Scottish Traits and the Personality of the Scots
Self-isolation, social distancing, house arrest, lockdown…..choose your poison it all amounts to the same quandary. We’re stuck indoors for the foreseeable. Travel plans cancelled, work ceased or radically altered and social lives decimated. Tough times for us all and quite rightly I’ll not be talking much about travel for some time while we power through. But I felt it important to pause briefly from my on-going and increasingly concerning destruction of the whisky cabinet to jot down some thoughts on something that’s never too far from my mind. The Scots, and our distinctively Scottish traits. What an odd bunch we are.
A never-ending enigma of paradoxes, frustrations and bemusements. We’re straining at the leash to be judgemental and opinionated….yet deeply reticent and prone to caution, held back by deep-rooted fear. We’re kind, fair and ethically-led, yet thrifty, dour and bitter. A mess of personality, I’ve chatted at length with both Scots and non-Scots about the state of us and have responded with both pride and empathetic frustration to their summations. Let’s delve.
The Scottish Nature, Temperament and Values
I’ve loosely concluded that simply being Scottish is a heavy burden. We’re expected to embody something. Both men and women, although men probably even more so. To display shades of the legendary heroics of our ancestors (we invented almost everything you know), yet comply ethically with the unwritten code of Scottishness which we are all such strict and devoted followers of.
Big advocates of equality, Scots have embraced the modern world, particularly in the last decade or two, to welcome ‘new’ Scots of all types under our little umbrella. We have a very liberal mindset where immigration is concerned. Gender equality is ahead of the pace also, with your average Scottish man living in relative reverence of the Mrs and a Scottish government led by Nicola Sturgeon, one of Europe’s most popular politicians. We value education, which is why it’s free. And we look after the most vulnerable through free medical care and support. As societies go, Scotland does a good job of offering somewhere safe, fair and happy to live. This stuff’s critically important to us.
So we’re all very chuffed with that, but what about how our psyches influence Scottish traits? First, there’s the issue of modesty. We like acknowledgement of our gallant efforts at being a good Scot sure (pat on the head), but are usually uncomfortable with direct praise. We can’t exit the conversation fast enough if that materialises. Gruff, monosyllabic small talk and desperate references to the weather or the Cowdenbeath football score can be expected instead.
Then there’s our nature. We have had to put up with the long-term accusation of being tight-fisted, as in stingy. I’d unsurprisingly disagree, although there’s no denying our cautious and calculating tendencies. We’re also loyal, considerate and generous when it’s called for. Especially when drinking and allowing ourselves the rarest of unguarded moments when we may permit those deeply buried emotions to burrow just ever so slightly upwards towards daylight. Is it any wonder that alcohol is so prominent in our lives?
But it doesn’t take long for the contradictions to begin. While there’s no question that we fight ferociously to control and hide our emotions, they can spectacularly spill out in certain circumstances. Extreme ethical and moral eruptions such as a woman mistreated, an innocent exploited or an unfinished pint spilled and your average Scottish bar is likely to turn into a grotesque arena of out-of-shape gladiators suddenly obligated by Scots Law to unleash their inner Braveheart.
How we regard others
I think the Scottish trait of being extremely friendly is a well-earned one, and that’s because we genuinely have a lot of time for people from the wider world. We like tourists, it’s not an act. I would put it out there with relative confidence that Scots prefer non-Scots to themselves, most of the time. You guys are the undoubted beneficiaries of our best behaviour – did you really think Glasgow taxi drivers were always that friendly? Perhaps it’s the excitement of something new and unfamiliar, perhaps it’s that under-the-surface desire to be liked and loved. With that heavy burden of Scottishness around our necks, we unburden by presenting the best of us to others, secretly (and insecurely) hoping for approval and admiration at the same time.
Certainly we feel a kin with our near-neighbours. The Scandinavians have intertwined nicely into our historical storyline and Viking tales and heritage remain integral on the Northern Isles in particular. We are very proudly European for the most part, long taking a curious comfort from our Auld Alliance with the French and our modern-day infatuation with the Spanish (with whom we enjoy the vast majority of our holiday time), despite the stark cultural differences. To be in the front row when a Scot is caught in a Southern European physical embrace truly is a sight to behold. Bolt rigid, wide-eyed and the tragic epitome of social awkwardness, this riot is fortunately fading slightly with the passing of each generation….even if extravagant warmth and physical displays of affection will never be our most natural suit.
