How to tell if you're Scottish
by Geoff Eddy
Geoff-- a software engineer, amateur linguist, conlang creator,
and part-time hacker-- lives in Edinburgh with his web pages, and has taken
the time to instruct Sassenachs, Yanks, and other far-flung tribes on
the essences, or at least the accidences, of being Scottish.
If you're Scottish...
If you died tonight...
- You're familiar with Ewen MacGregor, Mel Gibson, Jim White, Oor
Wullie, Dougie Donnelly, Billy Connolly, Archie McPherson, Grandpa
Broon, Gavin Hastings, Robbie Coltraine, Rab C. Nesbitt, High
Road, Bill Paterson, The Krankies, Robert Carlyle, and (if
you're younger) Skoosh.
- You know at least the basics of football (it's never called
"soccer"), and probably rugby too. If you're male, you probably know
the rules of football in great detail and can name the eleven players
who should make up the national team; additionally, you can probably
come up with convincing arguments why none of them should be
(depending on your religion) Tims or Huns. You prefer not to remember
Costa Rica in 1990, or Peru or Iran in 1978, although you reminisce
fondly about Archie Gemmill's goal against Holland.
- American football is still something of a novelty which you can
see at strange times of the day, and cricket is for Sassenachs (except
in Freuchie). Shinty, by contrast, is a genuine Scottish sport popular
in the Highlands, and you may have played it at school.
- You are probably allowed four or five weeks of holiday a year, and
your boss is equally probably allowed to ask you not to take it all.
- You consider a few hours of sunshine to be an event worthy of note
or even celebration. You cheerfully put up with cold and wet weather
which would frighten most people from warmer climes.
- It snows every winter, yet nobody in positions of authority ever
seems to expect it, and there is consequently some disruption to
As of Wed-enz-dy the sityeeation was guid
- You probably believe in God, and if so are probably a Catholic,
Protestant or Wee Free; although you probably don't go to church very
often. You're very careful about religion in parts of the West Coast.
- You think of McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, Chinese takeaways and
so on as cheap food, but a perfectly acceptable excuse for not
- You probably own at least one telephone and at least one TV, often
as a combined deal with a cable or satellite company. Your place is
heated in the winter and has its own bathroom, which has a bath or
shower and certainly a toilet. You do your washing in a machine or the
local launderette. You don't have a dirt floor. You probably eat at a
table, sitting on chairs; if not, you eat on chairs in front of the
- You don't consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys, horses, or guinea
pigs to be food, and you certainly don't kill your own food.
- The proliferation of utility and transport companies is confusing,
since they all promise to offer the best and cheapest services, yet
nothing actually seems better than the simpler times before everything
- You expect, as a matter of course, that the phones will
work. Getting a new phone is routine, but expensive if you're with BT.
- The train system is a joke, unless you live in Glasgow; you prefer
to travel in your car, even if you have to sit in traffic jams for
longer than the duration of the equivalent train journey.
- You are used to two large political parties (Labour and the
Tories), two small ones (SNP and the LibDems), and some tiny ones
(including the Greens and the SSP) but the main battle is between
Labour and the SNP. You probably think that the SNP speaks best for
Scotland and are unlikely to take the Tories seriously, especially
since the poll tax debacle. This system is much better than, for
example, the American system, which consists of two identical parties.
- You probably voted "Yes, Yes" in the Referendum, but like to
complain about the results as though it were all someone else's fault
which you had no part in.
- Socialism is a fine and noble political theory with a long
Scottish tradition, although since John Smith died the only proper
socialist party is now Tommy Sheridan's SSP. Communism is taking it a
bit far though.
- If you're male and urban, you sometimes wear the kilt in public,
and you may have worn it at your wedding.
- Most people are white, although they can also be yellow, brown or
black. It doesn't really matter most of the time anyway, since you're
familiar with people of Asian extraction from your local newsagent or
- You think most problems could be solved if only people would put
aside their prejudices and work together.
- You would like to think of the legal system as strong and just,
but know that it often isn't. You know that if you went into business
and had problems with a customer, partner, or supplier, you could take
them to court.
Mel Gibson was Scottish?
- You rarely need to bother with foreign languages, but were
probably taught a bit of French or German in school. If you have the
Gaelic, it's for nationalistic reasons if you don't come from the
Hebrides, or for practical reasons if you do.
- Words like "both", "home" and "stone" are pronounced "baith",
"hame" and "stane", despite the spelling. "Wednesday" has three
syllables, and "food" rhymes with "good"; the second syllable of
"situation" is "yee", not "yoo". "House" is pronounced "hoose".
- A stream is a "burn", a valley is a "glen", and to "greet" does
not mean to welcome. You refer to the Scottish weather as "dreich",
and get annoyed at people (especially Sassenachs) who can't say "loch"
- You probably believe that higher taxes are necessary to fund
better public services, but aren't too keen to actually pay them.
- School is free up to P7, although the better-off prefer to send
their children to public schools; from there on you expect to have to
pay to get a decent education. If you stay on beyond S4, you expect do
Highers in S5 and normally CSYS in S6 before going on to University.
