A Look Into Scottish Culture

I recently came across a news article on the BBC website that said on average Scottish people drink 47 bottles of vodka each per year. Personally I don’t think this statistic is entirely accurate, however it did get me thinking about Scottish Culture in general, of which there is no denying we enjoy a drink!

In a way this statistic is not much of a surprise. In a country that invented Whisky, we have been heavy consumers of alcohol for hundreds of years. I can count on one hand the amount of friends or family I have from back home that don’t drink, however if you were to walk along any main street in any Scottish city, there are numerous amounts of homeless people, most of whom have been affected by alcoholism in some way. Yet, I still don’t believe most of the population drink too much. I think the problem is there are pockets of people stuck in poverty who drink booze either as a form of escapism or because there simply isn’t anything else to do in their area.

Scotland has so many beautiful places and charming people. You just have to look at places of natural beauty like Loch Lomond or the cultural diversity, stunning architecture, and green space of Edinburgh to see there are a lot of great things going for this country, but it’s when you delve into the places out with the tourist track that you see there are some cracks in the background. If I could describe it in any way I would say it’s a country with a split personality. For instance, in the same year that Glasgow was said to have the highest crime rate in Europe, it was also voted the friendliest city! For those who have never been to Glasgow that statement might seem both ironic and silly, but for those who know the city, a truer statement could not be made.

In the past Scotland has been an intellectual, scientific, and industrial powerhouse, far over performing when you think that it only has a population of about 5 million. From the inventions of the steam engine, to the telephone, penicillin, and insulin. In recent years it has been the financial services industry which has soared, along with the North Sea oil and gas industry. None of things though are that well known outside of the country itself.

When I meet other travellers abroad the 3 things they seem to think of when you mention Scotland is kilts, bagpipes, and haggis! Or occasionally the Loch Ness Monster 🙂 I suppose every country has it’s stereotypes. I don’t mind so much as it gives a topic of conversation and a chance to make fun of myself. In today’s society though if I could pick 3 things to represent ordinary Scottish people it would be Irn Bru, Mince ‘n’ Tatties, and Tunocks Tea Cakes. All food and drink related and all things I crave when I’m backpacking in other parts of the world. For those who don’t know, Irn Bru is one of the few soft drinks that outsells both Coca Cola and Pepsi in it’s home country. It is something of a national treasure. Mince ‘n’ Tatties is just a very traditional Scottish meal consisting of very basic ingredients of mince and potatoes mashed up with gravy. For anyone who has tasted the culinary heights of places like France or Italy this probably sounds terrible, but I honestly don’t know one Scottish person (other than some vegetarian friends) who don’t have this as one of their favourite meals of all time. Last but not least is Tunocks Tea Cakes. I’ve never really came across these anywhere outside Scotland, but these cakes (if you can really call them cakes) have been around since my gran was a little girl. Tunocks factory is based near Glasgow and I imagine it to be like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There is a year long waiting list just to get a tour of the factory and you just have to taste these tea cakes to know why.

All in all I think Scotland has a thriving culture and national identity. There are underlying problems that we need to address, but when you think of what we have achieved as a country over the years I think we’ve done quite well. If there was one thing I could change though it would be to encourage more Scottish people to travel. When you think of how many Irish you meet all over the world it’s such a shame that Scotland, with a similar size of population, is nowhere to be seen in comparison.

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