Casting the net wider than Europe, we assume pretty much everywhere else is exotic and probably much more exciting than drab old Scotland. Why folk from far fields – who have never set foot in Scotland – are so keen to see themselves as ‘Scottish’ is amusingly bemusing in the extreme. We welcome all with genuine and slightly confused warmth, keen to hear what on earth made you decide you wanted a holiday in the rain.
The Irish are our much more gregarious and extroverted Celtic pals from across the sea. Similar, yet so very different. The comparison has perhaps best been summed up as so – the Irish are fire on the outside, steel inside. Scots are the reverse. Cousins that very much enjoy the occasional meet up (drink), things are only likely to turn ugly if the they dare to suggest that they possess the superior whisky.
The English are something else entirely and our story is long, tumultuous and endlessly inter-connected, for better or worse. History has possibly never seen such an intense relationship between two countries. The English have been to the Scots friends, allies, family, rivals, oppressors, enemies…..all have been true at some point. Contrary to lazy assumption, I don’t think Scots (aside from the odd nutcase) simply dislike English people. That would be nonsense, and blatant racism, not something we’d tolerate. History is inescapable, and every generation of Scots will inherit those bruises in some form or another. But equally Scots were all too willing to be joined at the hip with England during the booming years of the British Empire. We enjoy pretending there’s an almighty distance between us when it suits and oppression has often been an easy shield. “Poor wee Scotland”, we’re good at that. Yet there is no question that a complex resentment simmers away, bubbling up now and again as has been seen even in recent political times. Fascinating neighbours, indeed.
But all of these different views we have of the world and its people come together where hospitality is concerned. We love the stuff. It serves up to us all, on a plate, the chance to show off how Scottish we are. And for that, we’re always grateful.
How we regard ourselves
This is perhaps even more telling. While we tend to be on our best behaviour with visitors, the mask is on another face when dealing with fellow Scots. At our worst, we actually perversely enjoy seeing other Scots fail. A Scot who is visibly an achiever, doing well for themselves or being ostentatious in any way, is automatically to be subjected to jealousy, suspicion and dislike. “Getting too big for their boots this one”, “who’d they run over to get where they are” and such. It’s very telling in its simplicity.
Scots bumping into other Scots abroad is hilarious. An almost equal dose of dismay, relief, annoyance and fresh confidence come together to do battle. Delighted that they can finally stop pretending to speak any language other than their own (trawling through high school lesson memories has been exhausting, however much they like to think they’ve been getting away with it), this is matched by how un-exotic their travel experience has suddenly become with these new additions. How dare this lot come flip-flopping their way into my balmy utopia; but Thank God they are here as I’m no longer the only lobster on the beach and we can talk about how cheap the local booze is and why Greenock Morton may be in line for a marginally above-average season.
Before long in this instance, the conversation turns towards regional Scottish traits and is followed swiftly by an unstoppable torrent of judgement, scorn and stereotyping. It may sound like a benign geographical enquiry, softly spoken just at the point when a possible alliance is on the cards, but don’t be fooled. A more loaded scenario you cannot imagine as the seemingly innocuous words “where abouts are you from?” come nonchalantly marching into the equation. Expect immediate brandings along the lines of:
Glasgow – Psychos. Or military-grade socialists. Both, probably both. Taxi.
Edinburgh – Posh gits. And probably not really Scottish at all.
Aberdeen – Surprised I can understand a word they’ve been saying. Oh, and cheer up.
I jest, of course. We’ll rush to judgement, sure, but generally Scots abroad will get on much better than they ever would when at home. We like the reminders of the familiar, hesitant as we may be to admit it. In my younger days I was a holiday rep on the Mediterranean and took great joy in bringing Scottish famillies together, after a little handholding. We are unquestionably a different animal when we travel.
