What Not To Say To Scottish People? 18 Phrases To Guarantee You a Bad Time in Scotland

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“I’m from Scotland and I love it when tourists come to Edinburgh and do painfully inaccurate impressions of my accent. It’s really funny and original. I just wish they would also wear a ginger wig while they do it. And play the bagpipes”.

That’s something you probably won’t hear while you’re in Scotland.

Because no-one will ever say it.

People from Scotland have unusual accents. They know it. You know it. I was born and raised an hour away from the Scottish border, so I know it better than most people. But they don’t need you to tell them for the millionth time, regardless of how much you might be desperate to share your penetrative insight.

I’m from Newcastle (the most northern city in England), and my accent is pretty weird too. It’s actually in some ways pretty similar to Scottish, so I sort of know how Scottish people feel.

When you’re in Scotland, you don’t need to tell people over and over again that they speak funny.

To them, you speak funny. You weirdo.

But that’s not the only verbal cliche endlessly spouted by travelers who think they’re the first person to notice their completely unoriginal observation – there are lots of them. Here are 18 other things you shouldn’t say to Scottish people…

1. “The Loch Ness Monster Doesn’t Exist”

We all know it doesn’t, but some Scottish people (for reasons I can’t quite work out) really do think that there’s a big dumb monster hiding in the murky depths of Loch Ness.

The whole concept is inexplicable and bizarre, but it’s a source of national pride to lots of Scottish people. So just let it be.

I’ve tried debating this many times. Every time, I’ve regretted it, so don’t make the same stupid mistake as me. Just pretend that you think there’s some sort of weird dinosaur thing living in a loch in the middle of the country, and everyone will be happier.

Oh, and it’s immortal.

The Loch Ness Monster

2. “Scotland is My Favorite Part of England”

Scotland isn’t a part of England you doofus.

And while we’re on the topic, Scottish people don’t want to hear any comparisons between Scotland and England. Unless you’re saying that Scotland is in every way better, in which case they might be interested.

There’s a sometimes friendly but sometimes serious rivalry between England and Scotland, and Scottish people don’t like being confused for English people. Or like their country being confused for England. Or like their cities being compared to English cities. Or… you get the idea.

Familiarize yourself with the UK regions instead.

3. “What’s Your Opinion on Scottish Independence?”

As you’ve probably guessed from the above, talking about the politics between Scotland and England isn’t a good idea. And that particularly includes Scottish independence, especially since the UK has recently (and stupidly) decided to leave the EU.

4. “What’s Your Favorite Soccer Team?”

First of all, it’s ‘football’.

It’s also a notoriously contentious issue. People from both Scotland and England can be hugely partisan when it comes to the issue of 22 men they don’t know kicking a ball around a field. The best bit is when it crosses the white line between the two white sticks.

Unless you like having heated discussions about things that don’t really matter, don’t bother starting conversations about football when you’re in Scotland.

Or when you’re in England.

Or with me, because Newcastle are objectively the best team in the world. The fact that they’re terrible is literally irrelevant.

5. “Hahahaha You Guys Talk Funny. What is Everyone Talking About?”

Like I said earlier, this isn’t an original insight.

No-one cares.

In all seriousness, once you’re accustomed to the Scottish accent, you’ll probably fall in love with it. It’s one of the most charming accents in the world. It has a rhythm all its own, and every sentence is liberally peppered with a huge and hilarious catalogue of kooky colloquialisms.

Being unable to understand it is part of the charm.

6. “Freeeeeeeedooooom”

Yeah, everyone has seen Braveheart. But your subpar impression of Mel Gibson’s subpar impression of Scottish people is going to make literally no-one laugh.

If you’re expecting everyone in Scotland to be walking around with Scottish flags painted on their faces, you’re going to be disappointed.

You won’t see lots of Scottish people with painted faces. You also won’t see Mel Gibson. Unless he’s on vacation while you are, which would admittedly be pretty cool.

