When I moved to Scotland from Canada, I didn’t expect to adopt any new habits or customs. After all, both nations share a number of cultural similarities.
Spoiler alert: I was wrong. I hadn’t been living in Edinburgh for more than a few months before I found myself addicted to macaroni pies, regularly uttering the phrase “that is rank,” and sharing my life story with random taxi drivers every time I hopped into a cab.
(I’m still not entirely sure why the latter happened. Scots seem to have some magical ability that makes you feel like you can open up about anything after having just met them.)
Read More: Living in Edinburgh: The Expat Survival Guide
Along with the pies, the new vernacular, and my newfound enthusiasm for oversharing with strangers, here are a few quirky habits I picked up living in Scotland.
1. I thanked the driver every time I got off the bus
Do people do this in other countries?
I rarely use public transportation in Canada because, a) it’s shit and b) you basically cannot exist in this country without a car, so I’m not sure if it’s something people do on all city buses or if it’s just a Scottish thing.
Either way, this is one habit I picked up in Scotland and continue to do every time I get off a bus now.
2. I started eating a frightening amount of carbohydrates
Scotland takes carb-heavy meals to a whole new level. There were times (mostly after a night out, ahem) when my entire meal consisted solely of carbs.
Chip butty’s (two sandwich buns filled with fries), deep fried pizza, the aforementioned macaroni pies… the list goes on.
Read More: Why Scotland is the Best Place to be Hungover
3. I started speaking with a bizarre hybrid accent
The first time I realized my accent had changed was on a trip to Ireland. I’d hailed a taxi in Dublin and, after a bit of small talk, the driver said, “Are you from Scotland?”
Wait, someone from Ireland thinks I sound Scottish? What does my accent even sound like right now?
I told him I was from Canada but had been living in Edinburgh for six months. “Oh right, I could tell you’ve been hanging around the Scots for a while now,” he replied.
It didn’t stop there. Over the course of two years, people continuously told me they couldn’t quite place my accent. Are you Australian? Irish?
By the end of my stint in the UK, my accent had turned into a full-blown indiscernible Canadian/Scottish/God-knows-what hybrid (which still comes out from time to time when I say certain words).
4. My idea of “good” weather changed
Anytime the sun was shining and the temperature was above 12 degrees Celsius, I couldn’t shut up about how it was SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY.
Before moving to Scotland, I’d complain that 12 degree-weather was basically still freezing and wrap myself in a parka before heading outside.
5. I became less offended by the C-word
Like 99.9% of North Americans, I used to gasp in horror anytime someone dropped the C-bomb. I’m not really sure why — it just seems to be ingrained into our culture to find the C-word shockingly offensive. (I don’t even want to type the full word here because it makes me cringe a bit.)
People in Scotland use this word as a term of endearment, a casual greeting, an insult — I mean, they pretty much say it all the time. And let me tell you: when you hear the C-word enough, it actually starts to sound a little less vulgar.
Also, I think we can all agree that every single word in the English language sounds better in a Scottish accent.
6. I started bagging Munros in my spare time
Munro Bagging (climbing mountains in Scotland over 3,000 ft) is a popular hobby in Scotland — but it’s not something I thought I’d undertake when I moved to Edinburgh.
While I had no intention of climbing every Munro in the country (there are 282 in total and a surprising number of people seem determined to conquer them all), I did manage to climb my fair share of Munros (read: like 7 or so, ha) — including Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK.
It’s no Everest, but it still counts for something, right? Right?
Read More: Climbing Your First Munro: A Guide for the Unprepared and Unfit
7. I started using words like radge and rank
…and mingin’, baltic, and reekin’.
Not sure what any of that means? You’re not alone. Scottish slang is essentially a different language.
8. I learned to ceilidh dance
I picked up some of the moves after attending my first Scottish wedding, but I officially learned to ceilidh dance on my one-year expativersary in Edinburgh, when my lovely friend gifted me a ceilidh dance lesson (which was hilarious and amazing).
After that dance lesson and a few more Scottish weddings, I was Stripping the Willow with the best of them.
Read more: On One Year in Edinburgh
9. I swapped ketchup for chippy sauce
I need to preface this one by saying: this custom is unique to Edinburgh. Seriously, don’t try to order salt ‘n’ sauce with your chips in Glasgow.
People from Edinburgh love to douse their fish suppers with salt and “sauce” (or chippy sauce), a condiment made with a mixture of vinegar and brown sauce.
I still have no idea what brown sauce actually is, but I do know that chips with salt ‘n’ sauce is a winning combo.