In the extreme of this, the Tartan Army are a legendary movement of travelling Scots who boisterously enjoy watching their team getting trounced on the road, proving with pride that we are still the best losers on the planet. They’re well-behaved, friendly-in-the-extreme and abundantly Scottish. And want to make sure everyone knows it.`
…..and why do we go to extremes?
Maybe it’s all about balance. While Scots are clearly prone to severe emotional restraint and an inclination towards the quiet guy at the back of the class, we’ve felt the need to counter-balance that by creating the bagpipe, maybe the most intrusively dominant instrument in existence. No-one tends to think of Scots as the life and soul of the party, yet we slapped a Scottish patent on New Year’s Eve and claimed the biggest shindig of the year as our own. And the most inward and reserved of us will unleash a shameless hell on the ceilidh dancefloor when these rare opportunities present themselves.
While there’s that inescapable image of self-imposed dourness, the irony is that we’d never shut up if we didn’t take our Responsibilities of Scottishness so seriously. We’d be gossiping away, scheming, harassing, policing and orchestrating. There’s so much we want to say, but are we allowed? And while our true emotions tend to stay behind lock and key, we love a wistful, even tearful, reminisce about the raw beauty of Our Scotland. Even those who have never been further north than Dumbarton.
Lest we forget the famous Scots’ pride of course. Proceed carefully, you’re on thin ice here. Because we generally love a good joshing and the opportunity for self-deprecation. Being wound up is part and parcel of our conversation and poking gentle fun at each other is entirely expected and welcomed. Like getting gubbed at sports, we’ll take it on the chin in astonishingly good spirits. Up to a point. Wound a Scot’s pride by taking things too far or striking a nerve and it’s a grudge for life, even if you don’t know it.
Coming back to equality, we relish the opportunity to help those in need. It’s like our calling. To help a neighbour with their shopping, buy a round for a luckless drinking companion or take it upon ourselves to mutiny against the class system, most Scots are primed and ready. Yet, we are thrawn. A very Scottish term, we take a perverse satisfaction in being obstinate and difficult. We enjoy knocking others off their perch with a “serves you right for enjoying yourself you happy bastard” salute as they tumble. It’s like a self-righteous need to defeat success.
Manners matter too. Perhaps this is best examined through hiking etiquette. If you were to take it upon yourself not to say hello to a passing Scot on a hillwalk, you will have quite simply ruined their day. I speak from experience. It is an almost physical wound when this happens, they’re stunned with the shun. They’ll take it back to their family to discuss at the dinner table, they’ll be lying awake that night mulling it over. An egregious slight, how very bloody dare they. The fact this Code of Social Understanding ceases its jurisdiction the second you get back to the car park is neither here nor there, of course.
So what are the Scots really?
Carefree and light-hearted we most hilariously are not but at our best, we’re honest, reliable and compassionate. Fairness reigns supreme and most Scots genuinely strive for a fairer and more equal society even if, in our eternal resigned pessimism, we fear we’ll never see one. Our moral compass is the driver in many of our decisions and big-heartedness is something we do well.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide if it’s worth having a Scot or two in your life.
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I love this week’s article, Neil which I have forwarded to many of my Yankee friends here in the USA, begging the question “Is it worth having a Scot in your life?” Let’s see how they respond!
Thanks again, please stay safe and healthy.
Thanks Gordon, same to you and do let me know which side they come down on!
You have done the near impossible – nailed what it is to be Scots, in the most eloquent, witty and honest piece of writing I’ve had the pleasure of reading.
I will personally attest to “Yes, indeed!” Have met + known a few and they are intelligent, honest and principled ppl. Plus, there is a very strong and healthy Scottish and Scots-Irish population in the SE-USA!
I personally am 3/4 Scots, 1/4 Irish and German, and I truly identify with and admire my Scots’ heritage! #GoScots! Slainte!!
a Scottish Lass 💞🍀🏴🇺🇲🏴🍀💞
Mobile, AL, USA
I loved this article. Though my heritage is primarily English (my ancestors decamped from Scotland with Malcolm Canmore) and Norwegian, Scotland, especially the Highlands, is the place that feeds my soul. Now I think I have a better understanding of why that is!
