Meeting the Scots
Haggis, kilts, ginger people and whisky: I exchanged Sweden for Scotland last night and am now trying to get a quick impression of what Scottish life is like. People smile a lot here and they are more expressive than the Swedes. Beer and football seem to make the world go round - everything to have a good time together. What else is happening in Scotland?
The Scottish spirit seems to be quite similar to the Irish one. Social life is very important and any activity supporting it will be warmly embraced. Steven (21, photo) calls the Scots outgoing, social and, at times, pretty loud. The Scottish accent is quickly noticed. It has a rolling R and some vowels will also sound different compared to Oxford English.
`Scots are outgoing, social and, at times, pretty loud`
Like in Ireland, an ancient Keltic language is spoken by a small part of the population: Scottish Gaelic, which is different from Irish Gaelic. Public education is not available in Scottish Gaelic. Anyone wishing to learn it should take it as a separate subject or migrate to a private school. Local populations use Gaelic simply to communicate. Unlike the position of Gaelic in Ireland, Scottish Gaelic is not part of any nationalistic stake.
Religion and football
In a way similar to Northern Ireland, the city of Glasgow is roughly divided into two camps. Those supporting Glasgow Rangers (predominanly protestant) and those cheering for Celtic (mainly catholic). However, `instead of using religion as an excuse for violence, football is religion here`, says Aine (26). She herself happens to be from Northern Ireland, but having lived in Glasgow for over four years, she knows what the situation is like. `Matches between Rangers and Celtic turn the city into a quite horrible place. Hooligans are not even so much bothered by the match result, they just like the fighting that goes with it.` As a result of the violence, many public places ban football tops from their premises.
Bill (31), a Celtic fan, and Alan (30), a Ranger fan, tell me that the divide line reaches well beyond the Glasgow city borders. It is a national separation, worsened by the fact that Rangers and Celtic are usually the only two clubs that have a fair chance of winning the league title. Bill and Allan know plenty of people who go out to fight after the regular city derbies. They themselves are not interested in it, but they do confirm that the problem exists. They can not define why people chose to support one team over the other. Their playing styles are similar and religion is not an important part of Scottish life at all. The football sectarianism seems to be nothing more than a matter of tradition.
I am happy to have arrived in Glasgow in the midst of favourable football circumstances. The Scottish national team is performing very well in the Euro 2008 qualifiers. Matches involving the national team are not associated with violence. For once, Rangers and Celtic fans will stand on the same side: a relief for the real football fans.
A pint or two
Much of the violence is caused by heavy drinking, another hobby of the Scottish people. It helps people loosen up and mostly serves the social circuit. Alcohol purchases or consumption are open to over 18s. The choice of drinks is tremendous and the availability impressive. Pub or club visits can take place on any day of the week. Even Sunday evening is considered suitable for going out. Only Monday and Tuesday seem a little quieter.
Medical specialists warn that the popular hobby of binge drinking is a severe threat to the national health. At the same time, the authorities are also pointing out that many occasional drinkers also run increased disease risks. Sarah (17) adds that the average Scot is not very sportive and has poor nutrition habits. As a result, the city of Glasgow seems to have the highest rate of heart attacks in all of the UK. Many people are obese, but the situation is not (yet) as bad as it is in the United States.
Scotland vs. England
Scotland are not big friends with their English fellowmen. Scotland blames London of having very little attention for what happens in Scotland. Scottish bank notes are often rejected by English venues, but the reason for that is more complicated than nationalism alone. For a reason unknown to any of the people I speak to today, Scotland has three institutions printing bank notes: the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Bank of Scotland, and Clydesdale Bank. Forgery is a popular pastime, leading many venues south to be very unwilling to accept Scottish bank notes of high denomination.
The stereotype further prescribes that Scots are offended when they are referred to as English. Many people actually do, or it will at least annoy them. If it happens abroad, they will excuse the mistake. If the insult is issued within the UK, they may be less happy about it. Gillian (22) knows the problem, but is not bothered by it personally. Her father is English, so she is neither fully English nor fully Scottish. Explaining the problem, she compares calling a Scot an Englishman to calling a Canadian American. It is not a direct personal attack, but it is a mistake that should nevertheless be avoided should you want to become friends with your conversation partner.
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