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It would seem to me that these days a lot of people love making lists. So in keeping with that idea, I’ve compiled a list after living in Scotland for the past 7 months.
Time has flown by, and I have come to appreciate living here. Here would be Glasgow. As with everything, there is good and bad that goes with living anywhere, including living in Scotland.
I dreamed about living abroad for a very long time, and that dream came true in September 2016. Living overseas from your birth country presents its challenges and its amazing benefits. Before I get to the list, though, I want to stress that the list is based on my own personal views and may not be the same as everyone else’s ideas about living in a completely new country…and city.
So, here’s my list of pros and cons of living in Glasgow, Scotland, starting with:
10 things I love about living in Glasgow, Scotland
1. Huge range of places to stay. On arrival, we lived temporarily in an apartment in West Regent Street, Glasgow. Found it through TripAdvisor, and it was an amazing introduction to the city. Central, walk to anywhere and with plenty of nearby shopping…both for house, family and self.
2. “People make Glasgow”, or so the city’s motto states. This is so true. As migrants with little or no knowledge of the city or the country we found ourselves in, the denizens of Glasgow were completely accepting of our ignorance and more than willing to help with directions and places to eat and sights to see.
3. Public transportation is one of the mainstays of Scottish life and, as such, is readily available in the form of taxis, buses and trains. Although there is a downside to this as well…like any big town (see: How to survive bus travel in Scotland). We live a few blocks from our bus stop, and as I work in the city, I can make it into the city with relative ease. I love this as I don’t have a car anymore (after 35 years of owning one). Everything is accessible through the use of public transport, unlike in Australia, where the public transport system is still trying to reach a similar standard.
4. History, history, history. Historical sites and buildings cover Scotland. Most things are preserved where it is physically possible to do so. I’ve learned that the Scottish have a strong sense of who they are and their historical place. This makes for a culture of amazing storytellers and fabulous places to visit when you’re not working. I’ve just had my first holiday after 7 months and went to Culloden (Cuil Lodhair) Battlefield and the Clava Cairns (Burial Cairns of Bulnuaran of Clava). After spending quality time with a Scottish tour guide, I get it.
5. Travel is cheap. Gotta love that! Inside and outside the U.K. (which Scotland is still part of). We recently travelled from Glasgow to Edinburgh (gonna be a tourist in my new country first) and had an overnight stay away from our teenage sons for less than £70 (AUD$115). We also did a 2-day tour of the Highlands from Glasgow for less than £250 (AUD$415). You wouldn’t get trips like these in Australia for under that price anywhere…nor the history.
6. The Scots have real Castles. And not just Edinburgh Castle. In Inverness, there is the Inverness Castle (now a courthouse), and then there is Culzean Castle, Stirling Castle, Balmoral Castle, Urquhart Castle…and the list goes on.
7. The countryside…to borrow (and paraphrase to keep it G-rated) a line from “Death at a Funeral”…”It is so f* green.” No doubt this is due to the weather (which I’m coming to). The grass is a mixture of what we would term lawn grass and some sort of moss (I think). The gardens are mostly all well kept, and in places where there are high-density flats/tenements, the gardens are manicured and looked after by a factor through sub-contractors.
8. The weather finally made it to the weather. I find the weather here to be neither too cold nor too hot. Coming from Australia, where the weather is generally comprised of 2 seasons (I’m a Queenslander, and there it is either hot or hotter), having 4 seasons is amazing. Even though I lived in Canberra with my family for 15 years, the 4 seasons there don’t hold a candle to the change of seasons here in Scotland.
9. Steak bakes. Yum, yum! This is the Scottish equivalent to an Aussie Meat Pie (sorry to hear that Yatala Pies in Queensland had to cease trading for the first time in 130 years because of the recent flood after Cyclone Debbie). It’s delicious with or without Ketchup (tomato sauce).
10. The NHS – the National Health System. This needs to be in my top 10 as it is a great system. Even though we paid the National Health Immigration Surcharge, using this system is still an amazing experience (we have teenage sons, don’t forget). Our neighbourhood medical centre has a number of doctors, and we have had to use them once or twice. Ring up to make an appointment, and the doctor calls you back to discuss your issues; then, if necessary, an appointment is made. You see the doctor and…no charge. You present your prescription (should you need one) to the pharmacist, and they provide you with the medicine…again, at no charge. Ambulance rides…(yes, we’ve used the ambulance)…no charge. It’s a great system. Optometry…no charge for checkups.
