Let’s face it, we all know that when visiting Scotland one of the best ways to meet the people and experience the culture is to visit a pub. However, what is less known is that there are some basic cultural differences that can will improve your experience.
1. Interruption is a demonstration of interest.
It took me nearly three very frustrating months of living in Scotland to discover this one small difference that had stifled more conversations than I care to admit. The Scottish are animated and energetic people and when you talk to them you might find yourself frustrated because they interrupt you constantly. They might finish your sentence or jump to the point of your story before you are ready. As an American a conversation is a lot like a tennis match, you talk, they talk, and so on. However, the Scottish tend to steal your shot. Though you might feel cut off or that they are being rude, the truth of that matter is that by grabbing the ball from you they are showing their active interest in the conversation. Likewise, they will be disappointed and feel you are disinterested if you don’t do the same. So put on your game face and get ready for a fast paced energetic and always entertaining conversation.
2. Introductions, or lack there of.
Though in America it is customary to offer up your name and your hand right when you meet, this is neither considered polite nor appropriate to the Scottish. For many their name is a piece of personal information that should not be asked for or offered at the beginning of any meeting. Instead it is best to find some common ground that is impersonal to start off a conversation. Discuss the city, the pub you are in, or even the weather to start things off and things will flow from there. If you find an opportunity to trade names in the course of the conversation this is best, but if not as you part company is the best time to offer your name and give them the opportunity to offer theirs.
3. How to handle rounds of drinks.
In America unless you are picking up a date or with a group of friends you generally fend for yourself in terms of purchasing drinks. In Scotland, however, all drinks move in rounds. In Scotland, a person in a group, whether friends or strangers, will buy drinks for the entire group. It is expected that over the course of the night everyone within that group will purchase a round for the entire group. Whether you take your turn early or late you will fit in and make friends. Just don’t miss your opportunity or you won’t make many friends at all.
4. The exception to the rounds rule.
When you are in a group of your friends, buying rounds in turns is always appropriate. However, if you are out with someone who is your elder or to be respected in some way you may think picking up the check is a considerate and respectful move. In Scotland you would be dead wrong. Instead you are suggesting that they don’t have the means or are somehow in need of your help. You should wait and give them the opportunity to pick up the check, if, or more likely when they do, don’t offer to cover your share. Accept the gift gracefully and gratefully.
5. The truth in invites.
As Americans when we are hanging out we throw out ideas for future adventures together like hot potatoes, sometimes we mean it, often we don’t. Certainly when we offer our home or company to a stranger the invitation is tentative and both sides are aware. However, in Scotland, even if a total stranger invites you over to meet his wife and have dinner with his family, even stay the week in his home, he is dead serious. There is still a strong belief in hospitality in Scotland and inviting someone to your home is a point of pride, being ignored is a great offense. So if you find yourself invited somewhere, be aware that it is an honest invite and know that any reciprocation of an invite on your part will likely result in this person standing on your doorstep sometime in the near future. You’ve been warned.