Monday, October 11, 2010

Scotland: More than Just Stereotypes of Shortbread

I hate to break it to everyone, but Scotland and England are not the same country. Yes, technically they are both part of the United Kingdom, but the unity stops there. As I've learned in past few weeks Gerard Butler's accent is only scratching the surface of the loch (lake) when it comes to distinguishing the two countries.

Here's a basic cultural breakdown:

The British are: Scots, English, and Welsh. In an international sense, you can call a Scottish person British. If you are already in the UK its best to refer to people as Scottish or English respectively. And even though Northern Ireland is part of the UK, they are not referred to as Brits.

What this means when you are actually in Scotland is a few significant cultural distinctions:

-The Scots have their own money, although it's still the sterling pound and can be used all over the UK, its specifically issued from the Royal Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank, or Bank of Scotland (which I can confidently proclaim is the most annoying bank in the world, I may be a bit biased considering it took a month for my American money to transfer to my bank account there.)

-The Christian Protestant denomination in Scotland is Presbyterian. However only 12% of the population here practices it.

-Fun fact: the quintessential British name Alistair is spelled differently depending on which country you're in. In England its Alistair. In Scotland its Alasdair (like one of their most famous postmodernist authors, Alasdair Gray).

-Or as my Scottish flatmate put it, Scotland and England have different football (soccer) teams. This is probably the most important cultural distinction to the Scots themselves haha.

If this entire post has been a revelation to you, don't worry you're not alone. My Scottish flatmate explained that when a Scot becomes famous (whether it be an actor or athlete) they are suddenly called "English" by the international media. Take the tennis player Andy Murray for example. Murray was born in Glasgow, but if you were to ask anyone not from Scotland where he was from they'd respond England. However if an athlete or an actor loses their good reputation they are demoted from honorary "English" to "Scottish" again.

Turns out learning what haggis consists of is not the only important thing to know about Scotland. Now that you can tell the difference between England and Scotland, here's a way to show your Scottish pride other than eating shortbread (although I highly recommend that too.)

Scottish Films: "Braveheart," "Trainspotting" (I still have yet to see this despite how its set near Edinburgh), "Local Hero" (a favorite in the Malone household)

Scottish Actors: James McAvoy, Ewan McGregor, Gerard Butler, Sean Connery, Isla Fisher, or David Tennant (famous for cult classic "Dr. Who," if you want to understand conversation here, don't worry about the accent, worry about what time period the Doctor is in this week's episode.)

[James McAvoy]

Scottish Authors: I'm sure you've already heard of Robert Burns (they have a whole day dedicated to him here where his poem about haggis is recited and then ridiculous amounts of haggis and alcohol are consumed), Sir Walter Scott (his monument is one of the largest in the city), Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. However there are more Scottish authors lurking on your bookshelf: Ian Rankin, Alexander McCall Smith, J.M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan), and Irvine Welsh (who wrote the book that "Trainspotting" the film is based off of among others) just to name a few. J.K. Rowling may be English, but she's adopted Edinburgh. Cafes throughout Edinburgh have signs that say "J.K. Rowling wrote here" and people spot her around town sometimes.
[Irvine Welsh]

Scottish Bands: Music tastes are variant to say the least, but here are some of my favorite Scottish bands (click on the link of their name and you'll hear my favorite songs by each band). Belle & Sebastian, one of the most famous indie bands from Glasgow. Glasvegas, fittingly also from Glasgow the lead singer is a real crooner. Franz Ferdinand, their love for new wave and tight pants is echoed all over Scotland. Camera Obscura, very girly and relaxing. Paolo Nutini, a singer songwriter whose song "New Shoes" is popular in the US.
[Belle & Sebastian]

Of course the list above isn't definitive and I'm sure I'll add to it throughout the year.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding the English/Scottish labelling of athletes(it's usually British/Scottish), this is pretty much a rumour amongst Scots that really doesn't hold that much water. It's true that people like Andy Murray are often appropriated as British by the media in order to galvanise UK-wide support but the whole 'he's Scottish when he loses' is usually just bitter Scots wanting to feel victimised. Sorry, hearing people make that comment always annoys me.

    Additions to your lists: the film Shallow Grave, Danny Boyle's debut film which is also set in Edinburgh starring Ewan McGregor and the band Frightened Rabbit.