Onto the flip side now…
10 things I dislike about living in Glasgow, Scotland
1. Missing our family and friends. Even though I have my own family here with me, I’d have to put this one at number 1. The lack of close family and friends can sometimes make you think, “What have I done?” When you give up everything you have known and all your close friendships to move overseas, you are the one who needs to put in the effort to stay connected. There is Facebook, WhatsApp, email and other forms of social media that make this easier to do…and so you start to become a highly accomplished user of these platforms for maintaining contact with those back in Australia. And, you just work harder at making new friends.
2. Weather. Ok…being Australian (at least formerly Australian, I now classify myself as an Auswegian), I get asked this all the time, “Why did you come here as the weather is terrible?” Yes, it’s cold, wet, foggy and has limited sunshine, but as a ginger (redhead), that’s ok by me. Still, it requires some adjustment as it can be much more different than anything you’ve experienced before. Even Melbournites (Victoria, Australia), who have 4 seasons in one day, would take some getting used to the weather here. You have to be careful of seasonal affective disorder or SADs. To combat this, make sure you can take a vitamin D supplement.
3. Clothes washing. The weather leads to another issue, that of your washing. Because of the rainy days, it’s difficult to hang your clothes out to dry, so internal clothes lines and clothes dryers are a requirement. You miss the fresh smell of clothes dried in the sun and open air. Washing machines are smaller as are clothes dryers and so you wash more regularly, and your internal washing line (dryers are expensive to buy and run as well as have small load capacities) can take up your bathroom, hallway and/or your dining room more often than you would want – 2 days drying time is usual.
4. Cultural shock. Some things are similar – but not the same. Some things are the same – but different. The Scots are wonderfully warm people who work hard and play hard. If you’re not used to that, then you’ll be in for a shock. Drinking is a major pastime, and smoking is up there with drinking. Seems like the notion of smoking being bad for your health is a foreign concept. Smokers abound on the streets and outside restaurants by the doorways, which makes you walk through clouds of second-hand smoke to get inside…and a great pile of cigarette butts on the pavement, on top of rubbish bins and in the gutters. No 5m (15′) laws regarding smoking near entryways to buildings here.
5. Property size. Well, to say that moving from Australia (a big country with big property sizes) to Scotland is downsizing would be an understatement. I have 2 tall and broad-shouldered teenage sons (I’m no shrinking violet either). This means that we needed 3 bedrooms. This type of property is hard to come by. Some have a hallway that only one person can walk down at a time. And then it needs to be close to transport because you won’t have a vehicle when you arrive.
6. Compact living. What privacy? Having smaller properties with smaller internal rooms means limited space for such things as a large refrigerator, a family-size washing machine (usually located where you would expect to find a dishwasher), and roomy bathrooms – of which there is usually only 1 – a shared facility. Think about it – 1 toilet in the same room (limited space, remember) as the shower (or shower above tub combo) – makes for getting to know your children’s habits so much more than you really want to.
7. Transport. Without your own vehicle, you are reliant on public transport. Should you be in a position to purchase a vehicle, then starts the “adventure” of finding somewhere near where you live (within walking distance of your front door) to park it. Narrow streets and residential buildings without your own car space/garage mean on-street parking and carrying your groceries to the door in the rain – go taxis, no need to park.
8. Schooling. It’s an entirely different system. Teens don’t have to go to school once they turn 16. Then it becomes a battle with your kids to get them to want to go to school if the local school has room and is willing to take them on. Once you get them into school, points 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7 above come into play. You’d think English is English. Apparently not. There’s English, Australian, and then there is Scottish, all developed from the same root language. This one took a little while to get our heads around, but we’re getting there.
9. Working. We knew that we would take just about any job…and we have. However, getting back to working in an industry you know (if you didn’t transfer with a global company) where you can use a lifetime’s worth of skills and experience could take time. Be prepared to work for minimum wage, be paid monthly and get knocked back from employment positions you know you could do blindfolded with one arm tied behind your back until you have established a reputation as a solid employee. This will usually take a minimum of 12 months.
10. Currency. What I hear, you ask? Currency? Isn’t Scotland part of the United Kingdom? Yes, it is, I reply. That doesn’t stop them from having 3 separate banks with the right to mint their own individual legal tender (that’s an important phrase – legal tender). So, together with bank notes from the Bank of England (comically not well regarded in Scotland), there are notes from the Clydesdale Bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Bank of Scotland, which are considered ‘legal tender’ (and actually is in England as well). Also, be prepared to have anything larger than a £10 note examined for being possibly counterfeit.
So, I’ve deliberately limited myself to 10 likes and 10 dislikes. I believe the 10 likes markedly outweigh the 10 dislikes, but you decide.
Leave me a comment below on your own thoughts and observations about living in Scotland.