September 23, 2013

how to move to scotland.

This post isn't actually going to be a helpful guide on how to move to Scotland. Mostly I'm just going to write about my feelings like any other culture-shocked twenty-something who is still slowly realizing what kind of a fix she's put herself in. 

Wayne and I moved to Michigan almost two years ago. Western Michigan isn't all that different from southern Ontario, and so we didn't recognize any symptoms of culture shock at first. Suddenly though, about six months in, we realized how absolutely irritated we were with a number of things that were slightly different from our Ontario ways. Certain ways of talking, of doing daily activities, of cultural expectations... all of it was so slight, so incomprehensibly and minutely different... but it was different. And that made all the difference. 

We've adjusted by now. We've mastered the west Michigan culture and can blend right in when we need to. I even remember to pronounce the zed in my name as a zee so as to avoid further chaos (seriously -- it freaks people out). 

But now -- all that adjusting is for naught. Scotland is a substantially different place. The language is English, yes, but oi! What a heavy accent! Sometimes trying to understand is like wading through a bowl of black pudding (Which is rather impossible as black pudding is more of a sausage-type thing that I shall never consent to eat). 

We've been here for just under one week, and although we've already developed a bit of a crush on the city, we realize that the culture shock is coming. We had a taste of it during the first day here -- whilst trying to stay calm dragging all of our belongings up the Steep Hill of Death that is also known as Cockburn Street hunting for our flat, inside my brain was screaming, "What on earth do you think you're doing here!? This is complete madness! How could this possibly turn out well?!" Add a Scottish accent to that and you're shaking in your wellies. Stop scaring me, brain!

Then, the grocery store. Yes, produce generally keeps the same name from place to place (unless you're a zucchini -- in the UK they're called courgettes), but all those other wonky names and brands and prices and currencies... one can get so muddied up and intimidated that food becomes too much of a hassle. Who needs food? We don't need food. Plus I feel like everyone in the Lidl is wondering why I'm spending 15 minutes staring at the shelf of bread, so I should probably just leave and eat the stale tortilla chips that are still at the bottom of my backpack. That's part of a food group, right? Right.

The good news is that I know things go up from here -- or there -- or whenever we hit rock bottom. Having done the living abroad thing once before, I feel like I'll be more prepared for the ups and downs. It's like being my own life counsellor -- completely effective and super cost-efficient. 

As of yet, we're still honeymooning it. The city is full of charm and bagpipes and we'll stretch this phase out as long as we can. We'll be annoyed with Edinburgh quirks soon enough. But that will just give us more reason to drink more tea. And everyone knows that tea makes everything better.

{This post written in May 2013}


  1. I love reading about your 'adventures in Scotland'. Keep 'em coming!

  2. "Who needs food? We don't need food ..." -- made me laugh. When Gerry and I were the age you and Wayne are now, we spent a year in Europe as well. Most of our apartments had these little teeny refrigerators, so food shopping was a daily exercise: I'll not soon forget the produce lady actually slapping my hand when I picked up a tomato. I was humiliated (which I suspect was her goal). I soon learned to point at the item I wanted, but I must admit, that was NEVER very satisfactory. Culture shock indeed! Thx for your picturesque words and for the the prompt they gave me to trip down memory lane.

    1. Hah! That tomato story is gold! Had a similar experience in Rome -- was supposed to weigh the produce and stick the tag on the bag BEFORE going to the cashier... she didn't speak English, I didn't speak Italian... a few large waving arm gestures later, I had to crawl out of the line in shame and head back to the produce aisle... yikes.