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A Glasgow Guide from 'Glasgow Through Foreign Eyes'

Hi everyone, 


My name is Emily and I’m a third-year student here at Strathclyde. Despite my Canadian sounding accent, I am German, and I’ve moved countries every three years of my life. Therefore, I have a lot of experience with adjusting to different cultures; or so I thought. When I moved to Glasgow for my bachelor, I knew that the Scottish accent was something to get used to, but I wasn’t aware that the slang itself was so different that it sounds like another language sometimes. I want to share my experiences as a foreigner about Glasgow, the Scottish, and life here because I think to myself if someone had told me all of these things before moving here, the cultural transition would have been much easier. 


So then why not start with the accent right? Besides the obsessive habit of many Glaswegians to say “aye” instead of yes, aha, or mhm – which on the one hand is kind of sweet but on the other quite annoying sometimes – the word ‘wee’ is something you need to get used to, and fast. I feel like I hear it most in contexts like “my wee sister”, “a wee cup of tea”, or “a wee break”, and that actually makes sense. But just because the Scottish use “wee” doesn’t mean it’s actually “small” (which is what it kind of translates to). It can be used in basically every context just as a filler word, the same way American’s enjoy using “like” (we all know that one person who overuses this word). I love using this example because in the beginning you get secretly so annoyed when your friends use it, and you may then use it to make fun of them, but it joins your vocabulary faster than you may think. Some other slang you will hear often is “minging” like “this is absolutely minging”, which means this is crap, essentially. You will hear this so often in relation to essays and lectures especially, just so you know. And because you will want nights off from all these assignments you will go get “pished”, which is another word for drunk, something you will hear especially the men say a lot.


And since we are on the Scottish slang and cultural bandwagon, let’s discuss Greggs and Irn Bru. If you’ve never been to Glasgow before but plan to move here, you need to learn about Greggs. Now, personally I cannot vouch for a lot of their products; this may be because I am a coffee snob or come from Germany where things kind of coffee chains just have a different quality. But regardless you need to try it to get the full cultural experience, and especially their sausage rolls. They are literally only £1 and not too bad! 

Speaking of coffee, it’s very important to know that the British are the biggest consumers of instant coffee. If you don’t know what that is it’s basically soluble powder coffee where you just pour hot water on top and there you go. It’s quick and easy, and above all extremely cheap, which is why it’s so appealing to the British. And as students, most of us can’t afford fancy coffee machines, but trust me when I say that instant coffee bears no resemblance to even simple filter coffee. So, if you are a coffee snob, I highly suggest that you stay away from the instant version. 

When it comes to Irn Bru, this is something I also can’t vouch for. It’s an orange soft drink that is part of the Scottish culture probably more than the Kilt is at this point, and it is as uniquely flavored as its colored. It tastes like fuzzy bubblegum, so if you enjoy that kind of flavor then you will love it. I however, along with many of my other European friends cannot stand the taste.  


Something else I learned the hard way when I moved here is that cars do not care about pedestrians. Whether or not this is new to you depends on your culture, but in Germany and a lot of European countries, the pedestrian are first always. When turning right (well here its left because the UK drive on the other side for some unknown reason), cars need to wait for pedestrians to cross the street and watch out for them before they can go. Here that is not the case. Cross walk lights are designed so that they are never on at the same time as the car traffic lights, because cars just don’t care. And I honestly mean that they will just run you over if you are not careful. So if you are European like me, be aware of that and be careful on the streets. 


These are just some let’s call them ‘beginners guides’ to Glasgow that I wish I had known before moving here. In future articles I plan to discuss topics like Student life tips and tricks and more fun facts about the Scottish that I’ve picked up in the last year and a half I’ve lived here. I hope you enjoyed reading this, whether you are foreign like me or a Scottish national. If you did, then please check out my blog at and I hope you tune in again next time. 


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