Always happy to help join the dots Deb. Once Scotland has worked it’s way into your soul it can’t be easily shifted 😉
Great article. I am thrilled to know that my proclaiming to any and all Scots that I have met on my travels around Scotland about the wee bit of Scottish heritage that I have has brought a smile to my distant cousins. Being almost 80% Celtic brings a smile to my face despite my being so obviously American, and traveling thru Scotland and Ireland seems so right with my soul. My greatest find in Scotland, in addition to the amazing scenery, has been the incredible warmth and friendliness of the Scots. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
BTW, I have almost the exact picture of Glen Coe from my last trip. And yes, the beauty of the area did get me misty eyed.
Keep the great articles coming!
Thank you Mary and lovely to hear about the impact that Scotland has had on you. It’s such an old land, with such an old soul, that it’s understandable in every sense to form an attachment. I hope you make it back soon to build on it further!
I loved this blog! As a Canadian with Scottish grandparents from the Hebrides. I saw a lot of these traits growing up. As an adult married to a man born in Perth, I see even more from him though he left Scotland at the age of 10. A visit to Scotland as a child gave me an eye-0pening experience into my grandparents beginnings; the sounds, the different food, attending the Inverness Tattoo, (not that they would have seen any of that from the Butt of Lewis). Anyway, just wanted to say this was my favourite blog post yet.
Delighted to hear it Maureen. Love understanding the endless unique connections folk have with Scotland and having a little bit of Hebridean in your blood can only be a good thing! God I miss the islands…..
Fascinating! Ticking a few hereditary boxes over here. what I love about the Scots is their ethno-historic pride in being Scottish. I could be wrong on this, so do correct me, but I haven’t heard a Scot say, “well I was born in Scotland but I have German and French or other heritage.” As a Canadian, though I think I can say with some measure of confidence that Canadians take pride in being Canadian, we are often searching for, and claiming our roots from elsewhere. How wonderful that you have such a strongly rooted cultural heritage and inherent traits that connect you with each other.
Very true Kristen! We do seem to just refer to ourselves as Scottish and that’s that. Especially if born here for sure. Very aware of North America in particular being just as you say and searching for roots further back, for us we don’t seem to feel the need much. Although increasingly international we do have a very strong traditional Scottish identity too, which I hope never fades :-). Glad you enjoyed.
Great article Neil! As an avid visitor, I particular got a chuckle from “We welcome all with genuine and slightly confused warmth, keen to hear what on earth made you decide you wanted a holiday in the rain.” Can’t wait for life to get back to normal…hoping to make another trip this fall! Stay well!
Hope you can make it Leslie, I think the next 3-4 weeks will be a critical indicator if that’s on the cards. Glad you enjoyed 🙂
A very sincere, deep and emotionating post indeed.
Thanks you Neil for making feel me like if i have a Scott in my life !
Just a wee question : because I love Scottish way of speaking and Scottish accent, could you, just for this post, make an audio link with yourself reading your text ? It would be a Scott in my computer, and a great way ton improve my scottish prononciation!
Juliette from France
Note for Juliette. There is a Scots Language class on the Open University website that I highly recommend. It not only allows you to practice the Scottish words and language, there are many sections where a Scots speaker reads the lesson and the. You can record your own voice. Loved the class! And I highly recommend it.
Ruth from the USA
Good tip Ruth!
Thank you Juliette, glad to hear I had the desired impact! That’s an interesting idea too. I’m currently stuck abroad and don’t have any of my gear with me but let me look into it! There’s also the VisitScotland podcast of course, which is mainly me talking, and you can find that on iTunes and Soundcloud….or the Scotlanders YouTube channel where I’m also talking a lot. Cheers!
This was a great read, even though I’m a little late to the party. I recently got the results back from a DNA test and found out I’m 63% Scottish. I was glad to hear that news. Shouldn’t have been such a surprise that it was, since most of my family is named Anderson, Smith, Brown, etc. It’s such a beautiful country that I would love to visit, and if things continue down the toilet here in America, I may not come back! I also find it very interesting that my personality is very similar, except i tend to blow money.
