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:
Wear 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.
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
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…
Start 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!