If that does happen, you could probably feasibly run around shouting “Freeeeeeeedooooom” in a way which would be appropriate and acceptable.

But that won’t happen.

You’re even less likely to see Groundskeeper Willie.

7. “Why Are You Ginger? Why is Everyone Ginger? Are You Ron Weasley?”

Lots of people in Scotland are ginger. Behind Ireland, Scotland is the most ginger nation in the world.

It’s something to do with Vitamin D, as ginger-haired people more easily absorb Vitamin D, a very helpful feature in a nation which suffers from a painfully-apparent dearth of sun.

But if you ask anyone this question in Scotland, you won’t get an answer related to Vitamin D. You’ll probably just get a punch instead.

If you’re in Scotland in January, you can celebrate all the red hair and pale skin with International Kiss a Ginger Day. Just get permission for all the kissing first.

people in Scotland are ginger
Ginger girl in the crowd of people in Scotland – by mendhak (CC BY-SA 2.0)

8. “What’s This Weird Money You Guys Have? Don’t You Use the Same Money As England? is This from MONOPOLY? Haha Got Ya!”

Scottish money is real money. It’s exactly the same currency as the currency used in England, but it looks different.

Over and over again, Scottish people have hilarious foreigners tell them that their money isn’t real money. That might have been funny ten million years ago, but it’s now a tired cliche.

Weirdly, stores in England often refuse to accept Scottish money, which is a source of irritation for lots of Scottish people.

More on the subject here.

9. “Nice Skirt Bro”

Kilts aren’t skirts. But if you compare them to one another, you won’t be the first person to have astutely noticed the subtle similarities.

Gaelic in heritage, kilts (let’s be honest) do look like skirts. But don’t tell anyone that.

Kilts aren’t skirts in Scotland, UK

10. “What Are You Wearing Under Your Kilt?”

How original.

Whoever you ask, they’re probably wearing underwear. Not everyone in Scotland is walking around with their genitals on display.

11. “I’m Scottish Too! Wow, We’re Basically Brothers!”

Having a great-great-grandfather who was one-third Scottish doesn’t make you Scottish (More on this here).

Stop pretending.

For some reason, lots of people from around the world (but especially from the US) like to cosplay as distant Scottish nationals. Don’t be one of them.

12. “I Heard That Glasgow is the Most Dangerous City in the Whole Wild World? is It? Will I Die There? Am I Going to Be Murdered? Am I Potentially Being a Little Dramatic?”

No, Glasgow isn’t some sort of ghettoized slum city.

Maybe 50 years ago it was pretty scary, but now it’s incredible. It’s packed with some of the best cultural sights in the whole of the UK, it has an unparalleled music scene, and it’s a great access point for exploring some of the Scottish Highlands.

Glasgow is way more friendly, accessible and welcoming than it once was.

People walking in Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow
Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow, Scotland

Here are some things which Glasgow – contrary to popular belief – isn’t endlessly packed with:

  • Football hooligans with three teeth who have a desire to punch you (and specifically you) in the head.
  • Knife-wielding maniacs whose sole purpose in life is to steal your money.
  • No streetlights at all, which serve as a useful tool for the ten million robbers who live in the city, keenly anticipating the day when they get to rob you.
  • A city-wide conspiracy to ruin your vacation.

Yes, small pockets of Glasgow are dangerous. But small pockets of basically every city in the world are dangerous. If you’re gonna go around the entire planet being scared of every single destination you visit, there’s no point in traveling at all.

Glasgow’s reputation as a was probably once justified. But now, it isn’t. Read this.

There’s not an ominous undercurrent of taut menace. Instead, there’s fun and adventure.

Stop being paranoid.

13. “Why is Haggis So Disgusting You Weirdo?”

Grow up.

Haggis is tasty. It’s made of weird stuff, but it’s tasty. Never before have mashed up organs (which are wrapped in a sheep’s stomach) been so delicious.