Thank you for some enlightenment and great humor!
Thank you for this lovely insight into the Scottish “soul”. 🙂
As an avid Scotland traveller I recognized a few traits – others have so far gone unnoticed by me.
I also love the poetic language throughout your blogs (often not easy to read by someone who isn’t a native speaker which makes for a nice challenge).
I do bring in some very Scottish terms and the occasional bit of slang so well done for keeping up Tanja!
I truly enjoyed your article and will continue to read your blog. I was hoping to look for my Scottish roots in June but trip will probably not happen due to the virus. God willing I’ll be there next year. It’s truly interesting to read of the Scottish personality. Thank you.
Ila Rice Hennig with Bruce and Blevins and Boggs ancestors.
Thanks Ila and Scotland will wait for you! Hopefully be able to welcome you next year.
Yes Neil , a great article , I can agree with you about being ignored by a fellow hillwalker..
Like you I often wear the kilt on the hills and always like to say hello to other walkers and often enough have a good long chat .
I would say 95 per cent of hillwalkers always acknowledge me but I concur with you in the fact that I get annoyed when someone coming in the opposite direction , has his/her head down and is obviously going to ignore me.
Generally there is a certain code of courtesy on the hills giving a sort of friendliness, that says ‘ are we not special to be up in the hills enjoying the spectacular panoramic views and scenery’
Yes I get annoyed when ignored but you are right in saying this code vanishes soon as we turn on our cars ignition and head back to civilisation
It stings James doesn’t it! We take it for granted and it just seems a very nice and normal thing to do in our rural areas, especially on a hike. As you say, it’s a way of sharing how fortunate we are to be enjoying these places. A point more relevant at this moment than ever!
‘I have learned to move past this point of this ruthless person ruining this moment for me, I become selfish in not taking on their toxic energy and thinking, “nature didn’t want them looking into the eyes of my soul anyway and saved me.” I then keep on enjoying the view, thank nature, while enjoying my beautiful moment. I resonated with the story being told as it would ruin my very moment of how dare them not even have the decency to look up and say hello. I would then keep on carrying it with me, and go on and tell others spreading the negative forgetting all the good while the little twit when on about his way living life in however way he wanted. I realized I was living on the side of bitterness, as I grew up knowing how to naturally, it seemed, and have fought to see a brighter more positive way to enjoy the things I love doing not letting the twits of the world ruin it. Let them be toxic and rude, shame on them.’
(I stumbled on your article when I went searching more about Scottish traits. I’m learning more of my family history and background. I was gifted an heirloom with our family crest, from Scotland. I thought maybe it would answer some questions of why I’m so different, haha!)
Thank you, Neil! Entertaining and well-written article – I’ve been living in Edinburgh for about 6 months while pursuing graduate studies and I’ll say that your insights definitely resonated with me. Navigating Scottish culture as an American has thankfully been somewhat easy (slowly training my ears to better understand the various dialects), but I’m always so impressed by how welcoming and inclusive everyone tends to be. So grateful for time spent in an amazing place…. definitely feel my soul refreshed!
Thank you Katherine and glad to hear you’re settling in well! I really think that most Scots are just proud that folk from all over the world would choose to come here and it’s our collective responsibility to make you feel as welcome as we can. Good luck with those dialects, Edinburgh definitely the easiest place to start and maybe build up to Glasgow and the North East 😉
Very good, thank you 😊
Nice article, full of interesting insight, I am that man and will never forget the moment when my Italian Pizza man hugged me and kissed me on both cheeks as my wife and I were ready to fly back home for a few weeks, I was like a block of marble freshly hauled out of the Massa Carrara hillside! Took me weeks to recover…
Especially liked the line about why would people pay good money to holiday in the rain, I will remember that one and use it with due credit.
Yes being a Scot now living in America is great, yes there are a few Scottish wallet jokes, but most people are open and want to know whens the best time to visit. So I ask them have they heard the expression “four seasons in a day” well expect four seasons in an hour! They all return happy and having had a great experience and cant believe how friendly everyone is.