10. I started having weirdly intimate conversations with taxi drivers and random people on public transport
It’s no secret that Scots are some of the most genuinely friendly people in the world, and they love a good life chat or a bit of banter on buses, in taxis, on the street… I guess anywhere and everywhere, really!
11. I started air-drying my laundry
So, clothes dryers aren’t really a thing in Scotland. In a country that’s incessantly wet and damp, I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that air-drying laundry is the norm. But, I adjusted to the dryer-free life easily and I’ve continued air-drying my laundry since moving back to Canada.
It saves me money and it’s better for the environment, so it’s definitely a win-win.
12. I spent more time outside
This one’s a bit ironic considering Edinburgh’s weather is generally pretty, um, temperamental. But, knowing I had limited time in Scotland lit a metaphorical fire under my arse to get out and explore as much as possible — regardless of the weather.
13. I learned every word to I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) and The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond
BUT I WOULD WALK 500 MILESSSSS…
The Proclaimers hit and the traditional ballad affectionately known as “Loch Lomond” are two songs you’re guaranteed to hear on every night out and at every wedding, party, or celebration of any sort in Scotland. And I now love them both so much.
Can you relate to any of these? What habits did you pick up living abroad?
Looking for more Scotland posts? I’ve got you covered:
- Living in Edinburgh: The Expat Survival Guide
- 61 (Awesome) Things to Do in Edinburgh
- Magic in the Highlands: My First Impressions of Skye
- Moving to Edinburgh: Finding a Job and Getting Settled
- 6 Reasons to Visit the Isle of Mull
Haha these are great habits to pick up! While I didn’t live in Scotland, I did spend two years in Spain where I befriended a super cool Scottish gal, and we became close from day one – largely because we shared English as our language and she was so, so warm and friendly. I immediately took to liking Scots but also found myself saying “don’t be daft” and rank just as she did. So funny! The country looks so green and beautiful, and I do hope to visit one day when I’m over in Europe. What a lucky experience you had! (And I’ll take Scottish over the Irish accent any day hehe)
Dina recently posted…The real Bombay: Venturing into the underworld of Shantaram
Aw that’s awesome! Scots really are the best! And it’s so hard not to pick up their slang, eh? I was exactly the same when it came to saying “don’t be daft” as well haha. Scotland is incredibly beautiful — I hope you’re able to visit soon 🙂
I ate so many carbohydrates in Ireland that I actually sought out veggies!
Haha I definitely felt that way in Scotland quite a bit, too!
This list made me chuckle. I hear you on the hybrid accent thing! I kept getting asked if I was American weirdly, then people would say “oh, you just don’t have a very strong Australian accent”. Not sure what they expected an Aussie to sound like!
Glad to hear you can relate, LC! And that’s so strange people thought you sounded American! I’m sure they probably heard an exaggerated stereotypical Aussie accent on TV once and used that as a comparison haha.
I’m so excited I found you on pintrest! I’m going to be lost reading your posts for ages to come. I’ll be taking a day to trip to Edinburgh in a couple weeks with my husband and our baby. I’m so glad to read about your experiences! Thanks a million!
Hi Victoria, I’m also glad you found me on Pinterest 🙂 Have a fantastic day trip to Edinburgh! Hopefully my posts will help with your planning!
Hi, Ashley. Just stumbled upon your blog for the first time and really enjoyed reading about your exploits in this wonderful city – yes, I live in Edinburgh. I’m so glad that you had such great adventures and also saw lots of Europe. We’re very lucky that it’s all so accessible – well, pre covid it was but we’ll all get to travel, again, just have to be patient. Did you walk out to Cramond Island when you were here? We went out this morning and got very wet feet as the tide was coming in before we got back to the mainland. Just one wee thing – I don’t know anyone who uses the “c” word! You may hear it in the street but it isn’t seen as acceptable and that’s across all age groups. And did you not come across “dreich” as in a dreich day ie a damp, miserable, grey day or the “haar” which is only used in the East Coast and means a dense, sea mist, “The haar’s coming in”. Love those words. Well, as the Chancellor of Edinburgh University said to all of us on graduation day, many moons ago, “Haste ye back”.
Hi Mairi, I’m so glad you happened to stumble upon my blog! I haven’t walked out to Cramond Island yet, actually — it has been on my list for ages, though. Hopefully can do it next time I visit! Good to know about the “c” word. Perhaps it was a unique-to-me situation given the people I spent time around when I lived there. And yes, I did hear “dreich” (I love that word!) and “haar” often throughout my time in Scotland 🙂 Thank you kindly – I do hope I’ll be able to return soon!