I’m so deeply proud of my Scottish roots and the many quirky traditions that I grew up with that it is sometimes easy to forget that others find some of the things that we do as a little bit odd. Since I moved to London, my casual chatting about the joys of battered pizzas and macaroni cheese pies have been met with baffled frowns.
There are a few things that we do in Scotland that seem to baffle the rest of the UK – not least of all daring to want a say in how our own country is moving forward by discussing independence.
But these 15 things are a lot more low key than that – from foods that no-one else has heard of to (gasp!) talking to people we don’t know, here are just some very Scottish things that we think should catch on elsewhere, but no-one else seems to quite get.
1. We deep fry pizzas
Pizzas are not quite calorie heavy enough for us – look, we need the padding, have you felt the bitter winds up here? Dropping a pizza into a deep fat fryer sounds like an abomination, until you taste it. If you thought Italy did pizzas best, then you’ve never tried one of these doughy heart attacks that are so bad for you they can’t be anything but good. Until the heartburn kicks in anyway. Worth it.
2. We batter chocolate tae
In fact, we batter everything. Stodgy and greasy food is such a good thing that many of our chippies run a service where they will deep fry most things you bring in for a small cost. Chocolate, in particular, is a queer battered delicacy that many other folk find too queasy a prospect to get on board with. Everyone needs to try a battered creme egg at least once in their life.
3. We talk to strangers
We don’t encourage our wains to strike up conversations with loners in parks, don’t get us wrong. But we do say hello when we walk past people in the street, something which seems like a bizarre concept in London and one that is likely to get you arrested. In Scotland, you’d be considered odd and downright rude to the point you’d deserve a Glasgow kiss if you didn’t at least smile at people you walked past. And people in the pub you never clapped eyes on before can become your best mate for the night within the first downed dram of whisky. Being friendly feels great.
4. We celebrate everything with a ceilidh
Your nightclubs and mosh pits can go and boil their heeds, nothing says ‘something good has happened’ like a proper ceilidh. A pure, Gaelic gathering, there’s country dancing where you link arms with everyone whether you know them or not, uplifting and traditional live music and plenty of booze flowing. Once the inhibitions are dropped, everyone just has a great laugh.
We even teach country dancing in our schools as part of P.E. Who needs rounders anyway?
5. We use Irn Bru as a mixer
Vodka and coke? Nothing compared to vodka and that beautiful orange beverage. Irn Bru flows through the veins of every true Scot and most of our pubs have it on tap where English pubs would have lemonade. A pub that doesn’t serve Irn Bru is one not worth visiting.
6. We call everyone a c*** and don’t mean any offence
Utter this word anywhere else, even as part of a joke, and you’re liable to draw gasps but Scots often use it as a term of endearment. Given that it’s just a word and that context is more offensive than the lexis itself, dropping the c-bomb (aka ‘y’allright ya wee, c***? How you been deein’?) as a casual greeting to your pals is no biggie in the North.
7. We use our own created chip sauce
Salt and vinegar is so vanilla. Our chippies offer you salt and sauce and what you get is a concoction of brown sauce watered down with vinegar. Lashings of it, tae.
8. We disown anyone who drinks whisky with anything other than more whisky
Even for Scots, it takes a while to get used to the burn of straight whisky when you first become a drinker. But water it down with anything at your peril in Scotland – the distilleries don’t supply you with this liquid gold just so you can flood it with coke. The only time this is acceptable is when you are trying to sober up – the closest thing to having a glass of water between drinks is by putting ‘panny’ in your dram. And even then, you’re on thin ice.
9. We celebrate Hogmanay for about a week and a piece of coal is the centre piece of proceedings
Hadaway with your rave past midnight and then two day hangover – New Year is the biggest event in the Scottish calendar. We start early and we finish late – our Hogmanay celebrations go on for days and many Scottish folks have an open house for several days for anyone and everyone to pop through, offer their wishes and share a drink. And in the middle of it all, we still hold dear the tradition of ‘first footin’ – if the man of the house doesn’t carry a piece of coal over the threshold of the front door at the New Year, then you pretty much deserve the bad luck coming your way.
10. We have a day dedicated to a poet
English people don’t honour their bard enough – aye, you have a Shakespeare day but do you mark it in your house with a dedicated meal and a family gathering? Scottish people make a big deal of Rabbie Burns’ birthday on 25th January with a full meal of haggis, neeps and tatties. Die hards will also dress up in full kiltage and enjoy readings from some of his work.
11. We put entire meals inside pies
For when mac and cheese is insufficient sustenance, we have macaroni cheese pies. For when a full lasagne won’t do, we chuck that into a pie too. Chicken curry pies, chill con carne pies, shepherds pie pies – you name it, and we’ll have it in a pie.
12. We wear kilts to a wedding and wear nowt underneath
The biggest fear for most at a wedding is making a fool of themselves on the dancefloor but for men at a Scottish wedding, the real gamble is keeping your crown jewels in check. You won’t find many places windier that the Scottish highlands so we chose to make weddings a total gamble by making it a tradition to go starkers underneath kilts. And if the gust doesn’t expose you, that one, drunk English guest who insists on finding out if you’re a true Scotsman will.
13. We are not averse to combining cheese with gravy
In England, the ideal drunk food is a kebab – a devastatingly macabre take on a Turkish delicacy which involves slices of god knows what kind of meat in a flimsy pitta bread with the whole lot disguised under a pile of purple cabbage and garlic sauce. We go down the more simpler route and yet as much as I turn my nose up at a kebab, those down South will be horrified by the fact we have cheese melted on chips and then pour gravy on it. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.
14. We use 500 miles as a final song no matter what the occasion
It has pretty much become our anthem for any night out be it a night on the town, a wedding, a christening, a funeral or a work do. If the DJ hasn’t played the Proclaimers hit (or at least a rendition of The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond), then the night hasn’t finished.
15. We handle the cawld
Ten inches of snow? So what? Our public transport laughs in the face of winter. And so do we. We’re used to it being cold and wet pretty much all year round so when the lethal stuff hits, we just get on with it. Those down south who grind to a standstill over a light dusting must wonder how we do it – while we wonder how they manage to be clever enough to wangle a day off work for a few flakes of the white stuff. Bravo.