- University degrees are four years long, except for longer courses
like medicine and dentistry.
- Mustard comes in jars or yellow tin boxes, and sometimes in stone
pots. Milk comes in plastic bottles or in cardboard cartons decorated
with black-and-white abstract cow-like designs, and the lettering is
colour-coded so that you know how much fat is inside.
- The month comes second: 24/6/1314 and 12/9/1997. (And you know
what happened on those dates.)
- The decimal point is a dot, certainly not a comma.
- A billion is either a thousand times or a million times a million
- you're not sure which.
- The "second city of the Empire" was Glasgow, not Birmingham or
anywhere else in England.
- You expect marriages to be made for love, not arranged by third
parties. Many marriages happen in church, some in registry offices.
You have a best man and a maid or matron of honor at the wedding-- a
friend or a sibling. And, naturally, a man gets only one wife at a
- If a man has sex with another man, he's a homosexual.
- Once you're introduced to someone, you can usually call them by
their first name.
- If you're a woman, you might go to the beach topless on holiday,
but never at home.
- A hotel room has a private bath if you pay extra for it.
- You'd rather a film be subtitled than dubbed (if you go to foreign
films at all).
- You seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal with
the government, without paying bribes, although your competitors seem
to get away with it sometimes.
- If a politican has been cheating on his wife, you would question
his ability to govern.
- Many stores will take one or more of your credit cards.
- A company can fire just about anybody it wants. You'd prefer if it
were otherwise, since you probably know several people who've been
made redundant my large multinationals who take advantage of the fact
that Britain's employment laws are laxer than those in Europe.
- Labour Day, spelt correctly with the "u", is on the first of May.
Damn French never came through for us
- You've probably seen Braveheart and
Trainspotting, and maybe Local Hero, Gregory's
Girl, and that one about the two teenage boys who rob coaches
from a motorbike (update: it was called Restless
Natives). Most of the films you've seen have been American.
- You know some or all of The Corries, Andy Stewart, Lulu, Alex
Harvey, RunRig, Simple Minds, Big Country, Dougie MacLean, Wet Wet
Wet, Deacon Blue, Del Amitri, Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie, and Travis. You
probably don't want to admit to knowing where "fandabidozi" originally
- You can only expect good medical treatment if you can afford to go
private, otherwise you usually have to wait ages for trivial
- The history you were taught in school consisted of, in decreasing
proportions, Scottish, British and European.
- You expect the army to fight wars, not get involved in politics.
Griping about Holyrood before it's rebuilt
- Your country has never been conquered by a foreign nation, but
it's been ruled by one particular one for long periods of time...
- You're used to a wide variety of choices for most things you'd
want to buy.
- There are five terrestrial TV channels, three of which have some
special Scottish programmes.
- You measure things in feet, pounds, and gallons if you're over a
certain age; otherwise you're likely to use metric. You measure
distances to nearby towns in miles.
- Comics come in three varieties: cartoon strips such as the
inimitable Oor Wullie in the Sunday Post; cheaply printed
children's publications like The Beano, and glossy
hardbound albums (mostly American imports) like Batman.
- The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are usually
entertainers or politicians, and occasionally authors or film stars
with a new book or film to plug.
- You drive on the left side of the road. You stop at red lights
even if nobody's around, and often have to stop at green lights
too. If you're a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you
will fearlessly cross the street in front of them - except in Glasgow,
when the colour of the lights is of no importance.
- You have some good friends who are English, and have gone there a
few times on holiday, but in general you'd rather England were a
friendly neighbour than a domineering landlord. You think the English
attitude to Europe is a long-out-of-date relic of the days of Empire.
- You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be a small car.
- The police are not armed.
- If a woman is plumper than the average, it doesn't make much
difference either way to her looks.
- The biggest meal of the day is in the evening, usually at or not
long after five pm if you're at school, and a bit later if you work.
- The nationality people most often make jokes about is the
English. You probably don't make jokes about the Irish - only the
English do that.
- There's parts of the city you'd certainly never go at night unless
you have a trusted local with you.
- You feel that your kind of people aren't being listened to enough
in Westminster-- or Holyrood.
- You wouldn't expect both inflation and unemployment to be very
high (say, over 15%) at the same time.
- The family someone comes from, and in Edinburgh the school they
went to, matters a lot in some circumstances, although you feel it
- You think of opera and ballet as elite entertainments. It's
likely you don't see that many plays, either.
- Christmas is in the winter. You spend it with your family, give
presents, put up a tree, and wonder why it almost never actually
- You might be able to name the capitals or the leaders of some of
the nations of Europe, but probably not all.
- You've left a message at the beep, or voicemail.
- Taxis are probably too expensive, but they get you there quicker
- You probably believe in welfare and unemployment payments to those
who can't live without. You probably also believe that too many people
get them who could very well do without.
- If you want to be a doctor, you need to get a bachelor's first.
- Buying a house is safer than in England, since gazumping isn't
done here; but you have to pay for several surveys.
- There sure are a lot of lawyers.
[Back to Metaverse]