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Scotland Travel Blog December 2013

"Scotland - How to Blend in Like a Local"

It’s December, a slow month when we spend most of our time stuck in front of a computer screen updating the tour guides and planning where to visit in the New Year. Of course, this also means that we don’t have much new to write about as we aren’t out touring about Scotland.

The biggest thing that has happened in Scotland in the last few days is the release of “Scotland’s Future”, which is the Government’s White Paper laying out how Scottish Independence will take place. One of the things highlighted in the paper is the eligibility criteria for a Scottish Passport. It’s really quite straightforward and Scottish citizenship will be open to anybody resident in Scotland, or who was born in Scotland. Also, anyone with a Scottish parent or grandparent is eligible too.

In the event that you fall into the above criteria, and would like to move from overseas to live in Scotland, we have created a simple guide on how to blend in with the locals. This is just a bit of fun…

Place name pronounciation:

To blend in as a Scot, one of the first things you need to know is how to pronounce the name of your new Capital city. Now before I explain how to pronounce Edinburgh like a local, I must point out how to spell it correctly. We have seen all of the following versions in emails and this is not made up…

  • Edinburg… close, but no cigar.
  • Edinborough… no…if  it was in England they might spell it like this, but it is not!
  • Edinboro… just plain laziness
  • Edinbro… could be slang for a male friend from Edinburgh, but Edinbro is certainly not a city in Scotland.


The key to pronouncing Edinburgh like a Scot is to remember that we talk fast and don’t dwell on the vowels. So the way we say it sounds more like “Edin-bra” with the second part said faster and softer than the first.

Another place name that always seems to trip up the visitor is “Pitlochry”. North Americans have a tendency to try to slip in some extra letters so it winds up sounding like “Pit-lotch-sherry”. Remember we speak fast, so it sounds like “Pit-lok-re”.

If that seems hard to follow, then don’t even think of living in Fife where a village name spelt Kilconquhar is pronounced locally as “Kin-neuch-ar”

What to wear:

If you’ve watched too many Hollywood films or seen episodes of “Monarch of the Glen”, you might be under the impression that the best way to blend in with the locals is by getting yourself a kilt. This would be a very bad mistake.

Most Scots don’t own a kilt, hence the wide availability of kilt hire shops. A Scot will typically only wear a kilt for weddings, fancy dinners, award ceremonies (e.g. Sean Connery, Ewan MacGregor) or Football matches.

So now you are thinking, if I get a Scottish passport will I need to go “Commando” under my kilt. Well that’s a matter of personal taste, but would you go “commando” in a hired suit or evening dress? If you want to know if someone is going “commando” or not, try the subtle approach. First ask if it’s their own kilt or one that they hired. Based on the reply, you can have a fair guess at what lies beneath.

Speaking like a Scot:

An important piece of advice here, unless you’ve been practising for about 10 years, don’t try to do a Scottish accent. The Scottish dialect has many regional variations and nuances, but a fraud accent can spotted / heard a mile away. Take Mel Gibson in “Braveheart” for example.

Similarly, never use the phrase “Och aye the noo!”. For one thing, I’ve never heard any Scottish person saying that. And secondly, “och aye the noo” doesn’t mean anything and if you start saying this other Scots might start to give you a body swerve in the belief that you’d gone a bit ga-ga.

A common phrase that distinguishes a true Scot is the slightly confusing use of “Aye right”, where a double positive actually means a negative. Do you follow me?  No… well let me give you an example. Somebody might say “Och aye the noo, I got this new kilt in Edinboro and I look braw in it. Don’t ye think?”. To which a Scot would reply “Aye right”…meaning “No”.

North Americans adopting Scottish nationality may also find that they fall foul of the local use of the word “Fanny”. Now we understand that North Americans use this word quite innocently to describe their derrieres. In Scotland, “fanny” refers to something different, which politeness prevents me from detailing. However, I will try to illustrate with a colloquialism that you may hear on the west coast and specifically around the Glasgow area. If a gentleman considers another gentleman to be a bit of a fool, he might use the phrase, “See you, you’re a Fanny”. It is not a compliment.


Sadly, drink is quite a big part of Scottish culture, but when you make something as good as our whisky* it’s hard to avoid the temptation to drink it.
*(Note how we spell whisky, there’s no “e” in it! Another thing that might surprise you is that Scots don’t call whisky “Scotch”. For us, that would be like calling Cognac something like “Frenchie”).

If you order a “whisky” in a Scottish bar you will most likely be given a "blend whisky". If you want a good Single Malt whisky you have to ask for one by name. Now Scots aren’t precious about blended whisky so you can stick anything you like in that (i.e. lemonade, coke, irn-bru). The same cannot be said about single malt whisky and the only thing you should add to single malt is water. Indeed, a true Scot will always add water to “cut” the whisky as this releases the flavours.


Keep watching this space, I'll add some more tips as they come to me...

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