This list is not even going to scratch the surface, but here goes.
1. The Accent
Let’s start with the stupidly easy, shall we? Whether I’m being called ‘hen,’ ‘lassie,’ or hearing the word ‘Aye’ every few seconds, listening to the sound of a gaggle of Scots speak is one of the most soothing things in the world.
2. The Language
Yes, I know they speak English… but do they really?
Words on the lips of a properly literate Scotsman become poetry, even when he’s slinging the C-word at someone on the street. There is such interesting intonation and cadence to the way they speak, something that a fellow at the Pegasus Kebab Shop in Perth told me drove him nuts. “They cut off their words,” he said. Followed by assuring me my own accent was far cleaner – superior, and by far his favorite he’d ever heard. I disagreed.
3. The Land
I believe it is referred to as Caledonia when the love of the land is the subject. There is no place on Earth more beautiful. I’ve set foot on Rannoch Moor twice in my life now. I have never felt more drawn to a place than I was when I stood there – one of the most barren and unforgiving moors in Scotland.
Not sure what that says about me, but moving on.
4. The Roads
Were you to drive from Boston to Manchester, NH (a distance of 57 miles), it would clock you at about 52 minutes. If you’re going the speed limit, obviously. Were you to drive from Aberdeen to Dundee (a distance of 66 miles) it would take you seventeen days.
Alright, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but whatever! These roads were created by Romans and drunk Celts. They abide by a simple life rule I follow, “I’ll get there, but I’m in no hurry.” No seven lane highways, no tearing up the mountains and blasting through granite to build the straightaways and Route 95, just meanderings of concrete that enjoy exploring the scenery as much as you do.
5. The Humor
Unlike most parts of the world, when I walk into a pub in Scotland, there’s a 90% chance that I’m surrounded by a bunch of kindred jackasses. Though I did not bond endlessly with any ladies while I was there, I didn’t meet a single fellow that I couldn’t make laugh. Now, I’m not saying every Scotsman is hilarious. In truth, the ratio of funny to unfunny is the same there as it is anywhere. (Not every Scotsman can make ME laugh.) The clincher is that those that ARE funny are downright fucking LUDICROUS SPEED funny.
That’s the kind of people I need in my day to day life.
But then, there’s that weird side of their humor, as witnessed on Scottish television. The side that finds it hilarious when English men narrate over people falling down while making obscure references to D-List British celebrities. Do a search of ScottishVines and you’ll see the kind of bizarre shit I’m talking about. It’s not funny, it’s just feckin weird. They seem to get it though. SMH.
Bourniston, on the otherhand, is hilarious.
6. Their Passion
Though I didn’t cross paths with a man who could give me a run for my money, I did see the nature of each Scotsman change when mention of the now defunct Referendum came up. Each was ready to go to bat over the subject, riling themselves up just enough to realize they were getting uppity, then go right back to that stoic, “It’s the past now, nothing we can do about it,” tone. A moment later, when the ‘Patronizing Better Together Lady” was mentioned, it was a whole new uproar.
These kinds of outbursts take place at the mention of certain politics, certain laws, certain types of whisky being compared to another – hell, when you mention a preference for a different pub than they enjoy, it’s time to drop bombs. But only for a minute. Then they’re done, back to that stoic lie that they lay in wait behind.
You might not have a love of Classical music as I do, but jump ahead to about the 12 minute mark, watch for thirty seconds, and if you don’t get riled up by 12:32, we clearly aren’t cut of the same cloth.
Bagpipes do something to me. And yes, if you’re roaming through the streets of Edinburgh for only a day, you WILL hear them. They will call you from the hills, and they will haunt you.
8. Kilts (and 8 1/2. Scott’s Porage Oats)
They appear. On the streets of Edinburgh, in the pub in Glasgow, at the airport on the way to Amsterdam. Everywhere. Clearly I belong there.
Now for the random things that can’t really be generalized.
9. Drinking Tap Water
As an American, I can’t even begin to explain what sheer joy it brought me to know I could stay hydrated without having to spend four dollars for a bottle of water. Scottish Tap Water tastes like Poland Spring in New England. That is a bloody miracle.
10. All Day Breakfast!
There is nothing so amazing as eggs and back bacon on buttered toast, slathered in baked beans – at seven o’clock at night. Nope nope nope.
11. Men are Smelly Bastards
Scottish men like cologne. I’m not saying all of them do, but go to a public place – a shop, a pub, a club; the place smells like cologne and there is no escaping it. It’s funny, I’m NOT a fan of heavy cologne on a man. I prefer a man who smells of deodorant and laundry detergent, but I came to feel almost soothed by the smell when roaming in public. It meant I was somewhere in Edinburgh, Perth, or Dundee. It meant I was near home. Where ever that is.
12. And Tight Pants
This is the WEIRDEST fashion choice, but it is universal of British fellows. They wear tight pants. Some more than others. Sure there are the fancier lads who wear Emo-caliber nut hugging jeggings. Those are a specific brand though, the other tight pant wearers are – everyone. Even the fellow I’d fallen madly in love with was guilty of the tight pants.
