In this student real life story, Emily tells us about what it was like getting to grips with the Scottish accent and some of our more...unusual phrases.

Although my passport is German I was raised internationally, moving countries roughly every three years for my entire life.

My name is Emily and I study at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. I’ve learned English parallel to German, so while it’s still considered my second language I think of myself as bilingual. Having lived in so many different countries throughout my life, I have been privileged to experience many different cultures. For that reason, I didn’t think that moving to Scotland would result in a culture shock – but it definitely did!

I spent my early teen years in Canada, picking up the typical North American sounding accent and slang. To me, that was “English” and I honestly thought that Scotland just had a different accent but that the nature of the language would still be the same – I was very wrong! To be honest, the Scottish accent is something I’m still getting used to – and might never fully understand – because the Scottish have a style of speaking that can be very unique.

But, rather than being a bad thing, this has actually resulted in some funny stories of culture shock that I wanted to share.

Are they saying 'eye' or 'aye'?

Emily was a little confused by the accent at first

If you’ve ever been to Canada or met a Canadian you probably noticed that they say “eye” at the end of their sentences. Obviously this isn’t for every sentence, but here and there it definitely gets thrown in.

Well, when I first moved here, I heard Scottish people saying “eye” as well and I thought – hey I know that! But actually, I soon found out that in Scotland it’s more like “aye” and they use it more in place of the word “yes”. It’s worth noting that not every Scottish person you’ll meet uses this, it usually depends heavily on where they are from.

Emily (left) and a friend

Speaking of this, where people are from also determines the thickness of their accent. To be honest, the accents can even vary depending on what part of a city people are from – I definitely didn’t realise that there would be a difference like this.

For example, two of my close friends here at university are from Glasgow, but from different parts. I can understand one of them perfectly at all times and the other one I still struggle to understand at times, even over a year later!

While I have your attention...

Something else you’ll notice in Scotland is a bit of a national  obsession with a shop called Greggs. I mean, it seems like there is one on basically every street in most city centres.

My first introduction to this was in my first year at university, when I would often hear people say “oh I’ll just go grab a sausage roll from Greggs” and then come out of the shop with like three different things.

Now, two things were confusing to me here:

  1. What exactly is a ‘sausage roll’?
  2. Why do people say they are going for one thing but come out with three?

Let’s talk about the sausage roll first. It literally is what it says: a sausage wrapped in some flaky pastry. However, the best part about them, and probably why everyone loves them, is the fact that they only cost £1 and will satisfy any of your greasy carb cravings.

As for the second thing, the reason people walk out with more than they say they are going for is because of what is called a student meal deal. In many different shops, including Greggs, you can get a meal deal that usually consists of crisps, a drink, and a sandwich, and in the case of Greggs also a free sausage roll.

The concept of a meal deal was new to me as we don’t have this kind of thing in Germany – but I honestly wish we did. To be honest, this is one of the many reasons I love Glasgow because it is amongst the most affordable and friendliest cities I have ever experienced.

Top Tips on: understanding the language

  1. Don’t just research the typical Scottish slang words – try to find some YouTube videos. The difference between reading them and hearing them is day and night and familiarising yourself with the accent beforehand makes the shock less dramatic.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask – at first I felt bad when I didn’t understand what someone was trying to tell me and I would just kind of nod but be afraid to ask what a word of a phrase means. Now I ask every time something sounds weird to me, and that is key! If you don’t understand them or don’t get it, just ask!
  3. Try the Scottish favourites – and by that I mean Haggis, Iron Bru, Tennents, Sausage Roll, etc. You are missing out if you don’t try these things because they are truly part of the people’s identity. You will not have the full Scottish experience if you don’t try the classics.