13 things you should never say to a person from Scotland

Banter with a person from Scotland by all means. Get to grips with their colourful Scottish expressions and phrases. But, there are some things you dinnae want to say to avoid getting on their wrong side.  Follow our sound advice and you’ll dodge getting told to ‘haud yer wheesht’ (shut up), ‘get tae’ (go away) or ‘skedaddle aff’ (leave them alone). Because the only thing you should be eating is haggis, not your words…

1. “So, Scotland is a part of England, right?”  

The Scots are fiercely proud of their country, heritage and identity.  While Scotland is indeed part of the United Kingdom, for your own sake, you really shouldn’t get the two confused.

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2. “Och aye the noo!

This is one of those Scottish phrases that can be heard in countless parodies aimed at poking fun at the Scots’ dialect and accent. Its direct English translation is “Oh yes, just now”. And, while some Scots may chuckle along with you, it is considered quite offensive by others.

For the record, it is not even something you’ll generally hear the locals say. Some great Scottish expressions you might hear on your travels however, include ‘Whit’s fur ye’ll no go past ye‘ (what will be, will be) and (our personal favourite) ‘Yer aff yer heid!’ – the latter hopefully not in response to something you’ve just said.

3. “No, thanks. I’m not a fan of Irn Bru”

Scottish locals are about as proud of this orange, carbonated soft drink (and ‘miracle’ hangover cure), as they are of their nation as a whole. So, if you’re offered a taste of “Scotland’s other national drink”, only coming in second to whisky, accept it and drink it with a smile. The Scots think it’s refreshingly delicious and it goes without saying, you should feel the same way.

4. “I don’t believe in Nessie”

View of Loch Ness

People from Scotland love to let visitors believe that the Loch Ness Monster exists somewhere within the shimmering depths of Loch Ness.

They’re clearly quite persuasive because thousands of tourists keep a keen eye out for ‘Nessie’ every year and keep returning. According to Gary Campbell, the chartered accountant tasked with the duty of keeping the official register of Nessie sightings, the elusive creature is worth an estimated £41 million to the Scottish economy every year.

5. “I’m Scottish too. My great, great, great grandmother was Scottish.”

According to the locals, you have to have lived in Scotland for a long time, or be born and bred there, in order to be considered Scottish. 

6. “My girlfriend’s uncle lives in Glasgow too! Do you know Graham?”

Glasgow city scene - Scottish phrases

Let’s face it – the chances are quite slim. As with any country in the world, however, there will always be local favourites. In the case of Scotland, the most popular baby names are Olivia and Jack. The three top surnames in Scotland are Smith, Brown and Wilson.

Surprisingly there’s no ‘Mc-Anything’ in sight until you get to number 9 on the list, according to General Register Office of Scotland. And hitting that coveted top 10 spot is none other than Macdonald.

7. “Where can I get a deep-fried Mars bar?”

The Scots have all probably tried this indulgent treat at least once, but it is not nearly as popular in Scotland as tourists might think.  And it definitely isn’t a staple in their diets.

8. “What do you wear under your kilt?”

Person from Scotland at Leddard Farm - Scottish expressions

You may as well ask a person from Scotland what kind of underwear they are (or are not) wearing.

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9. “Braveheart is my favourite movie of all time!”

The Scots are not entirely proud of the rousing Hollywood blockbuster, Braveheart. According to historians, the film was a heavily fictionalised romp, as opposed to being a historically accurate portrayal of the country’s past and people. So it is probably best not to bring it up.

10. “Haggis is disgusting!”

HAGGIS SCOTTISH FOOD

Oh no, you did not! Scotland’s national dish is a savoury pudding comprising sheep’s pluck (liver, heart and lungs). These protein-rich parts are then mixed with oatmeal and flavoured with a handful of potent spices, and can actually be quite delicious.

11. “Does it rain all the time in Scotland?”

Loch Ness

Scotland gets its fair share of precipitation. Unsurprisingly, most people from Scotland get really annoyed when they hear others slating their country’s weather. As far as they are concerned, the weather is much worse in other areas of the UK.