I mean, seriously. Get some flare up in there. Tight pants are bad for your sperm count, don’t you know?
It’s all the rage, au currant, and it just looks fecking atrocious!
13. They Don’t Tip the Bartender
This was one of the hardest things for me to wrap my mind around. Every single drink I ordered, I threw a pound on the bar. Every single time I did, one of my friends snatched it up and returned it to me.
“What are you on about?”
“You don’t tip the bartender, pouring your drink is his job! He already gets paid to do it.”
I could NOT handle this concept. I was trying to tip bartenders, pizza delivery guys, cab drivers, your mum – everybody! I was mocked openly until I felt as though tipping was almost an insult to the person on the receiving end.
14. Public Restrooms
This is the WEIRDEST thing to miss, but all bathrooms have the same kind of locking mechanism, and NO bathroom has paper towels. None. It’s either a blow drier or nothing at all. You are shit out of luck if you’ve read that unfortunate article about hand driers being breeding grounds for germs (I read it, too) so just wipe your hands on the ass of your jeans and move on!
A Dairy Milk Caramel can be blamed for every pound I have gained in the past three years. Sweet mother of God, I only like a few of the candies you can get when in the shops, but the ones I love, I love to an unhealthy degree. Still, the nostalgia isn’t just for the taste of the things, but simply the access. Hell, I went into a British novelty shop this past week, saw Jaffa Cakes (which I LOATHE with burning passion) and almost teared up.
16. Deep. Fried. Mars. Bar.
There are no words for the mystery and majesty of this confection. I’m unsure whether it can be procured outside Edinburgh, but every day that I am in my beloved city, I stop in at the Clam Shell on the Royal Mile and order one, feasting on its innards as I head back down the cobblestone streets to points beyond. Molten hot, face melting, death orgasm.
I’ll take two.
17. Kebab Shops
I deliberately found the most DIRTY picture of a Chicken Doner Kebab that I could find. Order this at one in the morning, slathered in the garlic sauce AND the Chili sauce (Have to do both! BOTH!!!), and learn you some manna from heaven. These cannot be found in the US. I live north of Boston and in the entirety of New England, found one single, solitary Kebab shop. It is two blocks from Quincy Market in Beantown, and though it is NOT as good as in Perth or Dundee, Scotland, it will have to do.
Disclaimer: This is not a Gyro. This is hot sex in your damn mouth.
They’re called potato chips, but don’t tell these assholes! I will admit that Salt and Malt Vinegar potato chips are amongst the most amazing things I’ve ever had the privilege of putting in my mouth. That having been said, I will not be venturing toward a bag of Cheesy Beans on Toast flavored chips any time soon.
19. Are You American? (And 19 1/2, Eyebrow Game)
I’ve never felt quite so cool as I did walking through the streets of Perth with my friend Scott, rambling utter nonsense at my stoic and often quiet companion only to suddenly hear, “Are you AMERICAN?!” from behind me. I turned to find a woman (whose makeup was pristine, like all women in Scotland. Jealousy. They all have the most perfect eyebrows. None of them are real.) beaming at me. I assured her, yes, only to have a second uproar when I said I was from Boston. Apparently, Boston precedes itself. Having been told that Scottish women are highly inclined to get into fist fights in the rowdier clubs, my immediate response was, “Sounds like Boston. I think I’ve found my people.”
20. The Stories
There isn’t a place or a person in Scotland that doesn’t have some magnificent tale to tell. And even the ones that don’t are still damn well going to tell you one. I found people enormously eager to lend an ear when my random factoid tendency reared its ugly head, spewing obscure historical events, or unknown details of why Slate Gravestones were a good retirement gift in 1770. No one gave me the side eye. Apparently, they enjoy hearing them as well.
Which brings me to –
21. They Rejoice in Their Writers
From the Scott Monument in Edinburgh, to Burn’s Night, Scotland is one of those places where their poets and story tellers are praised and celebrated. There wasn’t a single place I went where Rabbie Burns didn’t come up. In fact, Rabbie Burns – a writer from Scotland – is the person with the third highest amount of statues made in his likeness. A writer, who died before his fortieth birthday; more statues than Napoleon.
I was born in Concord, Massachusetts, starting point of the American Revolution, a place known as the Home of Authors – if you’re from Concord. No one outside my hometown knows what Author’s Ridge is (burial place of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Alcott. Yes, all in one place. That’s worthy of note, damn it!) or thatWalden happened a mile away from Little Women. Yet, all of feckin Scotland knows what a Burns Night is.
An excuse to get drunk? Correct.
And so we conclude with the tiniest fraction of why I miss Scotland, why I get teary eyed at the sound of Bagpipes, or why I am currently researching Masters Programs in writing from Edinburgh to Aberdeen. Give me a year, Alba. I’ll be back, and it will be for good.