Last Tuesday our plane had the choice of traveling one of two directions: the first way led to the sunlit skyline in the west, and the other aimed toward deathly-looking wall clouds of rain and darkness. Needless to say with my palpable fear of flying we flew directly into the latter. The wheels left the ground and we ascended into the smudged clouds of dark blues and grays. The plane began to shake as we forced our way even higher; our cabin lost light as the thickness of the clouds took over. And then, after those horrible moments of floating through the unknown, we climbed, rising above the chaos into a new realm. All clouds were below us, their fluffy, white peaks gently clipping the belly of our plane, and an infinite blue with a shining sun was all that existed above. Caught off guard – the transformation of our surroundings being so complete – I thought of the profound beauty I was witnessing. This, I determined based on the radical change in environment, would surely take us to a different place. We were Scotland-bound.
But no, no, this is not a Dorothy-esque “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” wonderment – this is a novel “I just left the country” realization. That initial experience on the plane was simply a microcosm for what I have experienced during the past week in Scotland. The food, the people, the noticeable differences in daily Scottish life…it all culminates to a short segment I’ve titled Matt Gantz’s Scottish Culture Shock Tutorial. Ahem:
- In the land where people drive on the other side of the road, it seems fitting for the people to also have a subconscious desire to walk on the other side of the sidewalk. As Matt Hansen mentioned yesterday, even that isn’t a guarantee as people seem to walk where they please. However, fellow traveler Steph Barnhart commented after our midday jog that it should be our responsibility to follow suit, do like some Scots do, and walk to the left.
- Exit signs here take on a more active display – the image of a person running – instead of an illuminated “EXIT” in big block letters.
- The notorious Cobber Smile I have developed for acknowledging passersby has not been reciprocated by the majority of Edinburgh’s population. I’ll gradually transition into a more conservative stature so as to be more like the locals.
- Dividing checks among individuals in restaurants is a baffling concept here. Whether sharing a round of drinks or full meals, have the cash to pay properly without asking to split.
- In a similar vein to number 4, unless in a fairly upscale restaurant, it is unwise to tip like an American. Only tip if service is not already included. Bar staff at pubs certainly do not expect it. Just pay for the drinks and have a good time.
- And finally, one of the most widely recognized distinctions between our two cultures: Alcohol can be served to those over 18 years of age (which essentially means all college students). One of the favorite after-class activities at Edinburgh University is golfing on the campus greens and having a pint. This is quite a deviation from Concordia’s dry campus culture.
Suffice it to say this list is by no means exhaustive. Like the rest of the group, I have only begun to understand/appreciate the Scottish and European culture. Although our trip is an entire month, I have accepted I will never be a master of the Scottish ways. But as I realized during my epiphanic plane ride, Scotland is definitely proving to be a different place, and I am prepared to uncover even more of its intricacies and unique features as we traverse through the Highlands and on to Glasgow.
Blogged by Matt Gantz.