This is a post I have been wanting to pull together for a while now, but how in the world do I cover all of the differences between Scotland and the U.S. in this post? I don’t. Seriously, I just can’t, but what I can do is throw out at least a few of the differences I’ve observed. Again, this list is far from comprehensive, in part due to me not noticing the differences as much as time goes on. Also, I don’t mention guns, politics, healthcare (ok, only one tiny mention below), or any of that in this post since I think those topics call for an entirely different post, let’s keep this light. Alrighty, let’s get going!
- The accent! Ok, there’s not really a Scottish accent but rather many Scottish accents. I think many people assume that speaking with people over here will be no problem since they speak english here… well, yes, they speak english but many Scottish accents sound like a different language until your ear is better trained to understand the accents. I have had several people who were born and raised here tell me there are certain Scottish accents even they can’t understand, that’s how much the accents vary here. If you’re planning to visit Scotland I’d highly recommend watching some Scottish programming beforehand (I highly recommend Still Game and Limmy’s Show as a start).
- Expiration dates! Expiration dates on many items come up a lot quicker here than in the U.S. Honestly, I’ll still eat things after the expirations, I just use my best judgment as to whether it’s still good or not.
- Bag your own dang groceries. In the U.S. it’s rare that you will bag your own groceries if a checker is ringing you up. I think many of us will bag our own stuff at times to help a checker that might not have a bagger that day, but in Scotland you can count on bagging your own stuff most of the time. Oh, and if you didn’t bring your own bags you will need to buy bags (we paid for bags in Seattle as well, so no big deal). Sometimes when I buy a bag here the checker bags my groceries but usually I’m bagging them. I don’t mind bagging my own stuff at all, it just makes for an awkward situation if you don’t realize that’s the deal. I should mention that this might be a European thing, I’m not sure, since it was the same when we were in Amsterdam.
- Surgery? When I was trying to find a doctor (GP) for Ryan and I to register with I couldn’t understand why I was only finding places that performed surgeries, not regular general practices. Eventually it occurred to me to google what “surgery” means in the UK and apparently a surgery is a doctor’s office and that’s why all these places tend to have “surgery” as part of their name. Ok, mystery solved.
- There are words that exist in Scotland that don’t exist in the U.S. and vice versa, and there are words that have totally different meanings here. PANTS! Why do I choose to mention “pants” of all words? Because that’s one of my favorite words and over here it means underwear. I often call my dog “fluffy pants” and I now have to check myself before saying that in public anymore. Chewie is not my sweet lil fluffy underwear. You’ll use “trousers” in place of “pants” over here. I also used to say “I’m pumped” a lot and now, well, I don’t. Feel free to google that one. Luckily, I was aware of these differences before the move.
- First floor in Scotland is the second floor in the U.S. This is actually a good one to be aware of if you have mobility issues and are booking an Airbnb here. In the U.S. the first floor is what would be considered the ground floor here in Scotland. For example, in our building there is a basement floor, then the ground floor (main entrance), then the first floor, and so on. If you’re from the U.S. and book a flat that says it’s on the second floor there’s a high chance that your flat is on what you would normally consider the third floor.
- Customer service. Things don’t happen quickly here, they just don’t. When it comes to most services in the U.S. (I’m thinking utilities, phone, cable, etc.) you will be good to go that day or within a few days of the request, things here can take weeks or months even. As far as pubs, restaurants, and so on, I have found the customer service to be very similar to the U.S. In the U.S. it’s not uncommon to practically have your check served to you on top of your meal, whereas here that doesn’t seem to happen, there is less pressure to eat and get out. In restaurants here you will generally want to ask for your check when you’re ready to go.
- Ah the good ol’ tv license. If you live here and stream live tv or watch BBC programming at all you need to purchase a tv license and renew it annually. I thought this was the silliest thing when I first heard about it but I really don’t mind supporting the BBC. It ultimately breaks down to only £12.50 a month. It’s less than half of that if you happen to have a black and white television. Oh, and they will investigate you if you don’t get one, to ensure you aren’t watching BBC or streaming things live.
- Scotland loves dogs! This is great since by golly I love dogs! It boggles my mind how many cafes, pubs, restaurants, stores, etc. that dogs are welcomed at here. Yoda is restless and uninterested in going on pub adventures with us, but Chewie does pretty well and enjoys the outings. I don’t bring Chewie out to eat with us all that much at this point but I love knowing that the option is there. Don’t worry, if you’re allergic or afraid of dogs, there are still several restaurants that don’t allow them.
- Holy coins, Batman!!! There are so many coins here! In the U.S. you have the penny, nickel, dime and quarter and that’s generally all you’ll find in your pocketbook. Yes, other coins have been minted but most people are using the usual four coins. In Scotland we have, get ready for this, 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2 coins. The coin shapes and sizes are a bit confusing to the untrained eye as well. At this point I’m so used to the coins that I actually think it’s absurd that the U.S. uses a paper $1 bill rather than a coin. I don’t know that we need that many coins over here but I do like the £1 and £2 coins quite a bit.
Before we visited Scotland last year I remember finding several blog posts and vlogs that were on this exact topic. If you’d like to hear about even more differences a quick google search on this should get you some great information. Make sure you google the differences for Scotland as opposed to the UK, since many UK posts tend to be about England, which is quite different from Scotland. I’d like to compile a list with links to other vlogs/blogs, I just haven’t had the chance to go back and find the ones I really enjoyed to make sure they’re still there. I’ll try to get to that over the next month or so. Look at me, I’m not shutting up… how much caffeine was there in that Fentimans cola that I had?!
Update: Within days after posting this I’ve had my groceries bagged for me twice at two different stores (one time I purchased a bag, the other time I’d brought my own). Now I become confused when a checker starts to bag my groceries. LOL!