One of the most popular ways to describe grey Scottish weather is the untranslatable word ‘dreich’. This cover-all word for anything tedious, damp or wet is a rather descriptive term also showing a severe distaste or dislike for anything really, not just the weather.

12. “How do you feel about Scottish independence?”

This statement is a good way to start a lengthy conversation and perhaps even ruffle a few feathers. Unless this is what you’re hoping to do, it is better not to bring up the issue of Scottish independence.

13. “Are Scots as tight-fisted as they say?”

Couple happy while shopping - Scottish phrases and expressions

Somehow, Scottish people have developed a reputation for being tight-fisted and miserly. Most will be quick to tell you that this stereotype could not be further from the truth. Instead of being tight-fisted, most Scots will simply claim to be thrifty and good at managing their money. So, whose turn is it to pay for the drinks, then?

Have we missed any other conversation killers or Scottish expressions and phrases you should avoid while travelling through Scotland? Tell us in the comments below…

31 Responses

  1. BBC.xom

    I’ll always remember an English colleague of mine who used to tease a Scottish colleague by saying that there was no such thing as Scotland, it’s just northern England. Definitely don’t recommend you say this unless you have a bunch of mates around you for when all hell kicks off.

    Reply
  2. Anonymous

    A.7 – A fish and chip shop – Nothing better to snack on as you walk home

    A.10 – If you believe that you have either not tried Haggis or not got it from the right place.

    A.13 – Some of my most generous friends are Scots, even if they know the value of a pound

    An Englishman

    Reply
  3. Anonymous

    I’m a Cameron by birth. My grandfather was as my whole my family are very proud of our ancestors that were Scots. When I was small he would tell me all kinds of stories about our Scots heritage. I’ve always been proud. But I’m American by birth and I never forget that. But I do love the old tales. That’s the only way I know about how my peoples history. So I hope I didn’t offend anyone.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      If a mouse is born in a stables is it a horse? No. If your parents are Scottish, so are you, even if you were the 100th generation born on Mars.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      As a Glaswegian my pet hate is other people’s asking me.” Do you still have slums in Glasgow ?” or “Did you know Jimmy Boyle? Both questions annoy me immensely .

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    After relocating over 400 miles for a fresh start in Aberdeenshire, and reading all the comments above i now want to go home….

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    I’m from Scotland and a main annoyance that most people i’ve met hate is when tourists try the stereotype accent or put a few Scottish terms in their sentences and then look to see your reaction. Just remember, we’re not all kilt wearing looneys who jump around the highlands all day!

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      I was born there I left when i was 9 I`m 60 My younger sister still throws around sayings like “wee” “Mum” “aye” when we`re around other people…Never when we`re alone…Drives me up the wall.

      Reply
  6. Anonymous

    I have had such a yearning since I was a young girl to return back to Scotland. My grandfather came to Canada in the 1920s. I am by no means scotish but I do have decent and want to bring my kids back to our roots and connect with the land and people. I will continue to embrace all I can here in Canada until I can return and become a true scot again. Thanks for the article and comments I couldn’t agree more.

    Reply
  7. Anonymous

    I’m a canadian with Scottish ancestry. I’ll accept your advice on these matters gladly. I hope to visit your lovely country in the next couple of years. Danny Bhoy and Billy Connolly are a scream!

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      what do you mean? The land obviously was here since the start of earth. The earliest evidence of people was around 40,000 years ago.

      Reply
  8. Anonymous

    I would say us Scots as a whole have a good sense of humour and are quite tolerant towards visitors who don’t know what we find annoying. I wouldn’t use the word offensive except to the phrase oc aye the noo, which I have never heard anyone use except to parody us or our accents. Please keep visiting our beautiful country and enjoy our hospitality.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Thank you, we will! That’s the Scottish hospitality we so often experienced on our travels. We fell in love with Scotland years ago, and especially love the Orkneys. We’ve booked another stay there for this summer and hope that the situation will allow travelling…

      Reply
  9. Anonymous

    Scots are very welcoming to what are known as “New Scots”, people who immigrate and are proud to become Scots. There are many proud Asian Scots, Polish Scots, English Scots and so on. You don’t have to be born here or have generations of heritage to be Scots. What does annoy Scots are people who claim to be Scots when their great-great-grandparents or whatever left the country. No, you’re not Scots, you have Scots ancestry which is different. Muhammed down the road is more Scots than you; he lives here, pays his taxes here, his kids go to school here, he votes here, he’s proud of this country and of living here – he’s a Scot. North Americans are pretty annoying about this equating of descent with nationality.