Of course when you are returning to endless sunshine in Florida a wee bit of rain is no big deal.
Keep writing and stay safe…
Oh you’ve a way with words Andy, I can almost feel your discomfort haha! Glad to hear there’s some familiarities in there for you and quash those stingy myths whenever you can. Great to hear the Floridians are returning home with more than just midge bites!
Andy, if you want the weather changing similar to your home, come to Northwest Louisiana in the winter. It’s 80 degrees here today and rainy and the temperature will drop 50 degrees by tomorrow night into the 30s. We are rarely lucky enough to get snow, but when we do, it’s a major disaster (people act like) and they buy enough food at the grocery store to be snowed in for a month, and within 3 days, everything is back to normal. Whatever normal is! The great part of the snow is, all of the roads close and work and school are closed. I love being an adult and getting a snow day!
Hi Neil yes ! “having -a-Scot-in-my-life” is really worthwhile especially by those lockdown times !
As a bretonne from Nantes, I love the way you write about the Scottish, your humour, your light self-derision…
Please keep on writing and giving me the even stronger desire to come back to Scotland !
take care and love
Interesting Anne as it’s come to my attention recently that Captain Haddock from Tintin was a Breton! I’d been convinced he was Scottish given his traits but makes a lot of sense now – some of the similarities that exist there between us. Hope things are going OK in Nantes and take care.
You are such a gifted writer! I so enjoyed this, I cannot even tell you how much. Well done! I have been to Scotland twice, and plan to return this September. I absolutely love it, and all of you who call it home. Alba gu brath!
Thanks very much Paula and hope you can make it back to visit Scotland in September, hopefully we’ll have some whisky left!
I enjoyed reading this. It helps me understand myself a bit, in away that I can’t. Ive never been to Scotland. Born in Ohio. But weirdly in a little Scottish nitch. My grandparents were Scottish, my dad was too, though I never knew him, he died, my neighbors were of Scottish descent. Most not so long ago, like 1950’s. I lived outside a small town that was built mostly by Scottish and Irish settlers. A running joke was the Irish built the pubs, the Scottish the churches! That seemed odd considering how much those making the joke liked to drink. And yes they were pubs, the word bar, didnt turn up til the 1990s. There was strangely an equal number of both pubs and churches. Our little area even has its own variation on the Scottish accent that is unique to that town. People are pretty friendly. And yes, it detrimental if you dont speak or say hello to everyone you pass. I grew up in the country, or as we called it on the creek. There was maybe 10 to 15 different families there when I was young. Not many kids my age, maybe 4 of us. Let me tell ya when we started school our teachers had a hey day! They did their best to beat the accent and weird words out of us. It was stereotypically not good to be of Scottish lineage. The Irish where lazy drunks, and the Scots, well they were druids or dirt. It was better to be Irish, but not much. Never understood that. I grew up with neighbors coming in going, sitting on the porch singing, telling ghost stories, gossiping and criticizing each other. It was the norm. I loved the people I grew up around. They were reserved but completely warm once they warmed up to you. When I got married, my husband said I was the most confusing person he had ever met. Quiet, but dont ask my opinion, you’ll get it, probably won’t like it, and dont make me mad, and dont call me Irish! I have red hair, round here they assume your Irish. He thought my family really seemed to like him and how friendly my town was. I told him that was true, but they’d be talking about him when he left and it wouldnt all be nice. 20 years on, they still do it, they like him, but he still isnt one of them yet. My husband took a Linguistics class at a university in my little town. He learned there the history of the town. Quite comically the professor gave them a list of Scottish words common in the area and asked how many the class knew. He said he was surprised by how many words for idiot there were and was more surprised by how many he had heard me say. Yep, I told him we were really a judgemental bunch! Just not in front of you. Also told him not to get cute and try to use them, they had different degrees to them. Overall, I don’t claim to be Scottish or even the descent. I’m just me. But reading this has definitely given me some insight into my own personality. During the pandemic Ive beentalking with my grandma’s