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Enjoy & Learn

Scottish taboos

Oh, Scotland!
How I long to walk your highlands and your glens,
To watch the flowers in your meadows wave
in the breeze,
To hear the ocean waves noisily kiss the shores of your western isles,
To sift the sands of your beaches through my fingers,
To see the rainbows after your showers,
And to feel your history surround me.

Have you ever had a chance to experience the enticing charms of Scotland Janette Simpson mentions in her poem? If not, it is high time you considered a short trip to the land of whisky, bagpipes and kilts. But before you go, it is worth learning a few facts about Scotland, which will help you avoid blunders in your contacts with the Scots.

Are the Scots English?

Remember never to say or even imply that the Scots are English. The proud and patriotic nation may consider it a serious offence as they do not hold the English in high esteem. In fact the English, the descendants of Angles and Saxons, have always been the greatest enemies of the Scots, who descended from the Celtic tribes. They deprived the Scots of their independence, enslaved them and killed their national hero – William Wallace. Thus, even though the Scots are not reluctant to admit they are British and Scotland is a part of the UK, they will never call themselves English or London their capital city. They are Scottish and their capital is Edinburgh.

Do the Scots wear skirts?

Never tell a Scotsman that he wears a skirt. He will definitely look at you with indignation and state firmly that it is not a skirt. It is a kilt! And even though it is difficult to tell the difference between the two, it is good to remember that calling the kilt a skirt is a serious blunder. A popular Scottish joke, explaining the name of the garment, says that it is called kilt because a lot of people got kilt (killed) when they called it a skirt.

The kilt is a traditional Scottish garment made of checked woolen cloth known as tartan. There is a wide range of tartans as each Scottish clan (family) has its own pattern. The kilt used to be worn by Highland Scots only. In Victorian times it was modernized and became popular all over Scotland. Nowadays it is only worn on special occasions such as graduation, weddings or national celebrations.

The kilt is closely connected with bagpipes, the Scottish national instrument. After the uprising against the English in 1745 they were both banned by the government and thus became the most powerful symbols of Scotland. Today all bagpipers wear kilts. You can meet bagpipers in the street where they often play or you can go to special bagpipe concerts or festivals.

Are the Scots thrifty?

There are hundreds of jokes about thrifty Scots. According to one of them the Grand Canyon was started by a Scot who lost a coin in a ditch. The nation is indeed thought to be very careful with money, not to say stingy. But is it really so? The Scots believe it is only an unfair opinion based on stereotypes which originated from a period when the people of Scotland were very poor and therefore had to watch their pennies. Nowadays the Scots give more to charities than any other part of the UK. So think twice before you accuse a Scot of being stingy.

What do the Scots eat and drink?

The national dish of Scotland is a sheep’s stomach stuffed with a filling made of sheep’s liver, lungs, and heart mixed with oatmeal and spices. Horri- ble as
the description may sound, haggis (because this is the name of the dish) is loved by the Scots. The greatest Scottish poet, Robert Burns, wrote a poem in which he admired haggis calling it the “great chief- tain o the puddin’ race!” Many a foreigner be- lieves, however, that hag- gis becomes edible only when washed down with lots of whisky. Maybe that is the reason why the Scots have a reputation for drink- ing too much alcohol. But is the reputation justified? Well, a wellknown Scottish proverb says: “Never drink whisky with water and never drink water without whisky.” There is also a joke saying that in Scotland a seven-course meal is a bottle of whisky and a six-pack of beer.

Can the Scots play any sports?

If you ever go to Scotland, you will be surprised to see how many golf courses they have. The Scots pride themselves on the fact that golf was invented in their country. Do not forget that thanks to the Scots we also have curling, a sport which developed in the 16th century and which later, in 1998, was added to the Winter Olympics.

What else do we owe the Scots?

It is quite remarkable that this relatively small nation has given the world so many brilliant scientists, inventors and artists. Did you know that the inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell, was Scottish? And so was John Logie Baird, who invented the television, and James Watt, the builder of the first steam engine. Still another Scott, Alexander Fleming, discovered penicillin. A number of Scots are famous for their literary achievements. You must have read historical novels by Sir Walter Scott or Sherlock Holmes stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle. The film star Sean Connery comes from Scotland, too. No wonder Voltaire claimed that “we look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilization.” The Scots would definitely agree with that. They know their worth and they will expect you to admit that the world would not have made any progress without them.

So if you ever decide to visit Scotland, bear in mind the above tips and you may be sure that you will get on well with the Scots. For more information about Scotland visit these websites:

Monika Łuczak
konsultant metodyczny oddziału
Szkoły FELBERG we Wrocławiu


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