Every now and then people ask me: How do you like Scotland? What is Scotland like?
Those are a difficult questions. I have now lived a year and a half in Scotland but I am no where near local here. I like it here, usually at least, but I do not yet feel like I belong to here. Scotland is not dramatically different from Finland, but there are lots of little differences.
One of the biggest differences if of course the language. We are taught english at school in Finland, but we speak Finnish everywhere (expect in some parts where people speak Swedish or Sami). English is a convenient language but the cool thing with it is that there are so many different english accents. Unfortunately at school we are mostly taught British english and from media Finns pick up american standard english. Scottish accent is quite different from those with its rolling R’s and own vocabulary.
Scots greet by saying “Hiya!” That sounds so very cheerful, but indeed Scots are quite cheerful. When you open a door to someone they thank you by saying “Cheers”. That nice “Cheers” replaces “Thank you” also when locals exit the bus or order a drink at the pub. When you bump into someone on the street purring “Soory” apologises the accident. Everything small is “wee”. “Wee lassie”, “wee drink”, “wee wee”… “Dina cash yersel” means don’t get annoyed and when you do not know what on earth the other is talking about you can say: “I dinne ken whit ye mean”. Or just say “Ehm?”
I like Scottish accent a lot. I find it hilarious. At first it was difficult to understand people when they were talking with a thick Scottish accent, but I got used to it quite quickly. People here claim that Glaswegian accent is the worst one, but I have no opinion on that. People I have talked to in Glasgow have been no more confusing than all the other Scots and their accents. Also, some Northern England accents are just as or even more difficult to understand than Scottish ones. My previous english flatmate had an accent that I could not understand at all at first.
Here is an extract imitating the way locals in Edinburgh speak. This is from Irvine Welsh’s novel Train spotting (1993).
-No, ah sais.
-Aye, Spud sais at the same time. We turn aroond n look at each other. Aw the time we spent gitting oor story right n it takes the doss cunt two minutes tae blow it.
In my ear Scottish accent sounds friendly and even a little innocent. It might be difficult to take it seriously even when the issue is serious. How about news in Scottish? No matter what, it just sounds funny and informal next to traditional so called Oxford English. That is obviously a terrible thing to say. Accent racism. There are many regional accents in Great Britain but only few are considered as high-prestige accents. Why are some types of accents still related to educated people and serious businesses and others to working class dummies?
I shouldn’t categorise accents into serious and ridiculous ones, after all I have my own messed up accent. My English is a mix of Finnish, British, Scottish, and American accents. How it sounds depends on the day and who I’m talking with as I pick up the accent from the others during the conversation. At the university the lectures are taught by Scottish, Irish, British, French, Portuguese, Afghans… After being exposed to variety of accents I’ve got used to them. My world is no longer limited to British and American English. Despite my now so experienced ear, Scottish accent still makes me smile.