bestie, she grew up in Edinburg. She is in her mid 80s now. Been relearning some dishes my gran cooked and my kids have been talking to her about Scotland. They are interested in my roots so to speak. All my kids know is Im from Ohio, that is good enough for me. I dont remember much, my step dad was pretty wicked, I was literally the red headed step child and treated as such, so I try to forget being a kid. But my second grandma, (before my gran died, she made her promise to look after me, she kept that promise), as I call her has been great at bringing back the memories, the nice ones, She has known me since the day I was born. Always said I was stubborn as a thistle. Never understood that as a kid. But I own up to the stubborn part now. Us who grew up on the Creek, definitely have our quirks and people find us odd personality wise. But we make perfect sense to each other! My husband used to say my red hair was showing when I got upset. Now he says my Scottish is showing. Then I give him “that look” and he says well there it is again! That usually earns him a smack. Maybe it does show. I was taught to ditch the accents and words to fit in better. I’d be lying if I said they dont pop up and I sound like my grandparents. Or when Im home visiting, my kids have told me I talk different, well when in Rome, or maybe I’m just being myself. I will say the little nitch I grew up in has faded. Most of us kids moved, the old heads have died, and its losing its charm. Very few people I grew up with are around, and new families have moved in, they aren’t as friendly, or are confused by everyone else’s friendliness. They acted surprised if someone says to stop by anytime, we’ll sit on the porch and shoot the breeze. This makes me a little sad, even though I don’t live there anymore. My home is fading. I loved the way I grew up, loved the food, the stories, and the celebrations. Now they just seem weird or old fashioned to everyone around us, so we all just try to blend in. I have never set foot in Scotland, but its apart of me, Ive stopped denying it. I hope to visit one day. My second gran told my girls, the people of Scotland travel far, and they are good at it, but theres always a bit of Scotland in them. I think thats true. I tend to believe where your born is where your from. But there is something underneath that calls you elsewhere, especially when your grew up around immigrants that tried to bring a bit of home with them and they shared that home with you.
Although Northern Irish, I’ve recently discovered that my DNA is only 10% Irish, and 80% Scottish. I think there’s a lot of commonality between NI culture and Scotland anyway, but if dna has a part to play, I can identify with much of your article!
Very much so Ruth, we’re cousins from across the water for sure. And I always see similarities between Belfast and Glasgow in particular as cities.
Just recently found out I’m 48% Scottish. And 17% Irish. I live in the United States and my family’s origins had been a mystery. Hoping to visit someday soon!
first of all sorry for my English; in Italian I write much better.
In fact, I just finished an article about Scotland, mostly about gastronomy and a short introduction through the legends, history, morphology of the country. I had been looking for information on the character of the Scots for some time, but in vain. Only for the sake of scruple I looked at the topic researching in English, and here it is, I came across your wonderful article. I could have taken ideas for my article, but it’s too late now.
In any case I wanted to greet you for the great sympathy towards you that emerged reading what you wrote about the Scottish character.
Hoping to be able to take a beautiful day trip to Scotland and greet you in a Mediterranean way, I greet you warmly.
And if you pass through Italy you are welcome in Ancona!
I will always welcome a Mediterranean greeting! Gracie mille Eva and glad you enjoyed the read.
Loved this article! You painted quite the picture and aptly conveyed Scottish culture to non-Scots. As an American, I’ve always wanted to travel to Scotland and plan to go as soon as allowed. Curious about two things. Firstly, best time of year to visit? And second, how amenable are Scottish men to American women? Definitely wouldn’t mind a romantic diversion during my travels!
Thank you! Spring and autumn (fall) best, more about that here: https://www.travelswithakilt.com/best-time-to-visit-scotland/
And….I’m sure you’ll find some Scots lads may be a little more reserved than some but ultimately just as keen as men from anywhere else on that score! Happy hunting!
The difference between Irish and Scots was described to me once as:
In Ireland, our word for December is ‘mí na Nollag’:
‘the month of Christmas’.
