A large fear of mine, and something I know I’m not alone in, is accidentally offending a local while I’m in their country. It’s always smart to do some researching on local etiquette before you go anywhere. I compiled a list of 18 things to watch out for while you are traveling in Scotland for that exact reason. If you are heading there soon, I hope this list helps you avoid an awkward situation!
1. Stick with small talk unless you are friends. This includes the weather, traveling Scotland, and outdoor activities. The Scottish prefer indirect communication because they don’t want to accidentally insult anyone.
2. It’s smart to avoid topics like Politics and Religion. If you are asked about them, however, feel free to state your opinions and where you stand on topics.
3. They call mountains in Scotland ‘hills.’ So if anyone asks you to go hiking on a hill, you have been warned, it is not a hill, but something much larger and more exhausting.
4. Don’t photograph someone unless you have their permission first.
5. Never make remarks against Scottish people since they are very proud of their country.
6. Be careful when talking about their neighbors to the South. They have a long history and don’t always like one another. In fact, it may be best to not even bring them up.
7. Don’t wear a tartan that does not belong to your family. Even if you feel like being cultural, it’s looked down upon if you are wearing something that symbolizes another family.
8. Be polite and talkative. If you see someone walking by say ‘hello’ to them and smile.
9. Always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and hold eye contact with others. The Scottish are very polite and may become offended if you do not mind your manners. This includes saying ‘sorry’ if you bump into someone or someone bumps into you.
10. Do not complain about anything.
11. The Scottish speak English, but have their own dialect with a thick accent and their own words. I suggest looking into a list of common words used before you go.
While eating out at a restaurant:
12. Don’t snap your fingers or wave your hand at a waiter in a restaurant.
13. Don’t ask to take home food as leftovers. This is more of a social standing issue. If you can afford to eat out at a restaurant, you can afford to buy other food to eat later.
14. There is a customary tip of 10% with every meal and it is not expected of you to leave more. If you really enjoy your meal and your service, you can always leave more if you choose to do so.
If you are invited to someone’s house, which is a fairly common occurrence, be sure to stick to these tips:
15. Bring something over to their house as a gift. This can be a bottle of whiskey.
16. Don’t mention that you don’t like the host’s food. Try to eat everything that is on your plate if you can. It’s smart not to take more than you know you can eat.
17. Do not burp or wipe your nose at the dinner table.
18. Wait for the host to make a toast to the guest of honor first before eating.
Though many of these are common place among other countries, including probably your own, it’s always good to have a refresher to not make a fool of yourself. The Scottish are very kind and as long as you smile and mean well, you will get along with them fine.