    Reply
  10. Norma Endersby

    My husband’s grandmother was born and raised in Scotland before coming to the US in 1905. I also have family who came from Scotland. Regardless, DNA tests done through ancestry.com told us both that our ethnicity is about 93-97% English/Irish/Scottish. I don’t understand why I cannot be proud of that and why sharing it with a Scot would be considered offensive. We’ve been back to Peebles several times doing genealogy research and everyone there has always been helpful.

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      But what exactly are you proud of??? Specifically?
      What Scottish things, ideas, traditions, stories etc have you preserved or learnt from your Scottish ancestors?

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      The word offensive is thrown around a lot in this article mostly completely missing the mark. There are maybe 2 things here that would maybe cause offense if you caught someone on a bad day, a few more that would get an eye roll and a groan, and some that would get a laugh. Scottish people are proud of their heritage and generally quite welcoming and might be interested in your heritage especially if it is somewhere close to them as hopefully you’ve experienced but we also get a lot of ‘I’m Scottish too, my granny’s third cousins uncle was from there.’ and a side effect of us being proud of our heritage and culture is us being protective over it too – possibly to a fault.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      There is a difference between being proud of having Scottish ancestory or roots, and claiming to be Scottish!
      Being Scottish (or Indian, or Russian, or Chinese) is not about DNA, it is about culture.
      Someone with 95% Indian DNA but raised in Scotland is far more Scottish than someone who has never lived here.
      This is the best way I see to explain it.
      I have family connections to India, but that doesnt make me Indian !
      Nationality is about language, culture, and affinity with the land.
      You cant possibly be raised in the US and claim to be Scottish – you are American with Scottish ancestors.
      But, in the spirit of kindness…. call yourself whatever makes you happy! But I wouldn’t expect to bond with Scottish people on this note….
      I do agree with the article on this point.

      Reply
      • Anonymous

        I’m a cockney from Clerkenwell and moved to the Scottish borders in 1975 so 23 years a Londoner and now 46 years a borderer and because I speak like a cockney its always ” aye weell yere no frum aroon here ” from someone half my age

    • Anonymous

      Sharing that ancestors came from Scotland is not offensive. Claiming to be Scottish,merely because someone in your lineage, no matter how recent or long ago, was Scottish, is offensive.

      Be proud of your heritage and your own nationality.

      Reply
  11. Anonymous

    Other concepts/ discussions to be approached with care

    Discussion of red hair – I know that statistically Scotland has more gingers than other places but its still a small number
    Discussion of ‘funny’ money – the notes are comic to non scots but they can still be used to buy things
    References to lack of vegetables in Glasgow diets etc
    Talk about Vitamin D deficiency
    Discussion of football and the poor performance of the Scottish team, in addition disussion of local rivalries Celtic/Rangers etc
    People who dont live in Scotland but claim to be Scottish – Rod Stewart, Sean Connery etc
    The Krankees

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Yeah, definitely do not mention Rangers or Celtic. It is a very bad idea. And a lot people have seen this youtube video with the guy walking around Glasgow pretending to be an American vlogger and saying silly stuff but they think it’s funny to come to Scotland and say this stuff, like “Oo ah up the RA” and “Moan the gers”, please never say this in Scotland, you might genuinely be putting yourself in danger.
      And if someone calls you a “whaloper”, it’s not a complement

      Reply
  12. Anonymous

    Scotch is only for whisky
    Scotsman is only for the newspaper
    Scot is the correct term.

    Using the above wrongly can severely irritate a Scot.

    Reply
  13. Anonymous

    The Scottish comedian Harry Lauder created a character who was very mean. It has stuck now on all Scots. There is no reference to Scottish meannes prior to this.

    Reply
    • Ginny Smith

      Thanks for giving us the background information 🙂 There is of course no truth to Scottish people being mean!

      Reply

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