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10 Things I Learned in Scotland

April 18, 2017

1. People crave (real) interaction

I feel that in the United States especially, so many people are so dependent and glued to their phones and other methods of remaining connected to the online world constantly. This isn't limited to the States of course, but I find that in the US people are far less likely to engage with their fellow humans. Whether it be on the bus, on the street, at the bar, or at the train station, people in Scotland were far more approachable and went out of their way to speak to one another.

I went to a church service in Glasgow. I only stumbled upon this church and I was looking at it and reveling in the history when the pastor invited me inside. Usually, I am a bit wary and uncomfortable with religion but he was telling me about the history of the church and that it was built hundreds of years ago. I chose to stay for the service and I can't tell you how many people came up and spoke to me. Not just the simple "hi how are you" "how long are you here" but there was not one person in that church I didn't meet. Two ladies invited me and my mother to tea later that evening. I had a genuine, lovely experience. That is something I will remember forever.

2. Scots is truly a separate dialect, if not to be considered a separate language entirely

It was hard to grab a picture but the sign by the crosswalk says "Loo' both ays"

Scots is different than Gaelic and isn't quite recognized as its own separate language. Scots is considered more of a dialect or even just regional accent. Upon hearing it and living in it for two weeks I am convinced it is a separate dialect if not its own language. Many people in Scotland speak on a spectrum, somewhere within the range of Scots and Scottish Standard English. 

The language emerged with Old English and was influenced by the Norse languages of the Vikings, Dutch, Gaelic, Latin, and French.

Here are some examples of Scots: 

-Lufe God abufe al and yi nychtbour as yi self: Meaning "Love God above all and thy neighbour as thyself" this is on the John Knox house in Edinburgh

-Excerpt from The New Testament in Scots  Mathew:1:18ff
Whan he hed waukit frae his sleep, Joseph did as the angel hed bidden him, an tuik his trystit wife hame wi him. But he bedditna wi her or she buir a son; an he caa’d the bairn Jesus.

-Excerpt from the Robert Burns Museum: 

Though his position in society wis ower laich for him tae hae the richt tae vote, Robert wis nanetheless passionate aboot politics and made his writin desk his ballot box. Scunnerin the weel-daein and pooerfu, hooanever could prove a fykie business.

3. Public transportation is the greatest thing ever when done right

US, you have a lot of work to do on this. I was so impressed by Scotland's rail and bus system. It couldn't have been easier to get around. The time tables were reliable (for the most part) which is fairly unheard of in the United States. There is a schedule and you can rely that the buses and trains will follow it. I have such a hard time getting around in the greater Seattle area and I live there.

Using the transportation system in Scotland was incredibly easy and straightforward, even for someone that has never used public transit regularly. I used the buses or trains daily and never had a problem.

4. History can be incredibly tangible

In the United States, our recorded and visible history doesn't go back as far as the history in other places in the world. So many buildings and businesses date back to the 18th, 17th, 16th, 15th centuries. The churches, pubs, stores, and streets all hold a piece of history. I felt different while I was there. In graveyards and war memorials, there was a weight on me. In areas that inspired some notable writers, I was introspective.

St. Giles Cathedral

5. Wind Sucks

In case you didn't know...wind sucks. More on that later.

However, I did notice that the air is quite different than in the Seattle area where I live. When I was staying in Ayr, I was breathing the cleanest, most crisp air I can remember since I left Iceland. I'm sure that not all of Scotland is like this (some parts of Glasgow I didn't have this feeling) but in general, the air felt...better. That sounds crazy but trust me on that okay.

6. The 5 Pound Note is the coolest international currency I've seen (so far)

I am a big fan of Winston Churchill (history nerd) so I was pretty elated to see his beautiful, warm, happy face on the five pound note. Even cooler, these notes (and the older ones with Queen Elizabeth on them) have a see-through plastic part. The new ones are also made out of a material that is better for the environment. The Queen Elizabeth notes are going out of circulation and will be replaced by the Winston Churchill soon. I meant to keep one but ended up using it on a cabbie.

7. I'm not the only one who enjoys a good walk through a historic (or medieval) graveyard

I went to the auld kirk in Alloway near where Robert Burns grew up. It was surreal seeing graves of people that lived in the 1700s and even earlier. I felt a bit strange as I examined nearly every grave, giving each person or family a moment of my time. I think it is important to remember these names and these people. However far away from us they are now, this is a grave that someone cried over.

At this particular church, there was a girl who must have been in college. She created an app for a smart phone that incorporates Robert Burns' poem Tam o' Shanter. You open the app and it brings up your camera. Pointing it at the church, drawings of the characters of the poem appear. It was really cool but also very creepy! 

8. Don't underestimate the simplistic beauty of a green field

Scotland Scenery

Scotland surprised me by how green it is. I knew the landscape would be beautiful but it is rare that I see grass or a field that is that green. It was simple but breath taking. Put it against a bright blue sky and I was in love. The trees, grass, plants, landscape...beautiful! We may all complain about the weather from time to time, but there are some clear benefits to some good rain!

9. Gaelic is a beautiful but dying language

Some signs are written both in English and Gaelic

If you haven't noticed by now I am a sucker for linguistics and a lover of languages, you seriously need to go back now. But I have always thought that there is no better way to describe a country or location than in their native language. A language is crafted through the experiences of a people and shaped by their surroundings and experiences. It only makes sense that the language that grew with and because of its surroundings is the best to use when describing that area or scenery.

Scottish Gaelic is spoken by about 1% of the population in Scotland and it is reported that only about half of those people can speak it fluently.There are some efforts to reintroduce the language more in Scotland so I'm hopeful it won't be lost to time.

10. The people of Scotland are resilient and proud of their country

Scotland has been through a lot. Wars and tensions with England and Viking attacks are seen throughout their history. Scotland has prevailed, however, and remains uniquely Scotland.

Big thanks to VisitScotland for helping me see all of the historical sights during my trip! More posts to come on those, don't you worry. As always, opinions are my own.

Siggi Einarson

My name is Siggi-dubbed by my American friends because of the Icelandic yogurt-I am a writer, polyglot, and aspiring expat, not a cup of yogurt (unfortunately).

My love for travelling began with a trip to Iceland and Sweden to visit my family when I was just 15 years old. I spent so long dreaming of the possibilities of life abroad but I always figured these dreams were too far reached. Flash forward almost 10 years, here I am again, both cursing and thanking this damn travel bug.

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