books and had nobody to talk to about them. They are awful awful places, but I can’t bring myself to leave.

    Anyway, yes, the hundreds upon hundreds of people on there who claim to really “feel” their Scottish heritage and have a huge affinity to the country because their great great grandmother was 1/4 Scottish makes me quite ragey. “I’m descended from Clan Whatever,” also gets me as it’s pretty meaningless given how diluted bloodlines get down hundreds of years. You’re descended from dozens of clans/ families/ individuals.

    And lastly: We don’t all come from Gaelic speaking areas and therefore it’s not weird that we’re not avidly trying to protect a language that nobody in our history spoke in the first place.

    August 10, 2020
  • Rali

    REPLY

    We did the “Edinburgh” -gh in Glasgow’s bus station. It was amazing to see the face of the person who we asked for:))) I love your blog, we are living in Dundee and before 3 years we moved to live in Scotland just because we love it and like it. People are amazing and nature is beautiful. I started to follow you blog because of the high level of literacy and interesting posts. I’m trying to work on my English and mostly I’m reading your blog. Next time when you decide to explore Dundee again, would be fantastic if we could meet and talk!

    August 25, 2020
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