Yeah, I get it – it’s a strange national dish. But don’t let the horror stories deter you. After you’ve had one little taste, you’ll be shipping countless kilos of the stuff back home.

Scottish Haggis

14. “You’re from a Scottish Island? Have You Even Heard of the Internet? Do You Have a Cell Phone? Are You Married to Your Own Cousin? Hahahaha.”

Scottish islands really aren’t removed from civilization. They’re basically the same as the rest of the world.

There’s some really weird prevailing idea that Scottish islands are rudimentary throwbacks to a time when everyone rode to work on a horse, and had no teeth, and never went anywhere further than 5 miles away from their own home.

Funny it might be, accurate it isn’t.

Scotland’s islands are incredible, and you should make an effort to visit some of them. They offer some of the most barren, remote and exciting landscapes in the world.

15. “Is This Summerisle from the Wicker Man? Are You Going to Burn Me to Death?”

See above.

No, Scottish islands aren’t full of mega weird cults. They’re full of people who go grocery shopping. And go to the cinema. And read articles on the internet, just like you.

Hi, by the way.

Scottish islands are just normal places to live in. Here is Stornoway, the capital of Lewis and Harris island.
Scottish islands are just normal places to live in. Here is Stornoway, the capital of Lewis and Harris island.

16. “Do You Drink Alcohol EVERY SINGLE DAY?”

Yeah, people from Scotland (and England and Ireland) like drinking lots of alcohol. It’s a weird cultural thing.

Pubs are like churches in Scotland.

If someone is having a birthday, everyone goes to the pub. If someone has just died, everyone commiserates at the pub. If someone has just given birth to a baby, everyone goes to the pub.

Even the baby, but it’s only allowed a soft drink (for now).

British pubs are an animal like no other. Unless you’ve been to a pub in the UK or Ireland, you haven’t been to a proper pub. But once you’ve been in one, you’ll absolutely realize why there are so many. And why people love them so much.

They’re warm, welcoming and homely, and the decor is always endearingly old school.

17. “Och Aye the Noo”

The archetypal Scottish phrase which so many foreigners (including English people) seem to love trotting out.

If you’re interested, it means ‘oh yes just now,’ but regardless of what the TV might have told you, you won’t hear this every five minutes while you’re in Scotland.

You’ll probably not even hear it once.

18. “I Love Midges So Much”

You won’t have to worry about not saying this, because you won’t love them.

The most annoying thing in the whole world, you haven’t really had a bad day until you’ve spent a day in the company of Scotland’s midges.

Despite their diminutive dimensions, midges can literally ruin your Scotland trip if you don’t take the right precautions to deter them.

In Short…

… that’s what not to say to Scottish people. And what not to say in Scotland.

No-one cares that you think kilts are funny, no-one is interested in your opinion on Scottish independence and no-one wants to hear your dumb (and horrendously inaccurate) Scottish impression.

It’s all been said before, it’s all been sighed at before, and it’s all bored people to death before.

But all sarcasm aside, Scottish people are some of the friendliest people in the world. And they’ll take most of your jokes in good humor. One of the most laid-back groups of people on the planet, Scottish people like to laugh with each other, at each other, and about everything.

Try to avoid the cliches if you can. But even more than that, try to have one of the best trips of your life – Scotland is one of the most exciting countries on the planet, and you’ll have an incredible time.

Want to know more about Scotland? We’ve got all the information you need here on our site, from city guides to currency information to tips on the iconic North Coast 500. Stay with us and read on!

Paul McDougal

Paul McDougal

Paul is a handsome and hilarious travel writer and travel journalist from the UK. He’s hiked, hitchhiked and laughed his way through more than fifty countries, and he’s always looking for a new place to call home. Originally from Newcastle, he’s lived all over the UK, spent more than three years in Asia, and most recently lived in Vietnam. Here’s his website.