My first year as a student in the University of Edinburgh just finished (well, a month ago), and I decided to dedicate this post to things that I didn’t expect to find in Scotland, sometimes due to stereotypes, sometimes due to I don’t even know what. Scotland and Edinburgh turned out to be so different and so special, that I simply cannot keep silent!
1. You live in Scotland, not the UK
Scotland is very culturally distinct. I had lived in England (Oxford) for 2 years before moving to Edinburgh. I can’t say that I found a lot of “separately english” things there, almost all of it is spread out across all of the UK. But I only found guys wearing kilts in Scotland, haggis is a standard dish in the menu of scottish pubs, never english, and full scottish breakfast is different from full english one. I even found Scottish Breakfast tea! (But it wasnt different from the English Breakfast). Scotland has another official language (click here for some awesome insults in Gaellic), England only speaks one. In Scotland you partly forget about the existence of the rest of the UK.
I think Buzzfeed summed up this point way better than I ever could. I will just add that Edinburgh is cooler because it is “hidden” in the shadow of London. Where do people who visit the UK go first? London. What are the top visited cities in Europe? Paris, Rome, Barcelona… London. While I do like London to an extent and I believe it has its admirers and reputation for a reason, I still think that very often people go crazy about London because it is normal to go crazy about it. It is easy to love London, while Edinburgh requires a deeper analysis and a higher level of sophistication and open-mindness.
3. Its pretty safe and very friendly.
For some reason I thought that rainy ‘dreich‘ Scotland will be unfriendly, dodgy and dangerous. I can’t even explain why I thought so. Turns out, not just Edinburgh is friendly, but it also has been ranked the safest city in the UK. People are friendly and smily, always ready to help. A couple of times I made friends by just starting a conversation on a street! They probably did think I am a creep but didn’t show it and continued the conversation. I noticed that this is not always the case in places like London or Moscow or Paris, people might think you’ re weird or generally being more cautious (Back to the point that Edinburgh’s safe).
4. Haggis is actually really cool
If you google the definition and images of Haggis, you will probably get the most drastic and disgudting idea of the dish. I honestly was afraid to try it for the first time. But it turned out to be really good and there even exist vegetarian versions of it! Although come on, haggis without meat is not a haggis…
I am not posting a proper picture of it here, just this little screenshot from Disneys’s Brave, in order not to spoil anzthing.
Never have I ever thought that scots have such a sweet tooth. Its so big they pretty much consume sugar in its raw state. Traditional sweet stuff includes Millionaire’s Shortcake, shortbread biscuits and fudge. Sometimes they add a bit of whisky to that, but other than that these things are pure sugars. And Edinburgh has an outstanding number of bakeries and coffeeshops, selling all different kinds of cake. I sometimes regret moving to Edinburgh because that amount of bakeries and deliscious places leaves me absolutely no chance of getting the summer body.
I thought this was a thing for tourists, another sightseeing like Nessie, bagpipes or hairy coos. But no. Go out in the evening and come home at about 2 or 3 am: you ll see hundreds of drunk scots coming from parties and formal events (weddings etc), wearing kilts as casually as I would wear Converse. But they dont mind posing as a tourist attraction for your pictures, too.
I have heard words like “absorb as much sun as possible now” and “did you say “goodbye” to sun?” so so so SO many times, I lost count. But it actually is no more rainy then Paris or Moscow in December or January, yet noone realizes that. But the real trouble with Edinburgh’s weather is that it is totally unpredictable. Yeah, sure, you can check BBC and iPhone forecast, but there is not much point to it. It can start snowing or hailing in the middle of the nicest day ever as pictured on the photo below for 5 minutes, then stop, and then start again. I can never guess what to wear and end up having all sorts of clothes with me.
I knew that I would be able to surf here before I arrived, as I learned about that a couple of years ago when I saw pictures of Prince William surfing in Saint Andrews. It is then when I was shocked and mindblown upon learning an obvious thing: Scotland is surrounded by the ocean. Whoa. And if you put on a wetsuit its warm enough to go into the water. And then another mindblowing fact: waters on the northern (!) and western coasts are warmer because there is Gulf…. wait for it….. Stream! I know, right??!!
Things like penicillin, golf, whiskey (irish might argue about this one), television, all come from… Scotland. This surprises me because Scotland is not the country you hear a lot about in the international news, it is always “hidden” behind England or just drowned in the total news flow from the whole of the UK. And suddenly, it has such a great input into the history of humanity and civilisation. Did you know, for example, that JK Rowling studied in Edinburgh and still lives here today? Did you know that the real Tom Riddle is buried in Edinburgh? Did you know that James McAvoy is from Edinburgh? Did you know that Sherlock Holmes was practically born in Scotland? Did you know that Charles Darwin studied in Edinburgh? Did you know that Kygo was massively inspired by Edi? I can continue for ages, these are not even the coolest things. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above, Scotland and its achievements are often blended together with the rest of the UK.
10. Scotland is more arty than you expect it to be.
I didn’t think Edinburgh would have that many art galleries, both modern and classic. A lot of interesting exhibitions are also held at the Holyrood Palace (which was mentioned in my previous post). Besides all that, some art exhibitions happen right on the streets! (a video of one such exhibition in also in my previous post on Edi). My friend who came to visit me from Paris was quite impressed by the amount of art-related stuff and the quality of it. She only visited Edinburgh, but don’t forget Glasgow, which is twice as big as Edi!
Adding up to the point number 5. I thought I’d be craving a cup of some good coffee and dreaming of Italian pizza while living in Scotland and eating weird deep-fried… well, anything (because in Scotland they deep fry anything that is eatable, including Mars bar). Nope. There is plenty of reaaaallllyy good coffeeshops, located on every corner, great eateries too! Since Edinburgh is very international, you can find pretty much any cuisine you want. All of it is deliscious and prices are friendly (if you don’t think so, always compare to London). I even wrote a breakfast guide to Edinburgh!
12. Scotland is very international.
Never have I ever thought I would meet so many people from all over the globe. My newly obtained best friends come from New Zealand and Chile (although this honestly sucks sometimes), I met people from Japan, Estonia, El Salvador, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Singapore, all of Europe and even… New Caledonia. The New Caledonian guy introduced himself as French and I was left quite puzzled after I could not locate New Caledonia on my mind map of France. I had to secretly google it. You better do it too, then my point about how internationally diverse Scotland is will be more impressive.
Scotland overturned my expectations and I feel deeply in love with this country. If you hesitate about visiting Scotland because of rainy weather or tasteless food, don’t believe in stereotypes, just go and explore yourself.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.