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!

 
 
 
 
 
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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…

5 Responses

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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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