In Scotland, your word for December is ‘An Dùbhlachd’:
Hi Neil, I am a Londoner but my father is from Glasgow and the stereotypes of that area do have some basis! I love both the good and so-called ‘bad’ traits! I also think that the Scots are very talented within the arts (my dad is eighty but plays the piano, paints, draws and in his youth was a snazzy dancer). Hilarious, dour, stubborn, caring…a great big mix of everything. Love to Scotland X
Great, GREAT article. Thanks for all the thoughtfulness (and humour). I’m here from the US because my Dad was Scots-Irish + Welsh and I’m trying to figure out which I am. I love when (good) people succeed so I might be disqualified as a Scot, according to your post here – LOL. And I’m over-emotional – ah, the Welsh n me – so that’s another disqual. But I’m feverish over fairness, so who knows…
Greetings, Neil, and thank you for the hilarious post!… When I visited Scotland it was with a group performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I’d never particularly wanted to go there, and wasn’t aware of any ancestral connections, but when the overnight bus crossed from Yorkshire into the Lothians my eyelids flew open, my blood was singing in my veins, and my heart was in my throat. I felt like that the whole two weeks, and when we boarded the bus to return to Paris (where I’d just finished studying), I cried for two weeks without knowing why. As it turns out, I have people from that area on my mother’s side.
I felt as if I’d finally returned to a place I’d known in some past life, and which I remembered in breath, blood, and bone. It was so gut-wrenching to leave, I’ve been afraid to return unless I could find a way to stay on. I may now understand (despite being American) what it means when people talk about their ancestral lands or their blood (ancestors) “speaking to them”.
The people I met while there were indeed warm and hospitable, with wonderful senses of humour. Thank you for revivifying those memories for me.
I love this article! I just recently found out I am almost a full Scott! Yet, for some reason- before I did my blood test is it weird to say I felt it in my blood? Like I always knew?? Anyways, I’m so proud and happy to learn this news and to visit Scotland soon! I really hope the virus will allow me to see this beautiful country in the next year!!! I even found I am Campbell!
After reading your article I’ve no need for a psychologist! My ancestors immigrated to the states from Scotland in the late 1800s and You’ve pretty much summed up my entire family’s personality traits.
Delighted to have saved you a few quid! We’re a funny bunch right enough….
I live in the US and I just recently did a DNA test and found out I’m pure Scottish. I never knew where I came from but even after 200 years, my whole family behaves as you described in the article. These traits must be in the blood. It’s so sad that most of us are just called ‘white’ and we have no idea the cultures we come from. Thanks for the article.
Well, I found myself in this post. Thank you.
Neil an incredibly insightful article. My family name of Smart I’m told comes from Scotland. I did not realize how much more had come down the line.
Thanks Matt, glad to ring a few bells!
I am captivated after reading this post. I cannot wait to get my hands on another by you. Sense of humor, witty, relevant…its all here apparent in all its perfection. Cheers, Christine
Scottish Tourist Board should issue as a hand-out/booklet to every tourist arriving in Scotland.
Oh My oh my, Neil you have a wonderful article here, like others I stumbled on it! I too come from a long line of Scots, Matter of fact There are 10 in y family and we all did our dna, most of us are at the 50% maker, Now reading your blog here, it explains many of our characteristics and why we act the way we do “ sometimes”- actually it’s like holy buckets to say the least! Mom and I have had some interesting conversations about it, we dabble in the concept of birth order thought process, well maybe a combination to both, not sure.
All in all great article, thanks for sharing!
Visited Scotland for two weeks in September. Had a lovely B&B hostess in Kinlochleven who served one of the best full Scottish breakfasts I’ve ever eaten (she played The Corries’ hits softly in the kitchen as she prepared breakfast).
She provided me with the following pearl of wisdom during breakfast: “Scots are either very friendly or they are dour.”
Well I guess that’s why I’m always poking fun round here it’s in my DNA.
Thank you for this! WOW! I was feeling stunned and confused about my identity when I found out that I’m mostly Scottish. (I had always believed I was mostly German). Anyway, I decided to learn about Scots and came across this page. I just want to say I really appreciate this more than you can know. I am every bit this person you describe with only one exception, I don’t keep my feelings to myself much. Everything else is 100% spot on! Although this is new to me I now feel totally included and rediscovered my identity. 🙂