As someone from the New World and who has lived in Scotland for 12 years now, one of the questions I'm often asked is "why?" A lot of the times it goes something like this:
Scottish person: "You're from Canada?! What are you doing here?"
Me: "Well, I originally came here as an exchange student in University and I loved Glasgow so much that I moved back a few years after graduating."
Scottish person, visibly irritated: "but WHY? Why Scotland?"
I get it - for a long time Scottish people left these shores for a better life in the New World (I've mentioned before how imperative the Scots were in establishing modern Canada), including my own Grandmother and Great Grandfather. It's probably somewhat unusual for someone of British roots to return to their ancestral homeland, so to speak. And yet, in the last 10 years or so, I feel as if more and more people are coming to Scotland - whether as a tourist, student, a temporary resident or a permanent one. It's like Scotland is this best kept secret but word is starting to get out.
And so to answer the collective "why" of a country, here are my top 7 reasons why I love living in Scotland.
1. The Humour / Banter
Yes, Canadians can be funny. Yes, Canada produces great comedians and actors. But do we posses the wit and lightning-fast insults that Scottish people do? I'd personally argue no. British people appreciate banter - particularly Scottish people. Glaswegians are known for having "good chat" and loving a wee chinwag. Canadians, on the other hand, are quite utilitarian in their language; they communicate not so much for the joy of it but because they need to tell you something. Scottish people, on the other hand, are playful in their language - not to mention colourful.
A perfect example are panel shows; I can't turn on the TV without stumbling across a British comedian holding court with pun after pun. Canada? Eh, not so much. Only the UK could produce such surrealist and/or dark humour like The Mighty Boosh, The Young Ones, Pulling and Fleabag. Which isn't to take credit away from shows like Kids in the Hall or SCTV, it's just that I've never laughed so much in my life as I have in Scotland and it's mostly down to the Scots use of language.
2. The Accessible Landscape
Ok, we all know Canada has amazing nature - from Algonquin Park to the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains - but unless you live close by to such majestic landscapes, most Canadians rarely experience them. And that's because the vast majority of Canadians live between Quebec City and Windsor. To get to a mountain or hill for a hike is a long and potentially expensive activity. Canada is SO big (the second largest country in the world!) that flying from one end of the country (Halifax to Vancouver) takes LONGER than it does to fly from Toronto to Glasgow. In contrast, however, anyone in Scotland can hop on a train or bus and be in the countryside in half an hour. How liberating to be able to get a train and climb something without spending a fortune in equipment, planes, gas and so forth. Even a novice like me can get up Ben Lomond and marvel at the goddamn beauty of it all.
3. The Chill Factor
Ever drink too much red wine at a social gathering, professed your love to strangers, and fall down in the middle of the street? Me neither. BUT if you did, don't worry about it, it's cool. Scottish people understand and appreciate that sometimes people can get carried away and therefore won't hold it against you. This chill factor leads into number 4....
4. Glaswegians are Welcoming
Glasgow was recently voted as the friendliest city in the world. I can believe it. Moving here from Toronto, I was initially shocked at the number of strangers who struck up a conversation with me: from the old grannies at the bus stop to the taxi drivers. In Toronto, I was used to strangers only speaking to me if they needed something (directions, time). I've found Glasgow to be helpful and supporting of one another - whether it's fellow small businesses helping each other to political refugees. Glaswegians seem to understand how difficult life can sometimes be and are willing to make it just a little bit less so for one another.
Ok, so they say you shouldn't bring up football, politics, or religion in a pub but one thing I love about Scotland is how politically engaged people are. You may remember that little referendum back in September 2014? Well, you couldn't sit in a pub back then and not discuss it. Honestly, it was so refreshing to see people engaged in the democratic process. However you feel about Scottish independence, people were and are impassioned which is a nice change from ambivalence.
Fun fact: citizens of the Commonwealth residing in the UK are allowed to vote in all elections/ referendums.
6. A Kind Society
There's a saying, "a civilisation is measured by how it treats its weakest members”, and it feels as if Scottish people take it to heart. Scotland feels like an open and progressive nation that tries to look out for its residents. We are all in this together and instead of turning a blind eye to issues such as homelessness, addiction, and poverty, Scotland attempts to tackle it head on. What a change from Toronto's NIMBYism: "this isn't our problem. Make it someone else's, please." That's my feeling anyway.
7. The People
Yeah, yeah. People Make Glasgow. But you know what? They really REALLY do! From handing over no longer needed all day bus tickets to strangers, to buying a return train ticket when you only need a single and giving the other ticket away (those penny-pinching Scots looking out for one another!) to asking if someone is ok after they've wiped out on Byres Road. From grabbing the wallflowers and forcing their participation in a ceilidh, which the wallflowers may outwardly protest but silently appreciate, to making sure you have a drink in hand. These are all things that have happened to me in Glasgow.
It is the small gestures that make a big impact.
It is the aggressively friendly Glaswegians who just want to make sure you're having a good time.
So, Scotland, you keep doing you. Welcome the world and show them a good time. Just don't be surprised when drunk strangers profess their dying love for you in the street.